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Abstract

The discovery of dinosaurs and other large extinct ‘saurians’, a term under which the Victorians commonly lumped ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and their kin, makes exciting reading. The story of how early ‘fossilists’ first found the remains of these ‘primeval monsters’ has been told again and again in popular and semi-popular books about the history of palaeontology. Mary Anning making a living by collecting extinct reptiles along the Dorset coast, William Buckland and Gideon Mantell finding the ‘terrible lizards’ for which Richard Owen was to coin the word ‘Dinosauria’, O. C. Marsh and E. D. Cope fighting over new fossil vertebrates in the American West – all of these well-known stories have almost achieved the status of legends, and have often been retold with little regard for historical or scientific accuracy.

The purpose of the present volume is not to retell these tales. The papers in this collection focus on relatively little-known episodes in the discovery and interpretation (from both a scientific and an artistic point of view) of dinosaurs and other Mesozoic animals. They cover a long time span, from the beginnings of scientific palaeontology to the present, and deal with many parts of the world, from the Yorkshire coast to central India, from Bavaria to the Sahara. The characters in these stories include professional palaeontologists and geologists (some of them well known, others more obscure), explorers, amateur fossil collectors and artists, linked together by their interest in Mesozoic creatures.

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