Illustrators take the field

Artists illustrating early works on fossils were at a disadvantage. If they wanted to show the actual creature, they had no model. If they wanted to picture the fossils, they often still had no model. So artists turned to earlier illustrations.

Trying to identify the originals of illustrations is like trying to zero in on in just what millisecond the Big Bang occurred. Illustrators copied from illustrators who copied from other illustrators. However, Martin J. S. Rudwick’s readable and lushly illustrated Scenes From Deep Time: Early Pictorial Representations of the Prehistoric World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992) helps to set the illustrations in early American works for children in context. Many of the illustrations appear to have been copied from Gideon Mantell’s The Wonders of Geology, which was published in London in 1838 and in the United States in 1839. Others originated in Peter Parley’s Wonders of Earth Sea and Sky, published in London by Darton &; Clark in 1837 and reprinted by Goodrich for the American audience in 1840.

In identifying the sources of a number of the illustrations, I’ve relied heavily on Rudwick’s book. Luckily, the Darton book is available in microform, as part of the Opie Collection of Children’s Books. The Mantell is available online at google books. Still, some of the identifications are preliminary and a bit cursory.

A list of the illustrations in the transcribed pieces organized by subject appears at the end of this page.

A Master List
Examples illustrated on this page are linked.

Mr. Peale’s Mastodon

A Placid Dinotherium

Gardens of Crinoids
lily crinoid

in the British edition of The Wonders of Geology, by Gideon Mantell (1839)

lily crinoid, 1845

from Wonders of Geology, by Samuel Goodrich (1845)

block of crinoids

in the British edition of The Wonders of Geology, by Gideon Mantell (1839)

block of crinoids, 1845

from Wonders of Geology, by Samuel Goodrich (1845)

three pterosaurs

in Geology and Mineralogy, by William Buckland (1836); two pterosaurs cling to a cliff face while another flies in from the back [image from Rudwick, p. 69]

two pterosaurs

Letters About Geology,” by “Professor Pickaxe” (1853); the clinging pterosaur appears to have been copied from the one on the right in the original

Two Prehistoric Landscapes

Hammatt Billings Takes Some Fight Out of the Cretaceous
Country of the Iguanodon

"The Country of the Iguanodon,” by John Martin, in Gideon Mantell, The Wonders of Geology. Preying on one reptile, the mighty (pudgy) iguanodon is attacked by another, as an excited pterodactyl looks on; the Cretaceous is a violent place. [image from Rudwick, p. 79]

iguanodon, Merry's Museum

"The Iguanodon,” by Hammatt Billings, in Robert Merry’s Museum (1842). Alone, the mighty iguanodon (much slimmer) roars to the sky; the little pterodactyl has been moved from earth to sky, though the wings are pretty much in the same position.

Country of the Iguanodon
The pterodactyl is outlined.

Four Long-lived Beasts
four creatures

in the American edition of The Wonders of Geology, by Gideon Mantell (1839); it is based on outlines of two Palaeotherium and two Anoplotherium by Charles Laurillard, from Georges Cuvier, Researches on Fossil Bones, 2nd ed. (1822):

four creatures, by Laurillard

[image from Rudwick, p. 37]

four creatures, by Parley

from Wonders of Geology, by Samuel Goodrich (1845) The images are reversed, as if the artist copied the Mantell illustration directly onto the block and engraved it; the image prints in reverse.

four creatures, Merry's Museum

unnumbered, unlabelled, and unnamed, in “Wonders of Geology,” by William Buckland, in Robert Merry’s Museum (1848)

Illustrations in the Pieces at This Site

a pretty shell