Monday, April 2, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Purnell's Book of Dinosaurs

First of all, I must announce the winner of last week's caption competition. Now, there were many sterling entries, but in the end I'm going to have to hand first prize to the one that made me snort loudly because, well, I hadn't thought of it. And that would be Marko Bosscher's "Ouch, glass door!". Yes, some (well, many) of the others were more clever-clever, but I'd already envisioned the dinosaur as some sort of camp dancer. Marko's made me laugh because it made me look at the picture in an entirely different way. And that's profound, man.

And now for this week's eBay find. Purnell's Book of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals (to give it its full title) dates from 1977 (with this edition from 1979), and is chock full of gloriously colourful prose and laughably outdated, but still very nicely sculpted models of prehistoric animals. That said, there are also some illustrations that are just plain laughable, even for the time.






















A rather Gwangi-esque tyrannosaur graces the cover, but isn't seen again inside. Weird. The inside cover features instead a dinosaur ensemble. It wouldn't quite fit in my scanner, so I decided to focus on the model that doesn't appear anywhere else in the book - namely, the snaggle-toothed, sprawling, lizardy Protoceratops. Which is actually quite adorable.

















Moving on to the title page, and two very retro saggy grey sauropods are being menaced by a disapproving Ceratosaurus. Although ol' grumpychops has an hilarious face, the horizontal pose and long stride are notably forward-thinking for the time; indeed, and in spite of the fact that the other theropod models are man-in-suit style, the text (by the brilliantly named Simon Goodenough) at least describes them (even Tyrannosaurus specifically) as active, fast-moving animals.













Some of Goodenough's (tee hee) finest words/most spurious remarks are reserved for everyone's favourite, Sexy Rexy.
"Tyrannosaurus Rex [sic] was the terror of its times, a tyrant in deed as well as in name. Its energy was tremendous and it was active for three-quarters of the day, searching for victims, waiting to surprise them, chasing after them or battling with them."
The model of T. rex depicted is of the curiously crocodilian 1970s school, tail-dragging and adorned with scutes. It closely resembles the Invicta T. rex and another model still resident in London's Natural History Museum. Like them, it has also had its ears shifted forward into its temporal fenestrae for some reason.






















By far my favourite image in this entire book is the scale diagram for Tyrannosaurus, in which it appears to be pitted against a team of gymnasts (including a lone woman in a leotard and at least one man with a deformed hand). More of this sort of thing, please! A troupe of acrobats beats the Pioneer Dork any day.


















This Iguanodon is typical - crosspatch lizard face, permanently flexed and rather humanoid arms and a bloody great wattle because Neave Parker. Still, I really like the model's colours, especially the rosettes on the flanks and the bright red flush of the bloody great wattle.




















This Styracosaurus is just here because I once had a toy that was pretty much a straight knock-off. It's very brown. Yes.




















It seems there was a trend back in the day - a rather lazy trend, I might add - for ceratopsians to all have the same body with interchangeable heads. This was often literally the case with life-size fibreglass models, which gave rise to the gigantic elasmothere Styracosaurus models that now blight the world (but especially the UK) - which reminds me, I still need to write an article on those at some point. Anyway, Triceratops therefore appears identical to Styracosaurus but, er, with a different head. Of course, by far the best aspect of this page is the barely competent illustration, featuring as it does quite serious perspective and anatomy failures and a Chaz Knight rip-off.






















Ah, but I've saved the best illustration until second to last. I'm not sure I've seen a Deinonychus quite this bad since the Dessicated Zombienychus won that silly contest I concocted last year. It's just superb - basically a 1970s allosaur except for the OMG HUGE TERROR CLAW, and comes complete with miniature anachronistic Parasaurolophus prey. Love it.













And finally - retro ankylo-wrong. The usual sort of thing - super-squat semi-sprawling limbs and no neck. No ears this time, though.
















Until next time, dear friends, until next time! Proost.

15 comments:

  1. I remember this from the 70s! Been driving myself nuts trying to remember the name of the book!

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  2. The gymanasts-and-Tyrannosaurus made me literally laugh out loud. Thanks for sharing! The gymnasts look as if they are trying to frighten T. rex away from their cat's food bowl or something. Or as if the whole lot of them are in a musical. Just wonderful.

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  3. Another one I had as a young child (though it was wildly dated then too). I also had that same Styracosaurus toy you refer too.

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  4. I have that very tyrannosaur in another book - Prehistoric Animals by Ellis Owen (1975) - featuring lots of models, dioramas and images of real fossils too.

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  5. awesome! This was in my to-be-scanned pile. I absolutely love these models. I have a card series that uses these models. I, as a child, (for some strange reason) always thought they were photos of real creatures. I think later I reasoned that they were mummified remains. Does anyone know why these models were created? were they in a museum? where are they now? are they buried somewhere in Don Glut's house?

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    1. Since these models were featured in the London museum, I theorize that they were sculpted by a British paleontologist named Arthur Hayward - he had sculpted dinos for Ray Harryhausen. The T-Rex and Styracosaurus featured here were probably molded from the models in Valley of Gwangi, and the Triceratops from One million B.C.

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  6. I had the cards and this book. Lots of fond memories flooding back

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  7. I have the edition that focuses on all life from the start of time till the dawn of man, Prehistoric Animals. It was a hand me down. It's one of the most fantastic books ever produced. Such wonderful models and beautiful scenes. These were the creatures that set imaginations on fire. I had the cards from this series as well. I still do somewhere. It's a shame to see people belittling it.

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    1. Well hopefully I didn't 'belittle' it too much. Of course, I poke fun as always (always acknowledging that hindsight is a wonderful thing), but I did point out that the models are very nice and some of the scenes are actually quite advanced for the time.

      I won't apologise for belittling those monochrome illustrations, though. They're pretty bad...

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    2. That said, I may have been a BIT cruel. What can I say, I was in a bad mood at the time... :P

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  8. More awesomey-goodness. Thanks Marc. Something about that gymnast-juxtaposition pic makes me want to do a whole book on dinosaurs with absurd comparisons of dino size, weight, speed, etc with various numbers of human professionals.

    You could have a line of meat-loving blokes sitting at tables in a steakhouse to compare with how much a T. rex could gulp down in a single bite, or you could depict a typing pool of sufficient size to be able to cover the side of an Argentinosaurus in 5 minutes with a standard office memo printed in Times New Roman pitch 12 (and then state how long it would take a two-person high-rise window washing team to clean all of the print off).

    Hmm, think I may have over-thought that.

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  9. Heck - the Deinonychus is a total rip-off of the Allosaurus from Halstead's Evolution and Ecology of the Dinosaurs. The artist has only changed the large claw and made the carcass a hadrosaur. Shameless!

    Great post.

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  10. I won the competition contest? I'm going to spend the rest of the week basking in the glory!

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    1. Marko, I wish I had thought sooner about contriving some small prize...

      (By means of a third party donation, that is to say; not a presumption upon the blog authors!)

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  11. I'm pretty sure that a couple of those models were cast from Harryhausen's Gwangi and Triceratops( from one million B.C.) Harryhausen had worked with a British paleontologist and sculptor for those 2 films. I also have different photos of those 2 exact models in my monster movie encyclopedia.

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