Dinosaurs: Profiles from a Lost World

Riley Black is one of the superstars of the online paleosphere, on a similar level to other authors I’ve featured such as Ashley Hall or Kallie Moore, and it’s honestly criminal that I have only featured Did you see that Dinosaur? out of all her work before now. In the interest of rectifying that oversight, here is one of her more recent books, Dinosaurs: Profiles from a Lost World.

As the title suggests, Black’s work revolves around the illustrations by Riccardo Frapiccini, which largely consist of literal profiles, in the original sense of the word. That is to say, a side view of the subject’s head, as opposed to a whole-body view. Most entries occupy a double page spread with Black’s text on one side and Frapiccini’s illustration on the other, though a few get longer entries which include photos of original fossils on additional pages.

One exception to the rule of profile illustrations is this fascinating creature! The only other book I can remember reviewing that includes a Drepanosaurus is When Fish Got Feet, Bugs Were Big, and Dinos Dawned.

While some might wish to see more of the animals featured, I do feel the close-ups of these illustrations make for a more intimate view of the creatures. This complements the hyper-detailed “photobash” style employed by Frapiccini, which uses textures from living animals digitally manipulated onto the frame of the book’s prehistoric subjects. It’s uncannily effective for the most part, though there are a few pictures where the photo manipulation feels a little more obvious than others. (The Brachiosaurus stands out in particular as a seemingly very lightly edited Galapagos Tortoise with the relative size of its scales and other skin features not particularly tailored to the size of the dinosaur, though it did remind me of mentally doing the same thing with my pet turtles growing up, so points for unintentional nostalgia bait!)

I gotta say though, the Macaw beak on the Psittacosaurus is just *chef’s kiss*.

Black’s writing is as engaging as ever, honed by years of publishing popularly acclaimed paleontology books and blogging under the screenname Laelaps (now her Twitter and Instagram handle). She has a keen sense for engaging material, presenting the audience with both interesting facts and the fascinating stories behind the discoveries of the original fossils. The history of Oviraptor in particular demonstrates Black’s skills in weaving a factual yet interesting narrative around her subjects (which I mention partly because I can contrast it with my much more limited telling of the same story when I discussed the Palaeoiris Oviraptor sticker).

Oviraptor here steals its cousin Gigantoraptor‘s look from Dinosaur Revolution. The design is actually directly lifted from the Temminck’s Tragopan, a modern Asian pheasant.

The organization of the book is… I don’t want to say “haphazardly” arranged, though there isn’t necessarily a consistent scheme to it. The first two chapters feature a mix of Triassic and Jurassic archosauromorphs in general, while the Cretaceous gets subdivided into various dinosaur families, and pterosaurs of all time periods get their own chapter at the end. As the book isn’t intended to be a systematic review of dinosaur taxa, though, this doesn’t detract from the book’s main appeal at all.

Between Riley Black’s writing and Riccardo Frapiccini illustrations, Dinosaurs: Profiles from a Lost World delivers quality dinosaur content sure to satisfy paleo nerds of all stripes. I found it very enjoyable to simply kick back and leaf through the book, soaking in the details at my leisure, and for that I am more than happy to give it my Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!


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