Vintage Jurassic Park Covers!

Vintage Dinosaur Art

It all started a week or two ago, when my partner Maartje found a Dutch translation of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park somewhere. It is an original 1991 edition. This means the cover image had been produced before the movie was made. It is necessarily completely free of the iconography of the film that would come to overshadow the novel, and indeed overshadow all other dinosaur media. That logo, that skeleton, that font, the designs of those dinosaurs and those characters which are all etched into our collective consciousness, none of it shows up on the cover. It’s a thing unto itself, and it is a thing to behold indeed. I’ll show it to you in a minute, but it got me thinking.

How many more of these are out there? How many localizations of Crichton’s sci-fi novel have been produced around the world, with unique cover art that predates the Spielberg film? How many of these were produced by book cover artists who in normal circumstances would have never illustrated anything close to a dinosaur? I took to the Internet, and the results exceeded all my expectations. It is true that most versions of the book you can get nowadays simply have the well-known logo on the cover. Boring! Nevertheless, I found a wealth of unique and remarkable, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, book covers that are independent from the visual language of the movie. Not all of these predate the film proper, but they were still unique enough to include. As a connoisseur of kitschy dinosaur Europeana, I’m gonna review a bunch o them! And I’ll save the Dutch one for last, because I’m a tease like that.

Let’s start in Italy. This, too, is a 1991 original (the novel itself is from 1990, but translations take a while). I must admit that, in most cases, I have no idea who produced these book covers; I’m not quite committed enough to get a copy of all of these myself to find out. That’s a shame, because as far as these go, I see a pretty servicable dinosaur here. Believe me, they get much worse… The eagle-eyed among you will have recognized the influence of Burian, specifically his 1959 Allosaurus. The environment it’s stomping around in looks less like a high-tech theme park in the Costa Rican jungle and more like a cheap resort in Florida. I bet that house looked like that before the dinosaur attack. The dinosaur looks smaller than you’d expect, too, compared to these humans. Poundland Jurassic Park. A nice pulpy book cover, very appropriate for the novel.

Staying in Southern Europe, this 1992 Spanish edition is simultaneously more stylish and more freaky. This highly stylized dinosaur looks more like some quadrupedal mammalian monster rearing up, some sort of awful earless dog. The stance and forelimbs are obviously referenced from a four-legged animal. Sit, Rex. This is what happens when an artist with no prior experience in dinosaurs, no relevant palaeoart reference points, and no internet tries this sort of thing; it can only happen in very specific circumstances, and it could not happen today. That’s why these vintage covers are irresistible to me.

This Polish edition comes not with a cover illustration, but with model photography. It’s a perfectly decent 1990s T. rex model, better than any toy from around this time anyway. However, it’s still obviously made of plastic and gives the book a slightly cheap vibe. Would you be seen on the train reading this?

Apparently, this is what the original 1991 German edition looked like. Sadly, I’ve found no higher resolution image than this. It might be faked, but it’s extremely eccentric anyway. A stylized, simplified cover in jolly primary colours with a jolly dinosaur silhouette, complete with jolly bizarro proportions. Those long arms are really something. I just know that the shadowy guy running away is the same dork who waves at all the dinosaurs in all the size charts on Wikipedia. Those playful fonts and colours don’t really sell the danger of the story to me. I love how the original German title of the book was just “Dinopark”.

There’s been a ton of different German editions over the years. Many of these are delightfully offbeat. Here’s another model T. rex in extreme close up. The infamous Jurassic Park font makes an appearance here, so we’re post-movie.

Germany is the gift that keeps giving; this one is as recent as 2005. This one is especially baffling. The font in the title could be that a romance novel. The backround is a swamp, while the dinosaur model looks especially cheap and ugly. The German text on the cover explains how this novel and Spielberg’s film conquered the world. Just a complete mishmash of unrelated elements on this book cover.

Another German-language edition. This might be the Austrian one, though I’m not sure. This is the most stylish one we’ve seen so far, and for obvious reason: plagiarism! You’ve no doubt recognized Burian’s heroic Tarbosaurus on the cover here, even if it has been silhouetted out and given a different background. I won’t deny this looks cool, though. You can’t go wrong with Burian.

Speaking of Burian: what about Czechia? Disappointingly, the land that brought forth the world’s greatest palaeoartist has to make do with nothing but re-used stock art on the cover. If you’re my age, you will probably recognize this as the Neil Lloyd T. rex from Dinosaurs! Magazine! It doesn’t look like a whole lot of effort went into this book cover.

