Monday, May 30, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Inside Dinosaurs

Inside Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures (to give it its full title), featuring illustrations by Ted Dewan and words by Steve Parker, was a book I was lucky enough to receive for my sixth birthday in 1993 (also the year in which it was published). It is the successor book to Dewan's Inside the Whale and features quite a number of amazingly intricate (if not so up-to-date these days) cutaways of a range of prehistoric animals, mostly dinosaurs of course. The best ones are all double-page spreads, and some animals (like Diplodocus) are even stretched over multiple spreads. This presents a problem for my tiny scanner, but I've done the best I can.

First up: the front cover, the star of which is Tyrannosaurus, naturally. While beautifully illustrated, it certainly looks rather peculiar - with huge eyes, uniform teeth, and a rather odd neck (once again, begging the question - where do the cervical vertebrae and neck muscles go?)

More Tyrannosaurus inside. This illustration appears to be based on an old T. rex model used in Dorling Kindersley books back in the early '90s. Again, it's a little weird. T. rex illustrations of that period had a habit of perching the head atop a strangely vertical neck, in the manner of the old Godzilla-style tail draggers as depicted by Neve Parker and others. In this case, it looks like the cervical vertebrae articulate with the mandible rather than the back of the head. Note the Heterodontosaurus at the bottom of the picture.

There are a huge number of illustrations in this book, so of course I thought I'd pick out some of the stranger ones. This fat-headed 'carnosaur' Spinosaurus is just fantastic, and very typical of how the animal was depicted in the early '90s (check out the original Carnegie Collection model Spinosaurus, for example). Quite why this animal was ever thought to have four fingers is anybody's guess. On top of it all, he ain't looking too happy about being used as an example of a 'living radiator'. Hey, give the largest theropod his due!

This Stegosaurus, too, is rather...unusual. Well, unusual in that it's somewhat anachronistic - it looks like a refugee from the pre-Dino Renaissance days. The point being made on this page is that Stegosaurus had a tiny, tiny brain - as indeed it did. (At least it has a smile on its face - ignorance is bliss, after all.)

Still, it's easy to mock ("fun, too"), and some of the illustrations in this book really are still quite amazing in their intricacy. Pages 22-23 display an incredibly detailed cutaway Hylaeosaurus, with its armour plating exploded away and its guts exposed for all to see.

The book is very charming and has a wonderful sense of humour throughout, which really engaged me as a kid. In particular, Dewan uses recurring cute green cartoon dinosaurs to illustrate certain points related to both the science of reconstructing dinosaurs and how dinosaur anatomy would have functioned. Often, the latter would involve illustrations of unlikely machines designed to simulate dinosaur bodily functions, with the little green fellas either operating them, or being used as their test subjects, as below with a simulated Euplocephalus tail club. The second image shows a number of the green guys reconstructing an Iguanodon skeleton (complete with an emu for reference). Note also in the first image the dragging Diplodocus tail tip at the bottom of the page - as I have said previously, it was still quite common to have sauropod tails dragging about in the early '90s, even as other dinosaurs got more mobile.

The below illustration is one of my favourites in the book, simply because - if you look closely - you can see an ichthyosaur embryo inside the mother. Wonderful attention to detail, and quite sickeningly adorable. (Ignore the 'Plesiosaurus' label - it's for a different illustration.)

What better place to end than the back cover? Particularly because it allows me to show you an Apatosaurus that wouldn't otherwise fit in my scanner. Commendably, the head is suitably diplodocid-like, although anatomically many of the proportions are wrong - and the hands are near-identical to the feet, complete with multiple long, pointy claws (another common problem in the '90s).

Still, for all its faults, I'd still thoroughly recommend picking up this book if you happen to see it; it's certainly unusual and the illustrations are lavish even if they are not accurate (and have a tendency to be based on art by Sibbick and others). It's a real nostalgia trip if nothing else - and a lot of fun.

P.S. - I'm off to the Netherlands for a week tomorrow, so you might not hear from me 'til I get back (no cheering at the back). I hope to visit the Naturalis museum while I'm there...


  1. I'd never seen these, they're great!

  2. Ah, I remember admiring this book when it was published, but never owned it, sadly (I wasn't even given it as a pressie, wah!). I think I shall make a point of procuring it now; simply for the its artistic merits.

    Do enjoy the Netherlands and the Naturalis. We at the DTF expect photographs, naturally...


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