That it's entertaining will mostly be down to the glorious hodgepodge of pre- and post-Renaissance ideas about dinosaurs, as was common back in the late '70s and early '80s. At the time, artists still defaulted to drawing inspiration from the Old Masters (Knight, Zallinger, Burian and the rest), but updated certain very select aspects of their depictions of animals' anatomy and behaviour in order to move with the times.
Of course, the tyrannosaur on the cover is a terrible example of this, as its head's wrong in every detail, and its body appears to be a scaly balloon. Happily, the complete version of this illustration (featured inside the book) does back me up - somewhat - and that's the important thing.
The book's title may well be Dinosaur World but, as usual, the Palaeozoic support act feels fit to make an appearance. (If you've got a seating ticket, you'll probably want to grab a few beers in the foyer and come back later.) Before the Mesozoic - before, even, the title page - we're treated, apropos of nothing, to the above monstrosity. It's not labelled, but to the untrained eye (mine) it would appear to be the most foul and eeeevil gorgonopsid that ever lived on planet LV-426. They're coming outta the goddamn walls! And so on.
Delving into the book proper, we here have a piece that's unmistakably Bernard Robinson. Robinson (of Ladybird book fame) was a master of scaly skin textures, making excellent use of light and shade, as seen here. This illustration is also a rare depiction of Dimetrodon encountering another carnivorous Early Permian synapsid, in this case Ophiacodon (imagine a slightly rubbish Dimetrodon without the sail). I can't comment on the plausibility of it, but opting to depict the two wrestling like monitor lizards - rather than just sitting around, or perhaps lazily nibbling each other - was commendably inventive, and it's a really exciting image. [Late addition - James Appleby, in the comments, points out that this Ophiacodon's head looks nothing like the real thing. Which is true, and should be noted. I stop paying attention to that in a book like this after a while...]
Robinson also provides a few of the book's dinosaur illustrations, including a Jurassic panorama in which the puny twig-limbs of his earlier restorations meet the active poses of his latter work. Sure, the Allosaurus could have done with more attention to detail, particularly around the head area (where the animal's stubby, but noticeable horns are annoyingly absent). But it's still holding its tail and at least one foot clear of the ground, and the brachiosaurs in the background are sticking resolutely to terra firma.
Note the translation of 'Allosaurus' as 'leaping lizard'. Tee hee.
Mammals, eh? Who cares for them? Here, a dinosaur's glorious Robinson-scaly yellow belly completely dwarfs the smelly, furry little gits. Point well made. Say, those feet look familiar...
It's Iguanodon time! And oh boy, what a horrible mess. Back in the bad old days, artists frequently depicted Iguanodon with dainty, humanoid arms and tiny hands, not to mention elbows that were always, always flexed. This image, then, can be considered the nadir of a particular trend. There's not inconsiderable artistic skill at work here, so presumably the illustrator was just given very little to go on; whatever happened, the consequence is a catastrophic eyesore from top to bottom. All the way from Iguanodon's drooping lips and thunder thighs down to the megalosaur's (yes, megalosaur's) own withered and delicate appendage (ahem).
An excellent comment on this glorious work was provided by Matthew Inabinett over on Facebook. I'll reproduce it here in full.
A real goldmine of classic palaeoart tropes! Man in suit Iguanodon with PermaFlex™ arms? Check. Iguanodon and a megalosaur fighting? Check. The hunchback megalosaur? Check. Both of the dinosaurs having that scalloped back? Check. Iguanodon being mentioned to use its sharp thumbs to gouge its enemies' eyes out? Check.And carry on we shall.
Well, it looks as though all is in order here. Carry on.
Beautifully painted, but terribly outdated snake-necked plesiosaurs are a favourite trope of mine; they're so marvellously monstrous. Of course, while the scientific consensus is that they couldn't do this, due to a load of boring stuff about biomechanics, pioneering research by myself looks set to overturn this tiresome dogma. By manipulating fuzzy JPEG photographs of plesiosaur skeletons, I have discovered that they could arch their necks, pluck pterosaurs from the skies and drag hapless sailors to their doom. Look out for my book, The Plesiosaur Heresies, out next year.
Interestingly, the little fellow to the left appears to be a polycotylid. Don't see too many of them fellas 'round these parts. Also, Rhamphorynchus, for some reason.
If this, uh, light-fingered ornithomimosaur looks rather familiar to you, that's because it probably should; it's taken from Rourke's Tyrannosaurus, reviewed by David last year. The Parasaurolophus from said book also features, but is far too disturbing to be reproduced yet again here. Note also the illustration in the top right, which neatly fits in with the old trope of depicting ornithomimosaurs as rotund, but with limbs like a cranefly.
Rexy's back! And now that we've reached the complete illustration, I may make my point. Sure, the animal in the foreground is rather old-fashioned in appearance, if quite nicely painted. However, the background individual, taking a long stride and with one foot lifting off the ground, shows an energy not present in truly old-school palaeoart. So you see, it is a fitting example of old-meets-new, after all. I do like those insects, too.
Quite probably by the same artist (owing to the similar appearance of the bloater T. rex), this assemblage of Late Cretaceous creatures has mostly been included here because...the Euoplocephalus! Look at its cutey-pie face! It's like adorable Old Grampa Turtle. The others may demonstrate the perils of not having access to multi-angled reconstructions (or just drawing freehand and not giving a toss...whatever the case may be), but Grampa's sad face is far too distracting for anyone to notice. Superb.
Coming up next: I'm not sure! Can I borrow a book, anyone...?