Monday, July 2, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs: Part 3

I know, I know - MORE Sibbick. While I'm sure some of you have had quite enough of the Sibb-man (as he shall never be referred to again), there are still others who would scream bloody murder if I didn't cover this classic book from cover to cover. To break up the monotony for those who have had quite enough 1980s meme-laden palaeoart, here's a white rhea (Rhea americana) with its legs in an amusingly unlikely position.

Right, on with the Sibbick. It's time for the ceratopsians this week, and there are some truly influential pieces among them. There's something strangely humanoid about this oft-copied Psittacosaurus. I must say, though, that before buying this book I had no idea that it was accompanied by an adorwable widdle baby. I think the hands on the adult are superb - even if they're not entirely anatomically correct, they are just so convincing - a word that comes up often with Sibbick, who obviously applied a lot of lessons from living animals to his palaeoart.

These Protoceratops begat a thousand blue-grey 1990s imitators. By the 1980s the Neave Parker-style sprawling lizardy gait had been abandoned, but unfortunately Sibbick has made the classic mistake of inserting an ear into a skull opening (see also: 1970s restorations of T. rex). And of course, there's a nest. Protoceratops: never knowingly without a nest.

Although this page is physically dominated by Triceratops (separated from its chasmosaurine bretheren for some reason), it's Styracosaurus that draws the eye, and with good reason. This restoration of the Spiked 'Do Reptile was everywhere in the early '90s, and should definitely have been given greater prominence here - it's marvellous and striking in the way that a standard issue lateral view never could be. Of course, it's not as informative either, but then this book has skeletal diagrams and the like for that purpose, freeing Sibbick to experiment with some more interesting perspectives. The Triceratops was rarely reproduced, probably because, by Sibbick standards (and that's an important qualifier) it's far from the best. It's certainly not up to the standard of the cover illustration (see part one).

Seeing old ceratopsian mounts with dragging tails always amuses me - they just look so contrived, like the supervising scientists were determined that every dinosaur had to have its tail reaching the ground, lest they start looking at all interesting. As usual, Sibbick's creations (like this Centrosaurus) look so palpably alive and convincing that one doesn't tend to notice the occasional bit of vintage anatomical strangeness, but it's more obvious...

...on skeletal diagrams. Is that a dinosaur's tail, or an unfinished roller coaster schematic? Still, this page really shows off just how lovely the skeletal spreads are in this book. Multiple angles on skulls! Close ups of feet! All lovingly drawn and detailed! Yes please. Too few popular dinosaur books truly bother with this sort of thing these days, and they bloody well should. Ya hear?

This Torosaurus was another hugely influential piece. Its limbs look a little awkward in places, but it's superbly detailed as usual; the face in particular is incredibly lifelike. That's Chasmosaurus (left) and Anchiceratops (right) in the background, by the way, and there's a seldom-seen Pentaceratops just out of scanner range to the top right (sorry). Bizarrely, all the animals here are depicted with elevated tails - there seems to be little in the way of a pattern when it comes to which animals are restored as tail-draggers in this book, which probably reflects the 'transitional period' in which the art was produced.

And finally...pachycephalosaurs, which on account of being marginocephalians are hereby promoted to Honorary Ceratopsians for the day. Congratulations, all. The Pachycephalosaurus comes from a time before it was realised (based on other, related animals) that its head was very large relative to its body. As such, it is depicted as a towering behemoth; in the scale diagram (not pictured) it is in a similarly upright posture and absolutely dwarfs the ambling naked man, with a quoted length of eight metres. Disproportionately small head or no, the illustration is, as always, very lovely. Curse the Sibb-man (I lied) and his preposterous artistic talents.

That's all for now. There'll be even more! Oh my.


  1. Excitement!

    Also thanks for clarifying the Pachy size issue; I was always puzzled as to why sometimes they thought it was that big.

  2. Yay! Count me as a Sibbick-lover. Please don't call him the Sibb-man again - I've heard that he prefers "Sibby baby".

    +1 (again) for the detailed skeletal drawings. Despite its age and odd bits such as piscivorous segnosaurs, I still think that this is one of the best dino books.

  3. IIRC, for a time Triceratops was thought to be a 'short-frilled' ceratopsid because of the length of its frill.

    And thanks for clarifying the size of Pachycephalosaurus! Always bewildered as to why some sources gave it such a large size, whereas others seemed to have made it shrink. And I also remember some of the early references stating that pachycephalosaurs were ornithopods.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Looks like you copied another idea, try to be a bit more creative man and stop stealing idea's of my friend.


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