But we can always do worse. Here’s a later Czech version, with none other than the Papo T. rex on the cover! Absolutely no shame. Zdeněk must be turning in his grave.

Here’s at last something that looks like original artwork to me. Or is this something pre-existing, cut out from its original background? Anyway, this is an Hungarian edition. Nothing especially noteworthy here; just a slightly dodgy drooling dinosaur.

This one is also Hungarian. From 1996, so the movie logo makes an appearance, but it’s weird enough to be interesting. At the top, we see a bizarre, goofy, wild-eyed cartoon dinosaur in various stages of polygonal rendering… did the cover artist confuse genetic research with computer generated art? It does look oddly frog-like, that’s an important plot point in the story. The rex skull is absent from the logo, where’d it go? Interesting how the novel came out under separate titles in Hungary. Sziget means island (as every European hipster definitely knows), so this reads Monster Island, while the above means Park of Primitive Creatures. I also appreciate how the author of this book is called Cmriicchhateoln. Graphic Design is my passion!

I’m a big fan of this Swedish edition. It captures some of that childlike wonder. There’s a bit of Burian in that T. rex, and maybe a bit of Bernard Robinson? Copied from one of those ubiquitous 80s/90s T. rex images you’d see places. I don’t know, I’ve seen so much of this stuff, man. The covers uses a variation of the Jurassic Park Neuland font, so it must be a post-movie edition.

Russia can always be relied upon for quality idiosyncratic covers, and they do not disappoint. The dinosaur that greets us on this purple cover is even cute, with those big hamster cheeks and friendly eyes. At the same time, it’s not the worst T. rex we’ve seen on these covers by a long shot, with the shape of the skull actually quite well observed. I have a hard time finding this one scary, though.

Here’s another Russian edition, and this has to be one of my favourites. The creature on the cover here looks as much like a dragon as it does a dinosaur. Contrasting with the previous one, this is a completely fanciful creature that is, again, not produced by anyone who’s ever done dinosaurs before. It doesn’t even have arms. If anything, this looks like the skull lizard creatures of Kong: Skull Island. The typography and design on this one are absolutely 90s-tastic.

Out of the many Russian editions I found, this one looks the classiest. As I live and breathe, that looks like an honest-to-Zeus piece of actual competent palaeoart on the cover! It could be Greg Paul or one of his disciples. I hope it wasn’t stolen. The elegant font completes the picture. I don’t like the orange, though.

Another favourite is this Turkish version, from 1993. It came out to tie in with the film, but the artwork is original. Once again, our T. rex is completely monstrous and out there. It’s more of a vintage guy-in-a-suit Godzilla than anything, and the sauropods haven’t got the memo yet about how they’re not supposed to be in the water. The scalation on the T. rex is interesting, they look less like the big scales of an animal and more like rocks, as if the creature is some sort of golem, made from the very Earth itself. This vintage Turkish edition was on sale for the better part of 100 dollars, which goes some ways towards explaining why I decided against starting a collection of these.

Most Asian editions of the novel didn’t come out before the film, so those covers are overwhelmingly film-related, and not very interesting. An exception is this 1996 Thai version. Although the logo, the gate and the font are all there from the film, we do get some original, illustrated dinosaurs. I say “original”. Rather than Burian, the inspiration this time seems to have been John Sibbick, his highly recognizable T. rex and Velociraptor dutifully traced. I wish I had a higher resolution version of this one.

And here’s the Dutch version that I promised you! I don’t mean to brag, but surely this is the king of weird vintage JP book covers? Look at that thing! What is even going on here? Is this made by someone who not only has never illustrated a dinosaur before, but never even seen a dinosaur before? What is going on with that arm? How does its neck work? Is that its back? Look at that five-fingered hand. Wait, which way does its knee bend? Is its leg backwards, or am I? What even is reality? Is that the face of 1998 Godzilla? I’m so confused. Please send help. Anyway, I have this one, so I can tell you who’s responsible. The image is credited to the brothers Schriemer who studied in the same town as me, so credit where credit is due. Er gaat niets boven Groningen. Five stars.

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Dave Hone
    September 22, 2023 at 5:37 am

    Really neat selection, thanks for sharing, it’s neat to see how these have evolved over time and the sources of the artwork. FWIW, one of those Russian covers is clearly a blend of some of the original concept art for the film. Check out this for the T. rex: https://www.magzter.com/stories/Entertainment/ImagineFX/Crash-McCreery and this for Grant and the kids running away: https://www.reddit.com/media?url=https%3A%2F%2Fpreview.redd.it%2Fl4djysapktq81.jpg%3Fwidth%3D1080%26crop%3Dsmart%26auto%3Dwebp%26s%3D824d3ea84eaebc5170cb197e0579d5ee9d111e79

    • Reply
      Niels Hazeborg
      September 22, 2023 at 6:20 am

      Great, thanks!

