(Gould, Stephen Jay) Mitchell, W. J. T. | The Last Dinosaur Book

  • First edition, first printing. Presentation copy inscribed by the author to palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould on the front free endpaper, “For Steven [sic], This was written to you. Warm regards, Tim Mitchell”. Loosely inserted is a bookmark promoting Gould’s talk “Pattern and Lack of Progress in the History of Life”, the keynote lecture for Dinofest International 1996.

    The Last Dinosaur Book was the first comprehensive, critical enquiry into the depiction of dinosaurs in popular culture, revealing “a cultural symbol whose plurality of meaning and often contradictory nature is emblematic of modern society itself”. Author W. J. T. Mitchell is a professor of English literature and art history at the University of Chicago. “A scholar and theorist of media, visual art, and literature, Mitchell is associated with the emergent fields of visual culture and iconology (the study of images across the media). He is known especially for his work on the relations of visual and verbal representations in the context of social and political issues” and is editor of the journal Critical Inquiry and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (University of Chicago biography).

    Recipient Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was one of the leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th century. His theory of punctuated equilibria challenged the idea that evolution is a slow and constant accumulation of changes, pointing out that instead it often occurs in rapid bursts of speciation followed by periods of stasis. He was a prominent defender of teaching evolution in schools and a leading critic of the field of sociobiology, which he saw as providing a pseudoscientific basis for discrimination. But he was best known as a popular science writer, penning three hundred essays that were originally published in Natural History Magazine.

    Gould is cited in the text several times, on the “archetypal fascination” of dinosaurs as “alluringly scary, but sufficiently safe” because of their extinction; on their commercialisation turning them from “sources of awe into clichés and commodities”; and on contemporary scientific disputes about dinosaur biology and evolution.

  • ...The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

    Octavo. Original blue cloth, titles to spine in copper, blue endpapers. With the dust jacket. Colour illustrations throughout. Just a tiny spot of delamination at the lower edge of the jacket. An excellent, fresh copy.