This book explores the life of Henry Dresser (1838-1915), one of the most productive British ornithologists of the mid-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and is largely based on previously unpublished archival material. Dresser travelled widely and spent time in Texas during the American Civil War. He built enormous collections of skins and eggs of birds from Europe, North America and Asia, which formed the basis of over 100 publications, including some of the finest bird books of the late nineteenth century. Dresser was a leading figure in scientific society and in the early bird conservation movement; his correspondence and diaries reveal the inner workings, motivations, personal relationships and rivalries that existed among the leading ornithologists.
1. Family background and early life
2. Texas: the big adventure
3. Settling down to business
4. Early exploits in ornithological society
6. 'Discovering' the birds of Europe I
7. 'Discovering' the birds of Europe II
8. 'Making' the birds of Europe
9. A central figure: society life in the 1870s
10. The 1880s: the rise of rivalry
11. The 1890s: the continuing rise of the British Museum (Natural History)
12. Working independently: 1900-5
13. The grand finale: the 'Eggs of the Birds of Europe'
14. Time for a change
Appendix 1. Birds mentioned in the text
Appendix 2. Birds named by Henry Dresser
Appendix 3. Birds named after Henry Dresser
Appendix 4. Publications based on Henry Dresser's collections 1985-2015
Bibliography of Henry Dresser's publications
Henry A. McGhie is the Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology at Manchester Museum, the University of Manchester
"As Henry McGhie makes clear in this excellent, wide-ranging and beautifully produced biography, Henry Dresser was a key player in Victorian ornithology [...] Well researched, well written and nicely produced, this is a book you should have."
–T. R. Birkhead, Ibis 161(3), July 2019
"This is the first more or less comprehensive biography of a man who was one of the more important influences on ornithology in the latter half of the 19th century, Henry Dresser. [...] The book itself is comprehensive but remains eminently readable, and as such it constitutes an important addition to the history of ornithology."
– Peter Lack, BTO book reviews
"This book explores the eventful life of one of the great Victorian collectors and the often-elite communities within which he operated. [...] This is a well-researched, heavily referenced book that has been beautifully produced by the publishers. The endpapers are simply glorious [...] this is a magnificent exploration of (British) Victorian ornithology, which brings to life many of the key figures of the period with their frequently very strained relationships."
– Alan, Knox, British Birds, Volume 111, January 2018