Augusta, Joseph, Greta Hort, & Zdeněk Burian | Prehistoric Animals

  • First English language edition, first impression of this vibrantly illustrated work, originally published in Prague under the title Tiere der Urzeit in the same year. Rare in the dust jacket in such nice condition.

    Between the 1930s and 1960s “the foremost painter of dinosaur restorations was Zdeněk Burian (1905-1981). His canvasses were used to illustrate a number of popular books on prehistoric life by Joseph Augusta, and in the late 1950s and 1960s these were translated into English and widely circulated. So the Burian illustrations offered an alternative to those of Zallinger [responsible for the Peabody Museum mural], or of the late Charles Knight. But there was not much of a difference. Apatosaurus and Diplodocus stand quietly by their respective swamps, accompanied by partially submerged relatives. A T. rex besets a pair of Trachodon, but none of the three lifts a leg off the ground, or even seems to be moving at all” (Ashworth, Paper Dinosaurs 48). Though his dinosaurs are no longer considered anatomically accurate, Burian was highly respected in his time and his paintings were widely reproduced and copied, often without acknowledgement. In 2017 the first dinosaur discovered in the Czech Republic was named in his and Augusta’s honour, Burianosaurus augustai.

    The author of the text, Joseph Augusta (1903-1968) was a palaeontologist at Charles University in Prague between 1933 and 1968, and is best known for his role as a science populariser. He published around twenty books on science for the general public and served as an advisor to the hit 1955 film Journey to the Beginning of Time (Cesta do Pravěku), which combined human actors with stop-motion special effects.

    The translator of the book, Greta Hort (1903-1967), was born in Copenhagen, the daughter of Vilhelm Hjort, astronomer royal. She earned her PhD at Newnham College, Cambridge and then became a research fellow at Girton College, publishing on mysticism and religious thought. In 1938 Hort was appointed principal of University Women's College (later University College) at the University of Melbourne. She was later made chair of English literature at Aarhus University, Denmark (Australian Dictionary of Biography).

  • ...Illustrated under the direction of the author by Zdeněk Burian. Translated by Dr. Greta Hort. London: Spring Books, [1956].

    Folio. Original buff, heavy-grain cloth, titles to spine and Stegosaurus design to upper board in brown. With the dust jacket. 60 lithographic plates of which 31 are in colour. Lower corner of the binding knocked, which has also slightly creased the corner of the text block and the jacket, spine rolled. A very good copy in the bright jacket that is lightly rubbed at the extremities with a few nicks and short closed splits.