Monday, March 5, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Sea and Land by J.W. Buel

A book I recently stumbled upon while browsing Flickr is this week's feature in Vintage Dinosaur Art. Published in the 1880's (dates vary with either 1887 or 1889 being likely years of publication), Sea and Land is one of many natural history books written by J.W. Buel, who also wrote a number of adventure books cashing in on the hunger for the exotic so prevalent in that era. The engravings, shared by Steve Lew, are a mixed bag of science and superstition. Included here are the Mesozoic-related plates, but there is plenty more fun stuff to check out.

I said a mixed bag of science and superstition, and to show what I meant, here's one of the dubious claims: that of early humans squaring off against plesiosaurs.

Early man contending with the plesiosaurus

It's a silly, cartoonish thing to imagine a plesiosaur doing. About as silly: a plesiosaur striking out at a passing pterosaur and catching it on the wing. Blowhole-sporting ichtyhosaur included for additional fun.

The flying Pterodactal

The plesiosaur gets it in the end, however. Luckily for us, all of this action is taking place above the water's surface, which is where sea creatures tend to settle their disputes.

Combat between the Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus

Of course, they all got it in the end, don't they? Here, the denizens of the Western Interior Seaway share their last flailing moments of life together. Since the text is not available, I'm left to imagine that Buel is supposing that the seaway literally dried up suddenly, stranding the wretched fauna to die agonizing deaths.

Monsters of the Kansas Plains in their last struggles

Here's a Rhamphorynchus we've seen before, in a last year's post about Victor Meunier.

The Ramphorynchus

About time to get to the actual dinosaurs. There aren't many, but we get this take on Megalosaurus and Iguanodon, betraying a loyalty to an older vision of the Mesozoic as displayed at the Crystal Palace. This may also be ganked from an earlier source, as by the time of this title's publication, the Bernissart Iguanodons had jettisoned the old quadrupedal, spike-nosed version.

The Megalosaurus and Iquanodon

Finally, we head back to North America to see the early vision of the Mesozoic uncovered by early American paleontologists such as Leidy, Marsh, and Cope. The illustration is titled "The Hadrosaur and Contemporary Animals," one of which may well be Dryptosaurus, making this yet another early depiction. I'd love to confirm this from the text, but it doesn't seem to be available anywhere online, so this remains a mere guess.

The Hadrosaur and contemporary animals

Sorry for anyone who saw this in its incomplete state - I accidentally pressed "publish" instead of "save" earlier, also accounting for the hurried nature of the writing. As always, please feel free to submit art from old dinosaur books to our Flickr Group.


  1. To compliment the Kansas artwork, it did 2 things surprisingly well: No giant cliffs in the background (oh but so much better to launch Pteranodon from!) and the hint of a tail fluke on the mosasaur. So wrong on so many other levels, but if you throw enough ideas at the artwork, something may end up right!

  2. this is one of the best vintage posts yet! I love these old monster depictions. everything looks so dark and scary. their eyes are ghoulish. Awesome!

  3. I'm a rather big fan of the plesiosaur with its tongue sticking out and the giant snake tail in the last sea life image. He looks quite happy to be drying up and dying with his forked tongue.


Trolls get baleted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.