    • Reply
      Shannon Hubbell
      September 22, 2023 at 6:45 pm

      Dang it! I was about to point this out. Did you have the “making of” book from the early 90s? That’s where I first saw that illustration.

  • Reply
    Matt Martyniuk
    September 22, 2023 at 5:47 am

    These are fantastic! I never realized so many publishers didn’t use the classic AMNH skeleton. Btw, the skeleton is apparently iconography created for the book that carried over into the film logo, and it was created by designer Chip Kidd for Knopf prior to 1990. https://www.ibtimes.com/iconic-jurassic-park-logo-whats-story-behind-it-2809926

  • Reply
    Marek Dzurenko
    September 22, 2023 at 6:25 am

    Some of these freakasaurs look like they’ve been generated by AI.

    • Reply
      Niels Hazeborg
      September 22, 2023 at 6:40 am

      Funny, that’s exactly what Agata said. The Dutch, Spanish and Turkish ones especially, it just doesn’t make any kind of anatomical sense.

  • Reply
    Alec
    September 22, 2023 at 6:42 am

    The 1991 German silhouette borrows heavily from the cover of https://chasmosaurs.com/2020/07/13/vintage-dinosaur-art-dinosaurs-and-other-archosaurs/

  • Reply
    Marc Vincent
    September 22, 2023 at 6:44 am

    That’s a Dinamation T. rex on German cover #2, a Revell/Aurora model kit on #3, and definitely a Robinson knock-off on the Swedish one. That Russian one with the “classy” cover appears to feature a mash-up of that model Allosaurus from the cover of the Ultimate Dinosaur Book with a Sibbick head.

    • Reply
      Stephan
      September 24, 2023 at 10:49 am

      That T-Rex model on German#2 looked very familiar. They had such a sculpture at the Noorder Dierenpark in Emmen (NL). The details are a bit different, but I read that they made multiple versions.

      • Reply
        Niels Hazeborg
        September 24, 2023 at 11:34 am

        I remember Noorder Dierenpark Emmen. Marc says it’s the Dinamation T. rex but I’m not quite sure.

  • Reply
    jonathan
    September 22, 2023 at 6:54 am

    The Russian cover (the one where you say the T-rex looks like a dragon) is using/ripping off Mark “Crash” McCreery’s concept art for the T-rex that he drew for Jurassic Park (an amazing illustration of the T-rex: nothing like a dragon!, more like a massive flexible bird).

    For this cover, Mark’s T-rex has been blended with other concept art of Grant and the kids being chased by a T-rex through a jungle.

    NOTE: the T-rex chasing the kids in the Jungle illustration was by David J. Negrón and was made for the film during pre-production. That amazing piece of concept art by Negrón was subsequently altered (unnecessarily!) for the cover of the book “Jurassic Park: The Ultimate Visual History”.

    Thank you, I will now go hang up my anorak. 🙂

  • Reply
    Grant Harding
    September 22, 2023 at 11:59 am

    These are great! Is it possible that the second Hungarian cover is actually a translation of THE LOST WORLD, and that’s why there are two different titles?

    • Reply
      Niels Hazeborg
      September 22, 2023 at 2:03 pm

      You know, it’s possible. My Hungarian is a bit rusty these days.

    • Reply
      Tamas B
      November 11, 2023 at 9:29 pm

      It is exactly the case, it was the original hungarian title for The Lost World novel from 1995 (they later changed it to something else)

  • Reply
    T.K. Sivgin
    September 24, 2023 at 9:01 am

    The T. rex on the Turkish cover is heavily based on a Frank Frazetta piece.

  • Reply
    Paul
    September 26, 2023 at 3:54 am

    Bit late to the party, but I would like to contribute the outstanding Japanese cover(s) by the legendary Ohrai Noriyoshi.
    The original, uncut piece can be seen here:
    https://www.japantimes.co.jp/uploads/imported_images/uploads/2018/01/p12-tran-orai-a-20180117.jpg
    This is how it looked on bookstands:
    http://tkr2000.cocolog-nifty.com/photos/uncategorized/2013/02/07/106.png
    Finally, a giant cutout version was featured in a massive retrospective of his work at the Oita City Museum of Art in 2017:
    https://stat.ameba.jp/user_images/20170704/03/3091nh/af/5b/j/o3264244813974754656.jpg

    • Reply
      jonathan
      September 26, 2023 at 3:19 pm

      Love the Noriyoshi cover!

