Earlier than the Ark – Love within the Time of Chasmosaurs

Described as “a group of extensively differing essays round a central theme,” Earlier than the Ark was printed in 1975 by the BBC and “based mostly upon the BBC Tv sequence” of the identical title. Stated sequence has seemingly disappeared into full obscurity, though it does get a point out on Alan Charig’s Wikipedia web page, and I additionally discovered this itemizing within the BBC Programme Index. (It’s not on YouTube, although, and in case you do strive looking for it, you’ll come throughout an terrible lot of creationist bilge.) Though the sequence coated vertebrate palaeontology in its entirety, as ever, the publishers knew what to stay on the duvet to attract individuals’s consideration. Dinosaurs are horny, and horny sells, don’t you realize.

Before the Ark - cover

In any case, this publish will likely be a bit shorter than typical because the e-book’s fairly gentle on fascinating artwork, and far of what there may be has been coated right here earlier than – particularly, in our earlier appears on the work of John Barber. Barber illustrated the jacket, which fortunately is new to us. It’s a hanging illustration of a Morrison Formation scene, with retro-tastic, lumpy sauropods bestriding the panorama, the entrance cowl being dominated by a snaky-necked Diplodocus. Retrograde as these blob-headed brontosaurs would possibly look right this moment, that is nonetheless a visually arresting piece, with Barber’s trademark lush vegetation current and proper.

Before the Ark - back cover

Shifting to the again cowl, and a skulking allosaur confronts a brachiosaur with a barely quirky-looking head (I feel it’s the low nasal crest) and grinning mouth stuffed with alarming pointy toothy-pegs. Rhamphorhynchus-like pterosaurs fly overhead (and I nonetheless hate attempting to spell that title). I completely love the colors on this scene, from the allosaur’s speckled-green disguise to the purple mountains and smudgy, ink-blue sky. It’s extremely atmospheric and, as soon as once more, simply take a look at these vegetation. TREEES!

Morrison Formation scene by John Barber

The entire affair is repeated contained in the e-book, however in black and white this time, and mirrored for some motive. (I’m unsure which is the unique orientation.) This monochrome model does draw explicit consideration to no matter’s happening with the Diplodocus’ thigh. Are these healed wounds? Pock marks? Simply very thick pores and skin folds? Dunno.

The Niobrara Chalk Sea of Kansas, by John Barber

The e-book options a lot of panoramic scenes by Barber, lots of which later featured in Prehistoric World by Richard Moody, which is the place we noticed them final. Amongst these is the above Niobara Formation illustration, that includes a usually crocodilian-looking mosasaur with crenellations nearly seen, plesiosaurs, and two birds which can be in all probability Hesperornis and Ichthyornis. There’s additionally an ichthyosaur that’s simply fallen out of the TARDIS. The depiction of foaming, uneven waters on this piece is excellent – I actually want they’d included the piece in color, however I think about there have been budgetary constraints.

As typical, Mesozoic marine reptiles in Nineteen Seventies artwork appear to be they actually wish to escape the water. It’s dramatic, innit.

London Clay scene by John Barber

Along with a lot of Barber items that we’ve seen earlier than – together with his Carboniferous, Wealden, and La Brea scenes (see the above hyperlink) – we’re additionally handled to the above London Clay piece. So, what on Earth are we ? The e-book doesn’t say, however I’ll wager that the largeish mammals with implied semi-aquatic habits are Coryphodon, the tiny horsey issues are Hyracotherium, the little rail-like chicken is Nasidytes, the crocodilian is Diplocynodon, and the birds sitting on the log are…er…I don’t know. Anatalavis? If you realize higher, then do drop us a remark. There’s additionally a turtle, however nobody cares for them.

In any case, that is one other superbly painted piece by Barber with beautiful tropical foliage (I notably just like the uncommon Dichromatic 3D Palm on the left) and an efficient impression given of a lush, open panorama bordering the ocean.

Ankylosaurs v tyrannosaur by Bakker

So, sure, there’s loads of John Barber. However the e-book additionally options a few illustrations by some younger upstart named Bakker – maybe stunning, as Charig was sceptical about Bakkerian concepts round dinosaur physiology. Whereas the animals in Barber’s scenes are fairly energetic, they’re nonetheless very a lot of their time, whereas different, supplementary illustrations of particular person dinosaurs on this e-book are solidly retro Burian and Parker-type affairs. In that context, the 2 Bakker items appear to be they’ve been beamed down from outer house by some sort of galaxy-roving, exuberantly bearded extraterrestrial in a giant hat.

Simply look on the tyrannosaur within the above scene – lean and lithe, balancing on the tippy-toes of 1 foot, it’s the kind of reconstruction you’d count on in Predatory Dinosaurs of the World – not a Charig co-authored e-book from the mid ’70s. But right here it’s. (In fact, these do characteristic in a chapter that particularly mentions Bakker and his concepts, so it’s not so stunning to see them in that context.)

These ankylosaurs, too, look much more trendy than they’ve any proper to – particularly the one on the left, taking probably the most decided stride ahead that I feel I’ve ever seen an ankylosaur soak up any paintings, ever. These items are credited as “Bakker drawings” from the Nationwide Museum of Canada, so I suppose the tyrannosaur is Albertosaurus (except it’s Gorgosaurus) and the ankylosaur is Euoplocephalus (except it’s Scolosaurus).

Styracosaurus and Lambeosaurus, by Bakker

And eventually…the second Bakker piece options Styracosaurus and ol’ hatchet-head, Lambeosaurus, roving round a stark panorama devoid of something a lot apart from quite dead-looking bushes. Once more, these illustrations are thus far faraway from what one would anticipate finding in a mid ’70s e-book of this sort, it fairly boggles the thoughts. Granted, these hadrosaurs are alarmingly skinny, however the try to attract these animals from such uncommon views may be very commendable, and much more profitable than most managed again then. That wacky Bakker, you realize – he didn’t half get an terrible lot proper.

Developing subsequent (from me): I’ve simply ordered Mesozoic Artwork! Hooray!

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