Revolutionary Children's Books: Eyewitness Dinosaur
Did you have these books as a kid? I did, too! And I had no idea until a few years ago just how revolutionary they were, or that the Dinosaur volume was written by an important palaeontologist.
Let’s start with the books themselves. The publisher, Dorling Kindersley, was founded in London 1974, and in the ‘80s they began taking advantage of new design technology to radically revise the page layouts of children’s books. As they explained in 1997, the goal was to “slow down the pictures and speed up the text” — to make space for children to explore information in their own way rather than creating a linear narrative. And the illustrations themselves were immersive, so colourful and detailed that they demanded careful attention.
Dorling Kindersley also hired leading academics as authors. One of the co-authors of this volume, Angela Milner, was at the forefront of dinosaur palaeontology throughout her career. She wrote the scientific description of the most important dinosaur specimen ever discovered in Britain, Baryonyx walkeri, and she led the team that used CT scanning to reconstruct the brain of Archaeopteryx, providing further evidence of its relationship to birds. She was an important administrator at the Natural History Museum in London and was the driving force behind the updated Dinosaur Gallery that opened in 1992.
Published in 1989, Dinosaur was one of the first sixteen books in the Eyewitness series and is still in print. Most copies on the market are later printings, so I was thrilled when I found these beautiful examples of the first British and first American printings, which I’m selling as a set. For more details about them just visit the link in our profile. And me know what your favourite Eyewitness book was in the comments!
“The Efficacy of Small Multiples in the Visual Language of Instructional Designs”, Brigham Young University thesis, 2012).
Cart, “Eyewitness Books: Putting the Graphic in Lexicographic,” Booklist, October 15, 2002.
Angela Milner's obituary in the Guardian, August 26th, 2021.