Way back in April, when I was supposed to be finishing my undergradaute thesis, I wrote my first ever post for Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs - a Vintage Dinosaur Art guest post looking at an amusingly crap 1960s book named Dinosaurs of the Earth. When this book - simply titled Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles - arrived on Saturday, I was immediately struck by the similarities. Originally published in 1966 (with this fifth edition arriving in 1972), DaOPR similarly takes readers on a colourful journey through time from the origins of life on land in the Palaeozoic through to the end of the Mesozoic. The key difference is that the art here is much, much better, and that'll be down to the talents of one Rudolph F Zallinger, who surely needs no introduction to anyone reading this blog (but just in case).
Many of the animals in this book are obviously similar to their counterparts in Zalinger's The Age of Reptiles mural, but - and in spite of the book still being firmly 'Dino Dark Age' in style - they actually look a little more modern, and anatomical improvements have been made. Still, it seems that even Zallinger wasn't above ripping off (or more generously, 'paying homage to') other artists' work, in this case (below) Charles R Knight's bird-grabbing Ornitholestes which, as David has examined before, ended up turning into a meme. It never did seem to bother anyone that Ornitholestes and Archaeopteryx lived in rather different parts of the world...
Ah, the swamp-bound sauropod trope. Just as in Dinosaurs of the Earth, the text here (by Jane Werner Watson) is more interested in telling a story that conveying lots of facts about the dinosaur's anatomy and possible behaviour. Still, we are told that Brachiosaurus lives in the water much of the time not only to support 'his' (yes, the animals are always described as male) weight, but because for this gigantic animal "the safest thing to do is to hide" in a lake. Looking carefully, it's possible to see the nasal crest of one brachiosaur just poking out of the water in the middle, presumably where there is a sheer drop in the lake bed. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - how did this idea persist for so long without people realising how utterly barmy it was?
More memes! This time, Allosaurus sinking its teeth into the neck of "Brontosaurus". Both clearly draw on Zallinger's previous work, but Allosaurus looks leaner and meaner than in the AoR mural and no longer has its forelimbs growing out of its neck. Outdated as it obviously is, Zallinger's skill ensures that this remains a highly striking and evocative scene to behold - just compare it with the same scene in Dinosaurs of the Earth. (And then have another good laugh at the latter.)
Stegosaurus is still looking very old-fashioned here, as it did even into the '90s. Not a lot to say, really, other than the colour scheme is rather different to that featured in the AoR mural (unlike the Allosaurus and "Brontosaurus" which are broadly similar), and is if anything more typical - a green body with orange plates. I'd love to know who exactly invented that, and if other artists were copying them or just happened upon the same colours independently. There's an Ankylosaurus featured too, which I haven't scanned, but rest assured it is the same weird, super-squat, no-neck creature so prevalent in art of the time.
There's a very peculiar trope in old palaeoart that leads to Protoceratops having an unduly sprawling, lizardlike appearance for no good reason. Zallinger carries on the tradition here. Bizarrely, Oviraptor has transmorphed into an ornithomimosaur, although unlike the bigger theropods its tail is very clearly elevated above the ground.
There's something I quite like about this Gorgosaurus - maybe because depicting theropods squatting down at the water's edge still remains quite unconventional. Zallinger's also given it a lot of character, and it looks a little tense, as if it's eyeing something beneath the surface. Which it is, although not what one would expect - a Corythosaurus and Parasaurolophus have turned scuba diver, the text describing how "they fill their hollow skulls with air [like an aqualung], and down they go to the bottom". A lovely illustration and a totally nutty one based on a long-discarded idea on the same page - that's why I love old dinosaur books...
This Triceratops manages to combine the lovely and the nutty in the same animal. It's as beautifully painted as ever, and (quite literally) has a huge presence on the page. On the other hand...what's up with the head? The neck frill appears to fold out, fan-like, in a semi-circle behind the animal's head. Still, I love the way a lone Triceratops completely dominates this scene, and the surrounding environment just looks gorgeous.
It's Tyrannosaurus time. Sexy rexy puts in his (oh dear, now I'm personifying them) inevitable appearance near the end of the book, wading in and baring his fangs from stage right. Triceratops looks unimpressed. When compared with the AoR mural, this T. rex is notably nothing like as pot-bellied, while the head too looks somewhat more modern (although, as was seemingly typical for illustrators of this time, the animal's characteristic cranial lumps and bumps are smoothed out into a neat arch over the eye). In spite of its sleeker appearance, however, T. rex is still firmly a 'man-in-suit' tail dragger here, and the text describes it as such - when it loses its battle with a Triceratops, it's described as 'shuffling' away. We are also told that "like all cold-blooded animals, [T. rex] tires quickly". Strangely, although this is typical of the way dinosaurs are portrayed in the book, pterosaurs are described as probably being endotherms.
Although 'he' comes off worse in his fight with Triceratops, all is well for T. rex in the end as a rather alarmed Pachycephalosaurus is plucked from the ground and devoured. The T. rex looks stranger here, if still very muscular, but I just like the fact that it's in a scene with Pachycephalosaurus. Although the two species (T. rex and P. wyomingensis) lived contemporaneously, it seems like they're hardly ever seen together in palaeoart.
Overall I'd say the art in this book remains impressive, especially technically. Although the ways that the animals are portrayed are hopelessly out of date, Zallinger's characterful, intricate work remains beautiful. Like all the best palaeoart, even as they age to the point of scientific obsolesence one is still able to believe these creations as living, breathing animals.