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Some like to read of battles, sieges, and the exciting pomp of war; others to ponder over the deeds of politicians, and to predict the rise and fall of states. For these, the solid matter of history has an enduring attraction, and the pages of a Gibbon or a Hume furnish the most delightful recreation. But for some minds, and those not the least intelligent, the world of nature presents all the fascinations of a high poetry, exhibiting an almost limitless variety, and a range of beauty so wide, that the genius of a Cuvier or of a Humboldt finds full occupation within the mighty circle.
The object of this volume is, to present to the lovers of Natural History a few scenes, a landscape or two as it were, in the immense region of Zoology. The work is not a scientific treatise, or a systematic catalogue; though neither science nor system has been neglected. In each chapter we have endeavoured to present a distinct group of animals; so that the volume may be regarded as a series of pictures, some conducting our thoughts to the depths of the African deserts, others to the impenetrable jungles of India; whilst a few suggest ideas of a wild and solitary life on the dome-like summits of the Andes.
As such a volume conducts our imaginations into all regions, so it is a suitable book for all seasons ; for times and periods do not hide, but rather reveal, the diversified richness of Nature.
We therefore wish our readers many pleasant journeys amongst the deserts, forests, and cultivated fields, where beasts and birds of foreign or native species dwell, trusting that the ensuing chapters will assist the imagination in such intellectual travels.
So that whether this volume comes to them as a Christmas book, when the bells are chiming forth the poetry of Advent, or salutes them with the opening of the new year, we wish to all an increase of knowledge in the lore of Nature. If sermons are found in “ stones” and “brooks," then certainly wisdom may be gained from the thoughtful study of even “ beasts and birds." Therefore, read, think, and farewell.