Horner, John [Jack] R. & James Gorman | Digging Dinosaurs

  •  First edition, first printing. A lovely copy of this important memoir of excavating Egg Mountain in Montana, one of the most productive fossil beds on earth and the location of both the first dinosaur embryos and the first nests of baby dinosaurs to be discovered.

    John “Jack” Horner (1946 – ) is one of the most recognisable of contemporary palaeontologists. The recipient of numerous awards, including a McArthur Fellowship, for his work on dinosaur reproduction, development, and physiology, he was also a staple of 1980s and 90s documentaries and served as a technical advisor for the Jurassic Park films, whose main character, Dr. Alan Grant, he partially inspired. Horner has come under scrutiny in recent years for having a romantic relationship with an undergraduate volunteer in his laboratory, resulting in his early retirement.

    In 1977 Marion Brandvold, the owner of a mineral shop in Bynum, Montana, discovered fossils of juvenile dinosaurs and asked Horner to identify them when he happened to stop at the shop during a scouting trip the following year. At the time, only a handful of juvenile dinosaurs were known, and their absence in the geological record was a major problem for palaeontology. Realising their significance, Horner immediately contacted his employers at Princeton (remarkably, he was then working as a preparator of other researcher’s finds, and had not yet run a dig of his own) for permission to remain in Montana and begin excavating the site. Within a few days Horner, his colleague Bob Makela, and the Brandvolds had uncovered whole nests containing young duck-billed dinosaurs – a world first. The juveniles were clearly being cared for by their parents for an extended period, much like birds, and this discovery was the first evidence of complex reproductive behaviour in dinosaurs. The site also revealed the first egg clutches in the Western hemisphere and the first dinosaur embryos found anywhere. Excavations have since revealed that the site was home to thousands of Cretaceous-period dinosaurs, with evidence of more than 15,000 individuals, making it the largest group of dinosaur skeletons on Earth and evidence that some species exhibited social and possibly migratory behaviours (”Digging for Dino Eggs with Famed Paleontologist Jack Horner”, Wired, October 28, 2011).

    Published in 1988, Digging Dinosaurs was written for a popular audience and covers the first six years of excavations, including the major discoveries of nests and embryos, and includes a foreword by Sir David Attenborough as well as numerous illustrations.

  • ...Illustrated by Donna Braginetz and Kris Ellingsen. New York: Workman Publishing, 1988.

    Octavo. Original black boards, black cloth backstrip, titles to spine gilt, red endpapers. With the dust jacket. 4 double-sided plates from colour photographs, black and white illustrations throughout the text. Spine rolled. An excellent copy in the fresh dust jacket.