Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Robinson Requests: LOOK at ceratopsians!

Mark Robinson is a long-standing reader of the blog who has contributed a great many very...amusing comments over the years. In his latest, he noted his disappointment that I failed to include any ceratopsians from the so-so '60s children's book LOOK at Dinosaurs in my VDA post. Well, damn it Mark, I hope the following will suffice for you. While (as you correctly pointed out) I just don't have the time to scan every single page of these books, here's every single ceratopsian illustration from LOOK. All three of them!


Firstly, here's a life restoration of "Triceratops provsus" [sic], in all of its stout, proud, Knightian glory. I suspect there may be something of a perspective fudge going on with the tail, but otherwise, it's quite a serviceable depiction for the time. At least it looks quite perky (tail aside) and muscular; indeed, the text describes a battle with its erstwhile sparring partner and superstar saurian diva, Sexy Rexy, in which the horned one emerges as victor. Hurrah for noble herbivores!


We're also given a look at what's left of Triceratops these days, in what appears to be an illustration of the famous mount at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (although I may be wrong; the same casts tend to end up all over the place). As with the other depictions of fossils in the book, it's pleasing that this was included alongside the life restoration, and it's actually a very decent likeness.


Protoceratops also pops up, but sadly only in hatchling form, which means we don't get the usual treat of a bizarre, pudgy, sprawling fellow hanging around some sand dunes and looking cross. Note that the eggs look suspiciously...oviraptorish. If only they knew!


And finally...just in case you wondered which other books appeared in the LOOK series, here's a complete listing. LOOK at the Navy sounds particularly frightening, written as it was by Commander Peter Kemp. Mind you, I'm sure it wasn't any worse than LOOK at Puppets. Brrrr.

9 comments:

  1. Strange that they chose to depict Triceratops prorsus but the skeleton is from T. horridus. Wonder why that was.

    I think modern books that are heavy on the illustrations would be wise to do the same, they're very different looking animals!

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  2. Thank you so much, Marc. I am touched by your recognition and honoured that you have seen fit to address my "complaint" with a supplementary post.

    With regard to the prorsus / horridus thing, most of the dino books of this vintage seem to have depicted T. prorsus, either a crop from Zallinger's mural, or illustrations copied from usually Knight or Burian, but if they include a skeleton, it is invariably the AMNH mount of T. horridus.

    I can recall only two things bothering me as kid while reading various dino books:
    1. How different Tyrannosaurus rex looked in each one, and
    2. How Triceratops' skeleton didn't look like it would fit inside the illustrated living animal.

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    1. Your 2nd point is true of a lot of life restorations in kids' books, I feel - even up to the present day...(of course, the 1st is no longer the case; now they just all look like the one from Jurassic Park)

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    2. Mark, I noticed the same about T. rex. Especially where its eye was placed,, how 'fat' it looked, upright or horizontal, muscular development of thighs and calves, etc.
      About Triceratops, and ceratopsians generally: I think it's the heads. They are just so large, relatively, and illustrators used to present-day large animals may feel 'it just doesn't look right' and so tend - even unconsciously - to reduce the head relative to the body. Whereas I'm assuming the horns and other keratinous parts (beak, frill ornamentation) ought actually to be enlarged in life restorations, beyond their skeletal proportions. Anyone know how much (from extant examples): horns 1/3, 1/2 as long again as the bony core?

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    3. I would beg to differ, Mark. I always thought that Allosaurus looked quite different from book to book, while EVERY Dimorphodon, Dimetrodon, or Protoceratops looked the exact same. and every Triceratops had those jutting jugals!

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  3. LOOK at Aircraft, penned by an Air Chief Marshal, is surely at least as scary as LOOK at the Navy.

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    1. Not sure how I managed to miss that one! Not just an Air Chief Marshal, but a Sir to boot!

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  4. The Triceratops life illustration looks to have been copied from a model that's been displayed alongside the AMNH mount since (at least) the 60s. See https://sonjainnewyork.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/img_4401.jpg

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  5. You could well be right there, and that would certainly make sense.

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