When placed in the context of a book like this, it's extremely easy to see why Paul's work was so influential. Nothing else here comes close to matching the accuracy and fidelity of his illustrations, many of which (that unfortunate Avimimus aside) have aged extraordinarily well. Back in the 1980s, his fat-necked apatosaurs must have been revelatory for many readers of this book, accustomed to lazy, stereotyped, tube-necked old things drawn with scant attention to the fossils. The above piece almost seems to be goading those used to the old Zallingerian depictions. Here is the real Apatosaurus, striding straight towards you, a beast incredible in overall size, width of neck, and minuteness of head. The animals might look a bit underfed by today's standards, but by those of the time, it's an absolutely stunning, confrontational piece.
Paul also provides an illustration of an Apatosaurus rearing up to defend itself from an attacking Allosaurus. Again, it's worth noting the dramatic differences between Paul's sleek, lean predator, and the stocky-limbed Sibbickesque creations that pass for theropods elsewhere in the book. Oh, and the sauropod's quite nice too. Note the concave columnar hands with a single claw, something that a great many artists still can't quite get right. Time to sharpen up, guys - 1980s Greg Paul is beating you. (As an aside, the poor old Field Museum mount looks more than a little anachronistic when juxtaposed with these very Renaissance illustrations.)
Next to the Paulsterpieces, other attempts at apatosaur illustrations end up looking a little inadequate. Roberta Polfus gives good monochrome shading, and the heads of the animals are up-to-date at least, but the short tails, thin necks and large heads are way off the mark.
Elsewhere, Polfus also provides an illustration of a very silly hypothesis. While sauropods likely had more going on than the classic 'nostrils right above the nares' look modelled elsewhere in this book, there's no ruddy way that any known species went a-sproutin' a proboscis of some sort from their often wide-muzzled noggins. Handily, Darren Naish wrote a comprehensive history/takedown of the idea a few years ago on his infamous Tetrapod Zoology blog. Which brings us neatly to...
...This Saltasaurus, illustrated by Edward Brooks. The rearing pose is either copied from Mark Hallett, or else Sibbick-after-Hallett, but there's something interesting going on with the animal's face. Although not quite trunky, Old Salty does seem to be showing off quite a bit of lip. In fact, it resembles a 'big lipped diplodocid' model produced by John Martin and Richard Neave (see Darren's article as linked to above), but I don't know whether or not this illustration predates it. In any case, it's another example of a sauropod depicted with curiously mammalian facial features. While he might get certain other details wrong, Brooks does an excellent job of portraying the animals' scaly hide - the minute detail makes it seem almost palpable.
Brooks also illustrates Camarasaurus, but sadly doesn't replicate the excellent technique used on Old Salty's skin. Instead, the Ugliest Li'l Sauropod seems to have been sculpted out of candle wax, and in imminent danger of melting in the heat. The animal's shape is pretty much there, and it has a nice muscular tail, but this is probably one of the most extreme examples of Sibbickish Michelin Man dino-skin that I've seen. The animal's right hand has also morphed into something else entirely, and has become rather shapeless and generic, like David Cameron's face.
And finally...I've talked about 'Ultrasauros' plenty of times before. While Jim Jensen's chimeric beastie might never have existed in reality, it will always be fondly remembered as a staple of '80s and '90s dinosaur books, where it was mostly depicted as a sort of Giraffatitan on steroids - as it is here (by Jean Helmer). It seems apt that, when compared with the solid brown brachiosaur up front, the ghostly white 'Ultra' takes on the quality of a phantasm or illusion; something that was never really there. Aficionados of '80s dinosauriana will be happy to hear that the book makes sure to include that famous photo of Jensen touching up his baby's reconstructed forelimb.
The Childcraft Annual series will continue...