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A truly unique and wonderous look at the animals that once roamed our planet!
on 28 January 2015
The world of palaeontology has gone through some rather major shake-ups in the last decade or so and our understanding of just what dinosaurs and their contemporaries looked like has been right at the epicentre. It's about time we started to similarly shake-up palaeo-art and hopefully this book will be the first of many to address just that!
If you have any interest in palaeontology, biology or anatomical art then I cannot recommend this book enough. The idea is an extremely simple one: take a look at how dinosaurs and other extinct creatures are most commonly portrayed and ask why? Yet, to my knowledge, no one else has actually addressed this fascinating topic, let alone produced a host of fantastic illustrations to go along with their counter-points. The quality of the illustrations does vary a little, but that's to be expected in a book with multiple contributors; plus, every piece has been cleverly designed to highlight a specific problem with your average palaeo-artist's work.
Frankly, if all this book contained was images of "classic" palaeo-art and the artist's re-imagined (yet equally plausible) take on the same scene it would be interesting enough, but the in depth discussion that accompanies each piece is often astonishing. Conway and Naish have a fantastic way of writing that captures their own excitement surrounding the subjects and also manages to be factual and educational. They're also not afraid to put their necks on the line, with some wonderfully weird ideas making the cut, nor admit to their/the field's failings and limitations when it comes to guesstimating appearance and behaviour from, ostensibly, rocks.
Then, of course, there is All Tomorrows. Though it occupies the end quarter of All Yesterdays, in many ways All Tomorrows is worthy of being a book just by itself. By juxtaposing the subject from the unknown creatures of the past to applying palaeo-art and speculative behaviour modelling to animals from the present, All Tomorrows serves both as a reminder that, ultimately, we're always bound to be a little bit wrong, as well as driving home the many problems with current palaeo-art techniques the book is initially set up to confront. Basically, I came for the images of protoceratops climbing trees, but I stayed for the nightmare that is vampiric baboons!
A fantastic book that will occupy a place of pride on my book shelf for many years to come.