Vintage Dinosaur Art: A Field Guide to Dinosaurs – Part 2

Uncategorized Vintage Dinosaur Art

And so we return to yet another book that I hadn’t heard of until recently, but turned out to be a beloved childhood staple for many people. It also contains very little truly original art, with its illustrations being slightly reworked (and sometimes, de-feathered) versions of other artists’ work, when they aren’t outright copies. I know, I know – that sort of thing was accepted more back then. Still, figuring out which artists have ‘inspired’ the work here is entertaining in itself, and it’s made me wonder which famous pieces of palaeoart that I loved as a kid were leaning heavily on older works (Normanpedia, I’m looking at you). As we looked exclusively at theropods last time, it only seems fair that I cover those pesky other dinosaurs. Except…

Field Guide Troodontids

…I can cheat! Oh yes – Tröödøn as a carnivorous ornithopod, rather than Stenonychosaurus or a dubious taxon that should probably be thrown in the bin. I bet you’d forgotten that was a thing. The life reconstruction is the only one I’ve ever seen in this vein, at least as far as I can remember – which intrigues me because, given the nature of this book, I bet it’s been copied from somewhere else. In the text, Lambert mentions that the “proof” of Troodon‘s ornithischian nature lies in “a supposed hypsilophodontid thigh bone now known to have been Troodon‘s”. Presumably this is yet another case of different animals’ remains being mixed together, although I’m not sure which other animal the thigh would have been from – Orodromeus, maybe? Leave us a comment if you know.

Field Guide Iguanodon

The small ornithopods and misidentified theropods are followed by Iguanodon which, lest we forget, was a beast. It’s surely one of my favourite dinosaurs that isn’t a theropod. Huge, heavily built, with a chunky skull and the kind of arms that glossy magazines keep telling me I should aspire to, for some reason, it was no mere lightweight allosaur-fodder…and that’s without mentioning the fact that it had stabby spikes instead of thumbs. The illustration in the Field Guide does do this marvelous creature justice, and is thoroughly up-to-date for the time, although it also suspiciously resembles the work of Stout (again). We should perhaps credit Stout, then, for the fact that this animal appears to only have three claws on each hand, including the thumb spike. Surely this was the way it was – after all, no archosaurs have more than three claws on each hand, and yet reconstructions of Iguanodon with three hooves on its hands are predominant. Think about it – take that thumb spike away, and you have a two-clawed hadrosaur hand. (Credit due to Natee for finally hitting me over the head with this.) Lovely patterning on this one, by the way.

Incidentally, that hand totally belongs to a smaller iguanodontid, like Mantellisaurus, although that animal was still languishing in the Iguanodon wastebasket at the time.

Field Guide hadrosaur heads

Naturally enough, the iguanodonts are followed by the hadrosaurs although, curiously, there’s a lack of decent full-body illustrations of the latter. We are treated to a pleasing line-up of heads (above), complete with slightly unsettling goat-like pupils, a very McLoughlin-like touch. From left to right, the illustrations represent Corythosaurus, Hypacrosaurus, Lambeosaurus, Parasaurolophus, and Tsintaosaurus, as you’ve probably already guessed. It’s always a joy to see good old Grand Pecker Tsintaosaurus, now that it has a more elegant look (although we shouldn’t forget the flat-headed version too). For different reasons, Parasaurolophus-with-a-skin-flap has also become a retro palaeoart trope; reconstructions with a small area of tissue joining the neck and crest continue to appear, but we just don’t see this kind of ‘head sail’ now. But I feel like I’m repeating myself. The use of a single flat colour is very clever here, making good use of the book’s format.

Field Guide pachycephalosaurs

While most of the life reconstructions in this book aren’t too much to write home about, the illustrations of fossils are quite fantastic. The Pachycephalosaurus skull above is a superb example, a simply masterful exercise in stippling, hatching and shading that speaks volumes of the artist’s talents (if only specific artists were credited). Lovely work. Lambert insists on referring to pacycephalosaurs as “boneheads”, possibly because the correct term takes up too much space. It’s still ever-so-slightly irritating.

