How about a little more from the world of palaeontological philatelelely? Last time, we took a look at stamps from various countries including the UK, Poland, Cuba, and China, with the promise of more to come, because “we haven’t even talked about Tanzania yet.” Best get right to that, then.
Although they date from 1988 and 1991, the artwork on these stamps borrows from(/outright copies) much earlier palaeoart, most obviously Burian. Most stamps simply name the animal, but the lovely Burianesque Bronto is captioned “The Jurassic Brontosaurus,” I suppose because it’s just so very special. This is sternly corrected to “Apatosaurus” by Baldwin and Halstead – ah, if only they could have known. (If only I could have known…)
The later Stegosaurus does stand out here for being notably less retro and odd-looking than the others – while 1988 Stego is very pre-Dino Renaissance, 1991 Stego does appear to have fully erect forelimbs, a small head on a fairly long neck held well above the ground, and – possibly – an elevated tail. The plates even appear to be extended by keratinous sheaths. It’s really not all that bad for the time, on closer inspection. Contrast with the Triceratops, featuring as it does a very long, dragging tail and enormous nose horn.
The rest of the 1991 set is an equally mixed bag. The Edmontosaurus and Plateosaurus aren’t too bad – the latter’s depiction as a quadruped is considered erroneous these days, but was common at the time, and I really love the lush background in the Edmontosaurus piece. On the other hand, the Diplodocus looks like a refugee from a time when sauropods were thought of as semi-aquatic flesh-blobs, and the Iguanodon is just plain weird. It has the vague form of a (retro, tripodal) Iguanodon, but appears to be lacking the famous thumb spikes completely, and the head is an extremely toothy, lizard-like affair. Incidentally, I remember seeing that one (and not any of the much better ones) in an article in Dinosaurs! magazine in the ’90s.
That said, by far the strangest creation among this set is the Silvisaurus, depicted as some kind of flattened, belly-creeping, semi-amphibious armour-plated slug-turtle. What the hell? The Rhamphorhynchus is much better by comparison, even if the artist seems to have been looking at old reconstructions of the much shorter-tailed Pterodactylus. In particular, the background scene is, once again, rather gorgeous. All in all, a memorable set of stamps.
And now for something rather different – this strikingly vibrant set of dinosaur stamps with wonderfully sketchy outlines of very Zallingerian beasties, dating from 1972. Manama is a town, today in the United Arab Emirates, apparently well-known in philately circles for the production of stamps aimed quite deliberately at the collectors’ market back in the 1960s. An American “philatelic entrepreneur” was involved, according to Wikipedia. A rather strange and unlikely history, but there we are. It does explain the quite visually appealing nature of these stamps.
The Allosaurus and Brontosaurus (above) in this set are the most obvious Zallinger riffs, paying homage to the book reviewed here as Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles and That Mural. The Dimetrodon lurking next to the rather cutely stylised mammoth also strongly resembles its The Age of Reptiles counterpart. The foliage here is quite lovely and, yes, that mammoth is very adorable. Awww.
If the Manama stamps are stylistically unusual, then the above set from Lesotho is unusual simply in its subject matter – footprints! I very much like the concept here, and the attention to detail in replicating the different trackways is commendable, especially in the varied traces found at Moyeni. It’s interesting to note that, although the small silhouetted life reconstructions of the animals here show them dragging their tails, the illustrations of the trackways don’t feature any drag marks to indicate that. I suppose the artist was simply following convention, and didn’t put two and two together.
In a similar vein to the ‘Owen’s Dinosauria’ stamps featured in my last post, a series of stamps issued in the then-DDR back in 1973 featured the skeletal remains of various animals to be found in the Natural History Museum in Berlin. They boast an extremely impressive level of careful detail, not least in the truly iconic Archaeopteryx (and there is a well earned usage of the term ‘iconic’).
Further stamps in the set feature the museum’s larger dinosaurian stars, posed as their mounts were back in the day – offering an interesting insight into museum history, as well as natural history. The majority of these skeletons have now been remounted, with straightened limbs and tails held proudly aloft, while the breathtaking Giraffatitan is posed dynamically striding forward, a marvel of evolutionary engineering. Of all the mounts depicted here, only the Kentrosaurus remains in a similar posture today, for reasons that were probably explained to me by Heinrich Mallison when I visited, but have now totally forgotten. Hey, if you happen to work (or have worked) at the museum, do let me know!
From the ultra-worthy and detailed to the, uh, somewhat less so, here’s a delightfully kitschy set of stamps from Equatorial Guinea. They are mostly very Burian-like, especially the Styracosaurus, but with bizarrely fudged details here and there – the Triceratops has horns protruding from odd places, Styracosaurus has an ultra-thin, mammal-like tail, and Ankylosaurus appears to be missing a tail altogether. However, given what the country was going through around that time, I can’t imagine good reference material was particularly easy to come by. I do enjoy their vibrancy, and the fact that the pterosaur artwork very much reminds me of those cheapy foam gliding toys one used to see all over the place back in the ’90s (you know, the toys that were one step up the evolutionary ladder from paper planes).
Baldwin might describe these illustrations as being “crude” and “poor”, and, well, they are. But for palaeoart nerds, there’s definitely an appeal in the bizarre and the offbeat (not to mention all the bright colours, because beneath all the black clothing beats the heart of an overgrown 5-year-old, after all). Besides which, that Diplodocus, although cartoony, isn’t that bad for the time, even if the serpentine plesiosaur really is. I can’t help but wonder if it hasn’t been the victim of confusion with mosasaurs, especially given the creatures shown over on the left.
And finally…Mongolia wasn’t the only country to produce stamps featuring The Flintstones, but was perhaps unique in giving them such a local spin. Enjoy.
P.S. “A sauropodomorph with stegosaurian affinities” – what on Earth is that supposed to mean?