“Paleontology An Illustrated History” Reviewed

By | June 19th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Over the last few weeks, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been enjoying “Palaeontology an Illustrated History” by Dr David Bainbridge. A beautifully illustrated book that examines the art and science of palaeontology from its earliest origins to the modern discipline it is today.

This skilfully crafted publication provides an insight not only into the way that the study of fossils and past life has changed, but looks in detail at how famous fossil discoveries have been interpreted and depicted. The work and illustrations of Mary Anning feature, along with reflections on the influence of such luminaries as Georges Cuvier, Charles Darwin, Jenny Clack and Roy Chapman Andrews.

The front cover of "Paleontology an Illustrated History"
The front cover of “Paleontology an Illustrated History” features a lithograph of an ichthyosaur (Temnodontosaurus platyodon) and (below) an illustration of “A Paris Fossil” by Cuvier.

Splendid Sketches, Engravings and Computer-generated Images

Divided into four main chapters, the author takes the reader on a journey through the history of palaeontology and the artwork associated with key fossil discoveries and ground-breaking research. David Bainbridge brings to life the people and the stories behind some of the most significant developments in the Earth sciences. Illustrations of early sketches, engravings as well as state-of-the-art computer-generated images providing a perfect accompaniment demonstrating how our views of the ancient world and the animals contained therein have changed.

An early illustration of pterosaurs.
The book contains over a hundred, full-colour illustrations depicting how the art associated with the science of palaeontology has changed. This is an early illustration of a pterosaur. Picture credit: Edward Newman.

Palaeontology and the Artists that Illustrate Scientific Discoveries

The author, a comparative anatomist at the University of Cambridge, explains how our perceptions regarding prehistoric animals have been changed by their depiction on the big screen, perhaps most famously in King Kong (1933) and Jurassic Park, which was premiered some sixty years later. He looks at how palaeoart has developed from the early influencers such as Charles Knight through the work of Neave Parker and how modern-day palaeoartists work with researchers to produce illustrations that accompany scientific papers.

Changmiania liaoningensis fossil material and life reconstruction.
The perfectly preserved holotype fossil of Changmiania liaoningensis with a life reconstruction. The book “Paleontology an Illustrated History” examines how ground-breaking fossil discoveries have been illustrated from the origins of palaeontology through to the modern day. Picture credit: Carine Ciselet/RBINS-IRSNB-KBIN.

A Comprehensive Account

“Paleontology an Illustrated History” is a most enjoyable and comprehensive account demonstrating how art and scientific enquiry combine to help inform, enlighten and educate.

Highly recommended.

Book details:

  • Published by Princeton University Press
  • ISBN: 9780691220925
  • 256 pages
  • 100+ colour illustrations

To purchase this excellent book, visit the Princeton University Press website and search for “David Bainbridge”, the Princeton University Press site is here: Princeton University Press.