Edward Cope's reconstruction of Laelaps aquilunguis. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 11. Image source: Cope, Edward Drinker. "The fossil reptiles of New Jersey," in: American Naturalist, vol. 3 (1869), pp. 84-91, pl. 2.

Paper Dinosaurs 1824-1969

An Exhibition of Original Publications from the Collections of the Linda Hall Library


The Berlin Archaeopteryx. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 16. Image source: Seeley, Harry G. "On some differences between the London and Berlin specimens referred to Archaeopteryx," in: Geological Magazine, series 2, vol. 8 (1881), pp. 454-455.

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Dinosaurs have excited the public imagination ever since the first dinosaur was described in 1824. Because of the continuing popularity of dinosaurs, the scientists who discovered them are moderately well-known, as paleontologists go, so that many people have heard of Gideon Mantell, Richard Owen, Othniel C. Marsh, and other significant figures in the history of dinosaur discovery. And because there have been in recent years a number of excellent historical surveys, a wide reading audience has been exposed to reproductions of some of the memorable images of dinosaur discovery, such as Charles Sternberg’s dinosaur mummy, or Waterhouse Hawkins’ life-size sculpture of an Iguanodon.  

But in spite of the great popularity of dinosaurs, very few people have ever had the opportunity to see firsthand the original publications that revealed dinosaurs to the world. These papers are scattered through the proceedings of scientific societies, buried in government documents, or located in monographs that are not easily accessible, and it seems that institutions have seldom bothered to gather them together in one place for the public to survey. This is a pity, because many of these publications are glorious to behold. It is nice to be able to see a reproduction of Owen’s rendering of the first Archaeopteryx slab in a secondary work, where it has usually been reduced to a postcard-sized image; but it is quite a different experience to view this magnificent large lithograph, unfolded to its full extent, in the volume of the Philosophical Transactions where it first appeared in 1863. 

Another problem with encountering the visual history of dinosaur discovery through secondary sources is that many quite significant images have never been reproduced at all. Many authors have allowed their readers to see Mantell’s drawing of the first Iguanodon teeth, but hardly anyone has shown Owen’s life-size lithograph of the first three-toed Iguanodon foot, which offered the first hard evidence that footprints in Mesozoic rock were made by dinosaurs. 

So for these and other reasons, we have mounted this exhibit and published this catalog. We have selected forty-nine items for display. Some of these are included because they are landmark papers: the first dinosaur publication by Buckland in 1824, the coining of the word “dinosaur” by Owen in 1842, Andreas Wagner’s description of Compsognathus in 1861, the original publication on Tyrannosaurus rex in 1905. Others were chosen because they contain significant images of dinosaur discovery: a 1926 popular article by Walter Granger and William Matthews on the Mongolia discoveries, with a beautiful sepia-toned photograph of Protoceratops; Louis Dollo’s 1884 study of the English Iguanodon, which for the first time utilized a photograph of an actual skeletal mount; Oliver Hays’ scenic restoration of a sprawling Diplodocus in 1910. Many significant publications had to be excluded to keep the list below fifty, but we hope the ones that remain provide representative coverage of the wide spectrum of the literature of dinosaur discovery. 

Unless otherwise noted, images in this exhibition are from the Collections of the Linda Hall Library. For those new to the subject and intrigued by it, a “Guide to Further Reading” has been included at the end. 

Charles Knight's restoration of Diplodocus. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 32. Image source: "Charles R. Knight--Painter and sculptor of animals," in: American Museum Journal, vol. 14 (1914), p. 98. 

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About This Exhibition

T. rex mount. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 34. Image source: "Skeletal adaptations of Ornitholestes, Struthiomimus, Tyrannosaurus," in: Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 35 (1916), pl. 25.

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In 1996, the Linda Hall Library mounted an exhibition of original printed materials related to the history of dinosaur discovery. On view were most of the classic papers of dinosaur lore, including original publications by Gideon Mantell, Richard Owen, Othniel Marsh, Roy Chapman Andrews, and a host of others; there were forty-nine items in all. The original exhibition ran from October 17, 1996 through April 30, 1997. 

The exhibition was then transferred to a virtual format on the web and expanded to include thirty-five additional works that could not be accommodated in the original exhibition space. It then ran relatively unchanged until 2009, when the pages were redesigned and the images reshot. 

Paper Dinosaurs now includes 94 images, with each image available in a small or large format. Clicking on any small image will bring up the large version. The original exhibition was accompanied by a printed catalog, which is still available from the Library. The printed catalog does not include the 32 supplemental works that were added for the online exhibition. We hope you enjoy Paper Dinosaurs.