Around 1992 the Spanish wildlife publisher Lynx began its 16 volume Handbook of the Birds of the World. It is an extraordinary achievement with hundreds of photographers and artists contributing and with a vast amount of general as well as specific ornithological information supplied. It is the only animal family to be completely chronicled in this way and is a major scientific undertaking. At several hundred Euros per volume I indulgently started off by adding a volume every year or so but a few lean years (private school fees etc) left me 4 volumes short of the complete collection. In addition an add-on volume of new species has been published. Volume 11 – which I own – has just gone out of print and it seemed likely that my chance to complete the collection was fading. Fortunately Lynx have offered the 4 volumes I want (along with the add-on volume of new species at a substantial discount so I snapped them up. Still not cheap but, for a bird enthusiast such as myself, it is a happy acquisition. In conjunction with the online resources made available by Lynx it provides all the general information one could conceivably require about the world’s avifauna. I like the species distribution maps.
I also have the 8 volume series of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds that was prepared over 20 years by what is now called Birds Australia. This is a much more detailed account of all the birds I am likely to encounter in Australia. I use it occasionally for specialised information but, despite its glorious colour plates of bird paintings, it does not quite offer the excitement of the Handbook.