Field Guide Euoplocephalus

And now for a bonehead of a different variety – it’s Euoplocephalus! Albeit mostly based on Scolosaurus, which was known as Euoplocephalus at the time, and Scolosaurus before that. This illustration is troubling me, as it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Euoplocephalus in the Normanpedia, which is two years younger than this one. It makes me think that they have a common source. An “after Carpenter” credit is given – I haven’t seen Ken Carpenter’s famous 1982 paper, so I couldn’t say to what extent this reconstruction is based on anything that appeared in it. In any case, this is very nicely done and more solid-looking and convincing than most of the life reconstructions in this book, even if its left hindlimb looks a little awkward (especially in the diagram with a tank). It’s also in keeping with what was then cutting-edge science, unlike…

Field Guide Triceratops

…this Triceratops, based on an obsolete skeletal reconstruction by Marsh. Amusingly, the copy of Marsh’s skeletal is so perfect that it includes the erroneous three-toed feet, contradicting the life reconstruction underneath, which is a little bit perfunctory-looking when compared with some of the others in this book. It’s noteworthy that Lambert mentions that “some [experts] think that Triceratops had projecting toes, while others picture stumpy feet like those of an elephant or rhinoceros”, since most reconstructions still seemed to favour stumpy feet at the time, and would do for quite some years into the future – in fact, lazier reconstructions still give the animal elephantine feet, perhaps because it intuitively looks right on an animal that was literally as big as an elephant. We’re also treated to a rare inclusion of one of McLoughlin’s less successful, but more infamous, ideas, namely a Triceratops with a frill embedded in its neck and shoulders. This little whimsical sketch is duly credited as “after McLoughlin”, unlike all the other illustrations that are obviously based on his work. So it goes.

Field Guide Brachiosaurus

But what of the sauropods in this book? They’re mostly what one would expect, and therefore a bit dull. The book’s Brachiosaurus/Giraffatitan (above) is reminiscent of the work of Giovanni Caselli, as featured in The evolution and ecology of the Dinosaurs. It is, however, much more wrinkly than Caselli’s, which makes it look both nicely three-dimensional and solid and a bit like a toy I had as a child back in the 1990s. It’s a convincingly chunky, muscular and massive-looking thing. The ‘seam’ on the belly is interesting – it’s a bit of a trope, and reminds me of the old Invicta toy (which is only a year more recent than this). I didn’t have that toy as a child, but I did manage to grab one a decade ago, as the review on the Dino Toy Blog attests. It’s a very lovely chunk of plastic that should definitely be on your shopping list if you’re into that sort of thing. But I digress.

Look at that human figure. “It’s…it’s a dinosaur!” The minimalist giraffe looks miffed.

Field Guide Saltasaurus

And finally…it’s Saltasaurus! In spite of my best efforts in encouraging wacky nautical-themed artwork back in 2013, you still don’t see enough of Old Salty these days. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Salty – the weirdo knobbly sauropod of then-uncertain affinities – was a popular dinosaur book staple. I guess there’s no longer any room once you’ve stuffed in the likes of Dreadnoughtus and Argentinosaurus. Here the old fellow is looking very well-proportioned, if slightly saggy; the carefully applied, surprisingly simple (but effective) detailing on the limbs in particular works well. Given the overall look of this reconstruction, and especially its rather sunken face, I’d hazard a guess that it’s another Stout copy.

That’ll be all from this one, for now! Unless there’s demand for more, of course. Otherwise, I’m going back slightly further in time for the next one. Kindly stick around.

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  • Reply
    Gary Campbell
    November 22, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    In my 1964 Dinosaurs by E.Colbert Troodon is classified as a coelurosaur, and I believe its remains have been variously referred to Stegoceras (hence the attribution of ornithischian characteristics I suppose), Polyodontosaurus and Stenonychosaurus. In fact for a whole pachycephalosaurs were called troodonts. Nopsca thought it was a megalosaurid.The taxonomical nightmare goes on apparently.

  • Reply
    Dr. Werewolf, PhD (@EvilViergacht)
    November 22, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    There was also a book called “Let’s all draw dinosaurs, pterodactyls, and other prehistoric creatures” which used the illustrations from this one. They had some interesting how-tos on different ink techniques .

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Noticed the correctly three-clawed Iguanodon even before I read your text; color me impressed as well!

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