Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Allosaurus by Doreen Edwards

Today, we check off yet another fine publication from Rourke, who did a series of books in the eighties dedicated to dinosaurs and assorted other prehistoric animals, from the obscure to the iconic. We'll be on the iconic end of the spectrum this time out, with the title Allosaurus, written by Ron Wilson with illustrations from series regular Doreen Edwards, who also illustrated the recently-featured Pteranodon.

Allosaurus Book Cover

As these titles were mostly done before the dinosaur renaissance really took hold, you see plenty of "man in suit" style theropods, standing with their backs at high angles, with tails dragging on the ground. And they're decidedly reptilian in aspect, almost devoid of the avian character most theropods are given today. I like Edwards' illustrations, which outclass most of the other artwork in the series, and I'd like to see what she would do with dinosaurs from a more modern perspective.


Here, Allosaurus is skulking in the underbrush while two Archaeopteryx proudly display their colors above.
Sneaky Allosaurus

The story, set in a convincingly-staged Jurassic period (save for the fact that Archaeopteryx is not from the same area as the other dinosaurs in the book) is a complete downer. The titular dinosaur, a female, is old and unable to hunt like she once could. So she wanders around a bit, trying to find some grub. She watches as a young male takes down a Diplodocus. No cunning required: he just jumps it and bites its neck. Of course, the Diplodocus watches on in horror, defenseless.

Allosaurus Chomps Into a Diplodocus

She's chased off of the fallen Diplodocus by the male when she tries to join him. A pair of small Ornitholestes get their share, but our poor Allosaurus is forced to flee. I must say: that young male made quick work of that sauropod.

Allosaurus Feast

Stealing a page from the Ornitholestes' playbook, she tries taking down an Archaeopteryx. No dice.

Allosaurus Vainly Chasing Archaeopteryx

And then she dies. The book ends with an act of cannibalism, which too few children's titles have the nuts to try. It's damned depressing, and I imagine a fair portion of children who read this book needed a good hug afterwards.

Allosaurus Cannibalism

Frustratingly, I can't find any solid information on Doreen Edwards. There's a musician and an engineer by the name, but I haven't found any reference to an illustrator except in book listings. Doreen, if you're out there, give us a holler!


  1. There's a book that I own called Dinosaurs of the Sea, Land, and Air that has these images inside (plus the story). I have NO idea where I got this book, but it's very nice. BTW, there are some bad illustrations in there too, by Pam Mara. Pam Mara, I don't think that Deinosuchus walked on its hind legs.

  2. Cool! If you're on Flickr and ever want to scan in any old books, you can add them to our Vintage Dino Art pool.

  3. I wish I could track down some of Roger Payne's illustrations from the "Dinosaur Library" series... his were the best (Deinonychus, Nothosaurus), and you got the added bonus of enjoying illustrations from the dude who discovered whalesong in humpbacks!


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