I am proud to own the 5 volumes of The Handbook of British Birds of which Harry Witherby was editor and co-author. In 1941 when published it was unrivalled for scientific accuracy and excellent illustrations; the attention to detail is exceptional in recording the appearance, habitat, voice, breeding habits, food and distribution of every known British bird. The books were considered essential by academics and amateur bird-watchers alike.
HARRY FORBES WITHERBY (1873-1943) was an important figure in the history of ornithology: his innovations included setting up(1909)and running the bird ringing scheme and founding, editing and publishing the journal "British Birds" (from 1907).
In 1933 he sold his collection of palaearctic birds to the British Museum (of Natural History) and gave most of the money to help found the B.T.O. which continues today as an independent, scientific research trust, investigating the populations, movements and ecology of wild birds in the British Isles.
Tens of thousands of people today enjoy birdwatching and bird study, building on the work of those founders of ornithology who duly dispelled myths, unified nomenclature and published handbooks.