It's a Dylan song, of course, from the somewhat-notorious album 'Slow Train Coming' when Dylan seriously flirted with born-again Christianity. (He appears to have moved on somewhat)

But, it's also something that people have been doing for a long time, but not in any real systematic way until Carl von Line (Latin: Linnaeus) published his Systema Naturae (the frontispiece of the tenth edition of same, from 1758, is shown on the right).

And more and more of this early taxonomic work is now available on-line, thanks to the growing, free and searchable digital library which is AnimalBase.

Check out their search pages, which has links to more than 700 books and papers, some from as far back as the middle of the 16th century. While you're at it, consider that these attempts at classification didn't necessarily assume, but also typically never ruled out, common descent. As such, early taxonomies represent de facto hypotheses which can be compared with taxonomies informed by evolutionary theory.

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