Monday, January 31, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Animals of the Past

Today's pieces come from Animals of the Past by Frederic Lucas, one of the rare early publications on ancient life aimed for a popular audience. It was originally published in 1900; the images used in this post come from the fourth edition, published in 1913. What's nice about it is that it contains more than just Charles R. Knight paintings and plates from old Marsh papers. It features a few pieces by J.M. Gleeson, though the illustration notes at the beginning mention that he worked under Knight's direction.

Gleeson's Ceratosaurus is worth the trip alone; as the Paper Dinosaurs site says, "The drawing has seldom been reproduced in modern secondary literature, but it has a charm and a liveliness that was quite unusual for the period, even by Knight standards."

Gleeson's Ceratosaurus

It bears a bit of a debt to Knight's famous Allosaurus, which is is posed like the mount featured early in the book in an uncredited photograph.

Children and Allosaurus

Also featured is this Archaeopteryx by W.P. Pycraft.

Mr. Pycraft's Archaeopteryx

Two of my favorite images are the following scale representations, using a pair of mustachioed gentlemen as the models. If I ever do skeletal restorations, I think I'll opt for a fellow like this, just to stand out a bit from the Pioneer dorks that have become more popular recently.

Gentleman and Vertebra

A Gentleman and a Hind Leg

This edition closes with a message from the author that reveals him to have been one of those lovers of nature who rues the growing disconnect between human culture and the natural environment on which it depends, as well as the myopia that leads humanity to turn on its own species.
It has been, and it is, an ever changing world. The great difference between past and present is that now by the agency of man it is changing much more rapidly. Man with his disregard of the past and small thought of the future destroys in a year what it took Nature ages to produce—man sweeps away forests, the growth of centuries, and with them wipes out of existence races of animals that represent the culmination of thousands of years of evolution ever onward and upward.

With the disappearance of the forests comes the shrinking of streams and at the same time the sweeping away by floods of fertile soil that results from long ages of growth.

Moreover, man turns his attention to his fellow man and blots out whole races, or, if they survive, it is with changed customs.
For a bit more on this title, check out Mark Crowell's page.

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