Monday, September 12, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Concise Illustrated Book of Dinosaurs

This charming hardback volume, dating from 1993 and published by Grange Books, contains some illustrations that are best described as...'unusual'. Or perhaps 'quirky'. Unfortunately, the names of the illustrator(s) involved aren't provided, with the credit going only to Maltings Partnership (who appear to be still going strong). The text, by Rupert Matthews, is actually rather good and free from the more embarrassing gaffes that befoul kids' dinosaur books, although he does claim that "most experts" agree that Tyrannosaurus was an obligate scavenger. Yeah, whatever...

Naturally I've picked out the weirdest specimens from this book for your viewing pleasure, and I'm afraid that most of them are theropods. For some reason most of the herbivorous dinosaurs present have an appearance that's quite usual for the period, but the theropods often look all-out surreal and ever-so-slightly nightmarish. Here's a good example.

Since you were no doubt wondering, the above illustration is meant to depict Ceratosaurus. I've mentioned before how jobbing illustrators can't really be blamed for getting it wrong if they aren't provided with the right information, but, wow. Human musculature? Really? In fact, this has ended up looking like a super-ripped steroid-abusing version of that absurd 'Dinosauroid' thing (with added tail). Moving on...

Granted, it's less odd than the Ceratosaurus - but it's still pretty weird. Coelophysis did at least actually have a pretty long neck and tail. Apart from the hands, though, the head here is again very strange - is anyone else reminded of a dolphin?

On the opposite page, and ratcheting up the quirkiness level, we have the bipedal super-salamander of doom.

Run, non-specific fat little green thingies! Run for your lives!

Oh, by the way - have you ever noticed how much the dome on Pachycephalosaurus' head looks like someone's arse? What do you mean, it doesn't? Look, I trust dodgy 1990s restorations when it comes to establishing what dinosaurs looked like. You'll be telling me that dromaeosaurs had feathers next.

...When everyone knows they were surreal, Giger-esque monstrosities, with snaking necks and tails, shark-black eyes and sinister zipper grins. A certain Niroot P (yes, him again) insists that this restoration is worse than the one that featured in Know the World of Dinosaurs. I'm not so sure, but it is at least a lot more frightening. Perhaps LITC should hold a 'terrible 1990s Velociraptor face-off' to decide once and for all.

What do you get if you cross an ankylosaur, a glyptodont and an egg? This.

As I've already said, most of the non-theropods in this book actually emerge with their dignity intact, their appearances being rather anatomically incorrect to modern eyes but in keeping with what was common at the time. The sauropods are rather generic and pretty indistinguishable from one another, but they aren't as bizarre as the likes of Ceratosaurus and Velociraptor. The page below is of interest because it profiles an animal that later turned out to be a chimera, namely "Ultrasauros" (to prove this is the case - and that the book is not referring to the original Ultrasaurus from South Korea - I've included the text). You may recall that "Ultrasauros" also popped up in Dinosaurs! magazine. Reading about this non-existent animal in old books is always sweetly nostalgic.

One more scary theropod for the road. "Hello children. My name's Mr Staurikosaurus and I'll be your friendly guide to the Late Triassic..."

Many thanks to Niroot for letting me borrow this book. As to what's coming next, I've just got hold of a copy of Alan Charig's A New Look at the Dinosaurs, which features some old-fashioned art that, like the work of Neave Parker, is obsolete but still gorgeous...


  1. These are freakin' incredible. The muscles on that Ceratosaurus are obscene.

  2. "Perhaps LITC should hold a 'terrible 1990s Velociraptor face-off' to decide once and for all."

    Oh my yes, this is a good idea. I may have found a third contender here: (fourth picture down)

  3. Trish: Ah, I remember that from Dinosaurs! magazine. It's a Deinonychus, not a Velociraptor, but that's OK. We can have our competition include multiple dromaeosaur genera.

  4. Great. That Pachycephalosaurus dome's 'bottom' resemblance never crossed my mind, but now I shall be forever reminded of it. Thanks.



  6. The butthead Pachy is by far the most disturbing of all. I´m absolutely loving it.

    The compy ain´t bad either, are those holes in the neck supposed to be the ears?

  7. I mean... I just can't take my eyes off of the Ceratosaurus. It *literally* looks like a man in a suit.

  8. I want to build a Ceratosaurus Halloween costume!

    And, are we sure the butthead Pachy isn't supposed to be a Dilophosaur?

  9. I absolutely love the velociraptor.

  10. don't forget the weird looking Coelophysis in Dinosaurs and more Dinosaurs. I'm hard pressed to tell which book is worse in terms of purely imaginative "dinosaur" renderings.

  11. @terry It's weird, but I appreciate the Solonevich book (Dinosaurs and More Dinosaurs). Not accurate by a long shot, but there's such a strange, oily, monstrous character to many of his dinosaurs that I kind of love it.

    These here, they're just disturbing.

  12. I don't know David, I think that Coelophysis from 'Dinosaurs and More Dinosaurs' is pretty freaky. Probably freakier than the Coelophysis here (although not the Ceratosaurus by a long shot).

  13. Oh, and Peter Bond: the butthead Pachy definitely isn't meant to be a Dilophosaurus. It is labelled 'Pachycephalosaurus' in the book. Also, it wouldn't be any less bloody weird as a Dilophosaurus...

  14. @Marc Oh, I agree. It's freaky and I love it. Which reminds me, I think I'll scan more pages from that title to share again.

  15. @David I couldn't agree more about the monstrous quality of Solonevich's work. It's one of the books I sought out after seeing it in the flickr pool. Great stuff. Wish I could find an older printing so I could have his original anatosaurus picture.


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