Monday 31 August 2015

Prehistoric Pining: Dinosaur Books and Publications

My previous Prehistoric Pining post related to my love of fibreglass dinosaur parks, specifically the now defunct Dinosaur World in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. This time I would like to feature the dinosaur books that I read as a child that both answered questions and raised several more. They fired the imagination and broadened my understanding of the far distant past and the animals that roamed within it. I’ve always been fascinated with educational books particularly ones aimed at younger readers and the part illustration plays in creating interest in a subject and conveying information. I have many books about dinosaurs but this post is devoted to the dinosaur books I had growing up that both maintained my interest in the subject and played a small part in my artistic style. Be warned, as you may expect by now this post contains nostalgic ramblings…

The Mysterious World of Dinosaurs, 1980.
Written by John Heritage and illustrated by W. Francis Phillipps and “other artists” this book was published by Treasurepress and educates the readers about, “the mighty animals that ruled the world of prehistory described and illustrated in all their ferocious grandeur!”. That it did, this was not only an integral part in my interest in prehistory but also one of the earliest books that I ever owned. If memory serves the book was a Christmas gift from Santa who must have noticed my interest in dinosaurs... As is often the case with books written about early life that are older than one year it has some errors in it. But not that it matters it has resided on my bookcase for the past 35 years and I have looked through it several times over. Not that I needed to as each one of the illustrations of dinosaurs fighting or eating each other have been forever etched onto my subconscious, the cover especially so.

Collins Guide to Dinosaurs, 1983.
Dr Angela Milner and Dr Ralph E. Molnar served as general consultants on this “comprehensive field guide” intended to serve as a “concise, up-to-date key to the dinosaurs- their physical characteristics, behaviour, evolution, extinction, fossilisation, discovery and display”. Nobody could argue with that the book is illustrated throughout and packed full of information, facts and diagrams and of all the dino related books my younger self borrowed from our local library this was my favourite. That is why I was delighted to find the exact same library book at a jumble sale a couple of years later complete with library stamps and sticker on the spine! I turned a blind eye to this crime and added the book to my own private collection and it has been with me ever since. I refuse to name the guilty culprit that neglected to return the book to the library, I know who it was…she wrote her name inside…  

The Natural History of the Dinosaur, 1989
Back in around 1992 my grandparents having been away on holiday returned with gifts for my siblings and I. My sister had a toy horse, my brother a pair of football boots and I received this book confirming that our grandmother knew her grandchildren well. Originally published under the title The Day of the Dinosaur in 1978 John Man’s book was reprinted ten years later and it too possessed the same qualities that I have described in the other books regarding information and pictures. Of all the books I had read this one had a wealth of photographs in it as well, I was particularly fascinated with the photographs of the people responsible for finding dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs! Magazine #1 – 45 1992-
From 1992 to 1994 I collected these magazines published by Orbis that not only expanded my knowledge of all things prehistoric but also provided me with the vital parts need to construct my glow in the dark T-Rex skeleton (and plastic outer skin)! I delighted in each issue packed with information broken up into various sections like the 3D-gallery centre spread that could be viewed through my T-Rex 3D glasses (free with issue 1). The beautifully illustrated ‘history in pictures’ strips illustrated by Pat Williams that brought the stories of palaeontologist such as Gideon Mantell and Mary Anning to life. I held Dr. David Norman of Cambridge University who handled the ‘Ask the Expert’ back page as the absolute authority on dinosaurs. When I finally visited the Natural History Museum in London in my 20’s I lost count of how many times I pointed out that I had only ever, “seen it photographed in Dinosaurs! Magazine”. A fantastic publication, filled with facts, figures and beautiful illustrations complete with glow in the dark skeletons, collectors cards, posters and 3D glasses- this is how you teach your subject to children.

Update: I seem to have subconsciously ‘pinched’ this idea from TwoHeadedBoy follow this link to his post about the Ladybird Dinosaur book from 1988 (Incidentally I had that book too). 
© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


  1. I had that Dinosaurs! magazine as well - and then when it finished, moved onto Bugs! - same premise, just insects and arachnids instead... Heady days, those nineties.

    Still got most of my dinosaur books from when I was a nipper as well, and had similar bouts of prehistoric ecstasy on a visit to London about five years ago. Went in the Natural History Museum and saw that massive pair of arms from an unknown creature that dwarfed Tyrannosaurus, went to Crystal Palace and saw the "Iguanadon" statues... Managed to take more or less the exact same photo that had appeared in more than one of my dinosaur/monster books.

