Having familiarized one's self with the various phases of bird-life, as it occurs in the open fields, dense thickets, along secluded streams, and in shady forests, one can scarcely conclude otherwise, if happily he has not entered upon his studies with some preconceived notion, than that these wild and wary falcons, timid sparrows, fiery little wrens, and cautious waterfowl, are creatures that, like man himself, are thrown upon the world dependent upon their own exertions, guided by their own reasoning powers. There are no prearranged rules which, when birds leave their nests, they must strictly follow, to exist. Given that knowledge which comes through direct and indirect instruction from the parent-birds, and a young bird, having the world before it, exercises just those mental powers that man exercises, but limited just so far as its own wants are less than man's wants as man. Finally, in the chance occurrence of some peculiar habit have we not a trace of the former mode of life of some far-distant ancestral form; and, in the undeniable irregularity of all habits, can we not discern unmistakable indications of the gradual adoption of every habit, just as the various specific forms themselves gradually emerged from the archaic creature that, appearing in the dim past, foreshadowed the gigantic condor of the Andes, and the petulant humming-birds of our summer gardens?
ABOUT three hundred and fifty years ago, Henry Cornelius Agrippa wrote a very curious book, "De Incertitudine et Vanitate Scientiarum" (Of the Uncertainty and Vanity of the Sciences). Few people read it now. Yet it has its interest, as an exponent of the state of science at that day, aside from the attractions which are given it by the quaint, sarcastic style of the author.
Here it is, a very old edition, in the black-letter of the sixteenth century. The text has numerous peculiarities. The letter "ā," with a dash over it, represents "an;" there are two kinds of "r's;" the double "e's" and double "o's," respectively, are put on a single type. The emphasized words are printed in Roman characters, whereof the font contains no "w," and that letter is made by placing two "v's" together. The book is numbered by folios, instead of pages. The printer tells us that his edition is translated from the original Latin, compared with an Italian version. Let us transcribe some of Agrippa's remarks—altering the spelling to suit our modern rules.