Hello LITC readers! Today we’re taking a look at All new dinosaurs and their friends from the great recent discoveries! Don't let the featherless Deinonychus fool you, this is a great book with tons of personality and great art. Onwards!
Published by Bellerophon Books in 1975, this slim little black-and-white book packs a lot of information alongside some really great stylized illustrations, and both the text and the art feel ahead of their time. The illustrations are by Gregory Irons, a poster artist, tattoo artist, and animator for the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. While I don’t think this book is specifically a colouring book, Irons illustrated several colouring books for Bellerophon back in the 70s and this book would certainly lend itself well to the current adult colouring book trend. I’m not sure if Irons tackled dinosaurs elsewhere in his career, but these hold up really well considering he was not a dedicated wildlife artist or palaeoartist. Of note for this little book is that no space is wasted – this particular page is actually the inside of the front cover and includes author bios, a huge illustration of Brachylophosaurus, and copyright information.
The remainder of the book is a series of beautiful two-page spreads with beautiful illustrations filling most of the space. Dense text wraps around the art, and almost every species of animal and plant is labelled with its proper scientific name. Here we’ve got a svelte Dilophosaurus looking pretty trim and sprightly for the 1970s. Of note on this page is this sentence “Theropods are the most bird-like of all dinosaurs, and there is little doubt this suborder gave rise to the birds” - truly the Dinosaur Renaissance was well underway at this point!
I particularly like the unusual perspectives and cutaway environments featured in several of the scenes. Dinosaurs weren’t the only animals alive during the Mesozoic, and it’s cool to see the fish and turtles of the Jurassic of China given similar prominence. Mamenchisaurus may also be a relatively familiar dinosaur now, but at the time it’s incredibly long neck was a novel discovery.
Some sauropod reconstructions were a bit more idiosyncratic, like this Dicraeosaurus with proboscis. However, this is a great example of an early All Yesterdays approach to art, since a note in the text reads “...we will probably never have direct evidence for sauropod trunks, but it is an interesting suggestion, and we wanted to take this opportunity to see just what a sauropod would look like with a trunk!”
I love, love, love this nighttime hunt in the Djadokhta Formation, especially with the description of the environment as having “mortiferous beds of quicksand”. Although both theropods should have feathers and Oviraptor’s skull is a little bit wonky, I love the interaction between Oviraptor and Telmasaurus, and that swooshing night sky, sand dune, and moon are hard to beat.
Prenocephale and Homalocephale don’t get enough love in most popular dinosaur books, and the budding interspecies friendship shown here fills my cold, dead heart with happiness. The transition from the very arid environment of the Djadokhta Formation to the slightly wetter, seasonal environments of the Nemegt is well represented and described here. Plus there’s a special shout out to the Polish-Mongolian and Soviet-Mongolian expeditions here as well.
There are many pages dedicated to non-dinosaurian species, and my favourite is this fine illustration of Hupehsuchus, Hanosaurus, and Keichousaurus. None of these are species that are often featured in popular palaeontology books, and Hupehsuchus is just such a great name and a great animal. I also love the little swishy swimming lines and the way the text interacts with the art on this page in particular.
Most dinosaur books today, at least those that are arranged by time period as this book, end with vignette of the most famous of the final dinosaurs, Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus, sometimes meeting their doom as an asteroid crashes down around them. To choose Leptoceratops, one of the more obscure ceratopsians, and Paleosaniwa, which is probably basically unheard of in most pop sci books, is therefore a bold a welcome choice. I also admit to liking that this scene explicitly represents the Scollard Formation, Alberta’s Hell Creek Formation equivalent. The book also ends with a wonderful summary of all the amazing discoveries happening as the book was going to press: “Never before have so many directed their attention to these creatures. This is the golden age of dinosaurs.”