    As an "aside" - I never liked the pages about the palaeontologists, as these usually signalled the end of the book and reminded me that these fantastic creatures were no longer around. How the young mind works, and all that...

    Meanwhile, here's my first ever dinosaur book, scanned and exposed to the world - ignore my shitty commentary, just lookit the pretty pictures and see a ridiculously dainty-looking Tyrannosaurus:

    1. Blimey, did I subconsciously steal this idea/theme from you? Sorry about that old chap! I’ve updated the post now! You know, I had that ladybird book too but that (somehow) along with my classic horror tale series have gone missing. Not like me at all, so I suspect foul play…

      When I went into the Natural History Museum it was seeing the Coelophysis that brought it all back, reading about how they believed that they were cannibals after young had been discovered in the ribcage! The "Iguanadon" statues are a must have in any self respecting dinosaur book! You didn’t like the pages about palaeontologists?! You should have started reading the back first then!
      Ah Bugs! Yes I was going to get that (bought the first issue to claim the free insect in resin) considered buying a job lot of them in a second hand shop a few years later. Great days :)

    2. Don't worry about pinching it, no accusations here - everyone loves dinosaurs!

      There's been a few Bugs! magazines - the one a few years ago with the resin insects, yeah, but this was in the mid-90s from the same publisher as Dinosaurs! - each week you'd get the parts to make a giant glow-in-the-dark tarantula skeleton, wacky times.

    3. I remember that the covers looked great, illustrated close ups of the featuring insect? I was always buying issue #1 of the latest magazine and then put off by the regular cover price of issue #2… The only other 90’s magazine I have (or I have at least kept hold of) are the Unexplained magazine reprinted in the 90’s (issue#1 – 70) I didn’t actually collect them, a friend of mine had them and I would read/borrow them. 15 years later he donated them to me!

    4. I've got a cracking remote control dinosaur skeleton I got from Tandy a goodly number of years ago. It walks, it shakes its head and its eyes light up. Love it.

    5. P.S. Jump over to my blog, AJ, and leave some fawning, exaggerated, out-of-proportion praise for my artwork on the 'Not Just A Letterer' post. Or slag it off even. I just want the attention. You too, THB.

    6. Will do, Kid ;)

      Mr. Arfron, remember a magazine called Spine Chillers? Ran for 60 issues (I've still got them all), a nice mix of spooky stories, paranormal information, urban legends, classic horror stories, mythology and puzzles.

    7. I do indeed remember Spine Chillers, didn’t commit to it though gave up at around issue #6… I remember they had free cards that had pop up characters in them and a ‘cut out and make’ folder to store monster cards? Didn’t the folio to store issues come free with issue #1? I’m sure I used it for something else.

      Kid the only ‘remote control’ dinosaur skeleton I ever had was Zoids from TOMY I had the T-Rex (I believe it was called Gojulas) and it took most of Christmas day to construct, I blooming loved it!
      As for ‘fawning, exaggerated, out-of-proportion praise’ for your artwork I’ll be there in a min! ;)

    8. Yep, still got all those pop-up things, and the second issue came with a binder that held 20 issues. From issue 21 onwards they were offering further binders, but I never got anymore. It's a nice collection overall though, glad I've held onto it!

    9. I wouldn't mind looking through them again :)

  2. I was the designer on the Collins Guide to Dinosaurs. We wanted to have the name of our production company on the cover, but Collins refused! So our artist, Grahame Rosewarne, added our name in the form of Deinonychus' tail markings. We were called "Diagram".

    1. Mark- that is fantastic! Thanks you for reaching out and your work- I just took the book off the shelf and looked at the Deinonychus' tail markings and.... That made my day! :) brilliant stuff, must update this blog!

    2. You are welcome! :-) I was very proud to have worked on the book, being a dinosaur nut since forever. Big kick for my mum seeing this book on the shelf at the library as it was there I used to browse for dinosaur books when I was a nipper back in the day. We made a "sequel" volume about prehistoriic animals and plants.

    3. I can well believe! Id love to get you to autograph my copy! :) I am not familiar with the prehistoric animals and plants followup, any chance you could post a link to an image. amazon listing of it? Id like to get that.

      How about that link? :-) I would love to autograph your copy! :-D



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