The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the birds of the World: printed editions 1–4

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The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the birds of the World: printed editions 1–4

The first edition of the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist (H&M) appeared in 1980, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It was the first world checklist of birds that ’recognised’ subspecies. This was before volume XI of the multi-volume world check-list from Harvard University/the Museum of Comparative Zoology initiated in 1934 by James Lee Peters (1889-1952). So by 1980 volumes 1 to 4 were 40 years old. Peters’ final index volume appeared in 1987.

The first edition involved Richard Howard and Alick Moore (both now deceased). Richard took responsibility for the Non-Passerines and Alick for the Passerines.

A second edition in 1991 came with a change of publisher, from OUP to Academic Press. The 1994 impression was really a revised 2nd  edition: it included an important Appendix with 282 changes explained. That edition was reprinted in 1998 soon after Alick’s death and later that year Richard asked Edward Dickinson (ECD) (then Hon. Secretary of the Trust for Oriental Ornithology, and recent past Chairman of the World Pheasant Association) for advice on a 3rd edition. Richard was keen to make changes to keep up with or get ahead of the competition.

The third edition (2003)

RH arranged a meeting with Academic Press and, after agreement by RH to appropriate fundamental changes to the Checklist, a contract was signed with Academic Press listing ECD as managing editor of this edition. In fact, much of the compilation was done by Nigel Cleere and Norbert Bahr. Prior to publication, in 2003, the ’title’ was one of several sold to A&C Black (Bloomsbury) by Academic Press and it appeared under a Helm imprint.

This edition also relied heavily on four regional consultants: David Pearson for Africa, Kees Roselaar for the  Palaearctic, James "Van" Remsen for the Americas, and Richard Schodde for Australasia, while ECD advised on Asia.

An introductory chapter on avian phylogeny was commissioned from Joel Cracraft (who brought in Keith Barker and Alice Cibois to assist him): this was the basis for the decisions on ranks above the family level and on family limits.

At species level the objective was to apply the Biological Species Concept (BSC) despite alternative views on offer. Other key advisers were Normand David on the Latin and Greek languages as applied in scientific names and Steven Gregory on genus names and their authors and dates. The team sought to carefully respect the 4th International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN, 1999).

The 3rd edition had excellent reviews both in Europe and the USA. However, the whole publishing industry was obliged to recognise the arrival of e-publication and thus of Internet-based competition (often in the form of free material).  

The 1999 Code was emended in 2012 to deal with electronic-publication (and created a registration system for publications called ZooBank, which is proving valuable, but there remain some problems mostly apparently due to publishers choosing to circulate "prepublications" ahead of editorial attention to the submitted manuscripts. The scientific arm of the publishing industry needs to bring this under control. 

The fourth edition (2013–14)

Still convinced that on-line checklists presented using html characters, which the ICZN Code does not consider published, were being cited inappropriately ECD believed a printed 4th edition was justified, and, with Ian Barr, Steven Gregory and Daniel Philippe, established Aves Press Limited and entered into a formal Collaboration Agreement with the Trust. 

which required the Managing Editor to negotiate a Publishing Agreement between the three parties (Publisher, Trust and Managing Editor) and this was to include a licence fee payable to the Trust – as it did.

As Managing Editor ECD assembled a 15-strong team to produce a Non-Passerine volume – co-edited by ECD and J. "Van" Remsen – published in 2013 which comprised 462 pages, with a packed CD-ROM included; and a Passerine volume – co-edited by ECD and Les Christidis – published in 2014 of 804 pages also including a packed CD-ROM. Both volumes had support from The Natural History Museum (UK) and from the American Museum of Natural History. This edition was published by Aves Press Limited for the Trust.

A special database designed by Denis Lepage (LP) of Bird Studies Canada in conjunction with ECD was to yield an outturn that could be fed into a template that would be fit to publish with liitle further effort. 

The Collaboration Agreement was binding on all team members and each one had a copy of the agreement. Contributors, i.e. all team members, were required to formally affirm that they understood that such contributions did not exclude them from using their knowledge in other contexts, but that what they contributed would continue to be permanently available to the Trust to use in the underlying database. 

Fit for the future?

The legal documentation created for the protection of the Intellectual property of the Trust was considerable, but the Trust was very pleased to be able to secure pro-bono legal help from Shearman Sterling, thanks to the enthusiasm of Thomas Donegan. This made possible the construction of the various key legal documents setting out new relationships and this is a much-valued relationship.

In assigning the Intellectual Property to the Trust the terms stipulate that when a new Managing Editor is needed the outgoing editor will do his or her best to arrange for a successor. However, if that does not work the Trust has an option to become involved and to select and appoint a new Managing Editor. But it also stipulates that the Trust is not obliged to step in. Thus, at least in theory, the work could be put aside or updated behind the scenes for some years and yet be available to an applicant to the Trust to propose its resurrection in full view.

In practice in 2019 the Trustees agreed to try to arrange for a further edition and this has morphed into the creation and on-going maintenence of the database; this agreement should be reviewed every few years leaving the Trust the option to withdraw support.