    • Reply
      Niels Hazeborg
      September 27, 2023 at 5:30 am

      So we have a 1970s toy on a 2000s book cover. Groovy.

      Of course, the three was there because it was the third German one.

      • Reply
        Thomas Diehl
        November 8, 2023 at 5:59 pm

        Re-issues of a lot of the Monogram models had regularly been released by Revell in Germany and were very popular in the 90’s. They are by far the most common dinosaur model kits to get in Germany.

        There’s a reason why the news snippet is here: This cover is from a release in a series of significant books published as cheap books under the banner of Germany’s largest yellow press paper, Bild. The news snippet is from said paper and all books in the collection had a relevant news article to connect the books back to the paper and reflect why they were deemed important enough to make it into a collection of essentials.

        Btw, the last German cover is the original German release from 1991. I bought the book on release and that was its cover. The first one I have never seen.

  • Reply
    Andreas Johansson
    September 27, 2023 at 9:44 am

    I recall seeing an earlier Swedish edition before the movie was out. It had some sort of generic green carnosaur on the cover.

    The Sw. title, Urtidsparken means “Primordial Park”. At least some post-movie editions, incl the one I read (boring movie logo cover) used the English title, since that was what everyone called the movie.

    And I realize I’ve been mispronouncing Crichton’s name for decades.

    • Reply
      Niels Hazeborg
      September 27, 2023 at 1:23 pm

      I find that in general the book had a localized title in most areas until the movie got big. Dinopark in German, Het Sauriër Park (sic) in Dutch. Now it’s all just Jurassic Park. That’s also when the covers stared by and large to become more uniform.

  • Reply
    Ramon
    October 5, 2023 at 4:41 am

    As a fellow childhood Jurassic Park fanatic who grew up in The Netherlands in the ’90s, I already had a pretty good idea which cover you’d be revealing at the end – which did precisely nothing to dampen the impact. It’s still incredible. I was familiar with the film iconography you described way before I sought out the novel, which made it all the more mystifying when I finally managed to check it out of the local library and laid eyes on this cover. Why had the title been translated? Why did they replace the nimble and sprightly T.Rex from the film and the toy line with a hulking green nightmare? What good was that little fence going to do against this kaiju-sized monstrosity? So many questions.

    Of course, as a graphic designer who’s taken on quite a few book covers myself, I can sort of appreciate the craft now – I don’t think a modern-day publisher would shell out for an elaborate, original illustration like this, not for this type of novel. Plus, hilariously, it seems to kind of foreshadow the whole “where did the drop in the T.rex paddock come from?” debate. Thanks for this post, Niels – it’s warm with nostalgia yet also a very welcome reminder that there are no limits to what you can create, especially if you don’t give a shit and have only the slightest grasp of your subject matter. Inspiring.

  • Reply
    josep_zacarias
    October 17, 2023 at 3:44 am

    I have that Spanish edition with the dog-like rex. Always though it was horrible.

    BTW, this is only tangentially related to this post, but there’s an ongoing design contest at Threadless.com based on the 30th anniversary of the movie.

    https://www.threadless.com/jurassic-park-30th-presented-by-box-lunch/designs?sort=popular&status=open&filter=all

    Some interesting stuff there. Designs stay online for only 7 days, so most of the best ones have already been removed, unfortunately.

  • Reply
    Ramon
    November 9, 2023 at 5:24 am

    By the way, the second Russian cover (the Skull Island one) is significant because the art is lifted practically wholesale from this early piece of concept art for the movie: https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Nz3SsHKPBZ8/YY61MfWr-aI/AAAAAAABqOM/zxTFs0O-8RAESGscC93bxB5FUsyDCTurgCLcBGAsYHQ/s600/Jurassic-Park-1993-concept-art-David-J-Negron-Sr-600×300.jpg

    You can’t tell from that low-res image, but Grant basically looks like Harrison Ford in the image, because that’s who Spielberg apparently wanted to lead his blockbuster tentpole (Harrison Ford was the Chris Pratt of his day). Subsequently, the art was redone and altered for the cover of the Visual History that came out a few years ago to actually resemble the actors that ended up in the film: https://www.reddit.com/r/JurassicPark/comments/pm4nfa/a_new_book_on_the_special_fx_of_jurassic_park/

  • Reply
    Jens Kosch
    April 4, 2024 at 7:44 am

    The Burian knock-off version of the German language cover is definitively another German edition and not an Austrian one. I know, because that is the edition my family had back in 1992 before the movie came out.

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