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[LONG] Re: First Book for Smart Dino Enthusiast



In a message dated 1/10/01 2:14:17 PM EST, Danvarner@aol.com writes:

<< In a message dated 1/10/01 10:33:00 AM Pacific Standard Time, 
 Dinogeorge@aol.com writes:

<< I approached Life with the idea of publishing an updated 15-part World We 
 Live In to be serialized starting in late 2002 (around the 50th anniversary 
 of the start of the original 13-part serial), but their editors seemed to be 
 uninterested. At least, they were uninterested in having >me< outline the 
 contents and write the text (heck, I'm no Lincoln Barnett!); but I don't 
 think they have plans to do anything like that ever again. Too bad; the 
 series introduced a huge number of kids, including me, to the natural world.
  >>

That's a shame. When I was a youth and _The World We Live In_was published, 
a friend of my parents had a copy he would bring over when he visited (we 
couldn't afford one). I would always beg him to bring "The Book" and I'd just 
eat it up. I do not believe anything has ever surpassed the collection of 
scientific art in that series. The Chesley Bonestell renderings of the early 
earth just turned my 6 year-old brain inside and out. Zallinger's dinosaurs 
and marine reptile pages certainly had an impact. There was a real feeling of 
majesty and awe and even a little fear at the immensity of all that imagery. 
I wonder if it could actually be done like that again today? At any rate, I 
wish someone would re-photograph the art a re-publish it again with the new 
printing methods available today.

  If you are young and haven't seen the book, used copies are available for 
very little cost at www.bibliofind.com or any of the other used book dealers. 
Highly recommended. DV.>>

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OK, Dan, now you've got me started! Let me apologize in advance to the list 
for what has become a lengthy nostalgic ramble devoid of scientific interest. 
Readers please delete this post the moment you feel the black fingers of 
boredom fastening themselves on your mind.

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For those of you too young to know what we're talking about, Life's The World 
We Live In serial ran in 13 parts, beginning in late 1952 and ending in late 
1954, with individual installments spaced about eight weeks apart. (Life was 
a weekly magazine then, 52 or 53 issues per year, and I don't recall the 
exact dates of The World We Live In serial issues offhand â except that the 
dinosaur installment, part five, was dated September 7, 1953. My copies of 
all those issues are buried in a box in my library a bit too deep to unearth 
right now, so everything I write here is off the top of my head and specific 
details may be slightly off.) It's bar none the >best< science-and-nature 
serial ever published in magazine format for a general readership. Those were 
the days when Life had an immense paid circulation and could afford to 
commission original art and to send expeditions to faraway places for topics 
covered in their articles. Those were also the days when Life was published 
on huge, glossy pages, pages that still look big, especially when compared to 
today's puny periodicals; so imagine how big they must have looked to a kid 
reader like me, two-thirds the height of an adult. And for The World We Live 
In serial Life also used special >fold-out< pages that made the pictures even 
bigger! I think Life sold for 15 cents or a quarter then (don't remember for 
certain, but it was some pittance like that): compare to typical newsstand 
prices of $2.95, $3.95, etc. of today.

I knew nothing of this serial until that September day in 1953 when my dad 
brought home part five, with the famous Brontosaurus/Stegosaurus cover taken 
from the Zallinger mural. He spotted it on a newsstand and had a hunch I 
would be interested in the article. Well, I held on to that issue for years, 
well after the cover was torn off from overuse. In fact, that coverless copy 
turned up in the basement of my mother's house in Buffalo, New York in 1997 
when I was clearing the place out to prepare it for sale. Unfortunately, the 
article itself was long gone â I had removed the pages for some forgotten 
reason decades before â so I tossed the remnants of the issue.

Part five reviewed the history of life on earth from its mysterious origin 
through the end of the Age of Dinosaurs. The centerpiece of the article was a 
reproduction of the famous Rudolph Zallinger mural from the Yale Peabody 
Museum. Actually, it wasn't taken directly from the wall, but from a minutely 
detailed essay that Zallinger did before executing the mural itself. The real 
mural is somewhat different from what Life published, and the essay was 
reproduced inverted, so that the Devonian is at the left and the Cretaceous 
is at the right, instead of the other way round. (I assume readers are 
familiar with this classic, often-reproduced picture, which spans several 
periods of geological time.) The Devonian, incidentally, was cropped away (so 
we lost Eusthenopteron and Eogyrinus â you >can< see the end of the tail of 
the latter in the picture, but you don't know what it is); another painting 
on a previous page, showing the emergence of life onto land, ended with the 
Devonian. The Zallinger mural extended across six giant pages, with each 
plant and animal labeled in a running key below the picture. I recall being 
fascinated by discovering that the picture on the first three pages (two 
pages plus a foldout) continued right into the picture on the succeeding 
three pages. The painting is so detailed that you can lose yourself for hours 
in pretty much any ten square inches of it. Individual dinosaurs from the 
mural were swiped mercilessly by comic-book artists, particularly in Turok 
comics, which began not long before that issue of Life appeared. I, too, 
copied them over and over in learning how to draw dinosaurs, and I was 
invariably disappointed when my dinosaurs couldn't match those in the picture.

Part six of The World We Live In, so it said at the end of the article in 
part five, would cover the Age of Mammals, that is, the Cenozoic Era. 
Naturally, I pestered my dad to watch for it, and in due time he brought it 
home. This featured another Zallinger painting, covering many more pages than 
the one in part five, depicting life from the Paleocene through the 
Pleistocene. The mammoth in the painting also appeared on the issue's cover. 
It was many years later that I learned that this painting, too, was a Yale 
Peabody Museum mural, though smaller than the one in part five and with the 
poses of some of the animals considerably changed.

Part seven was about present-day marine life, with a glorious foldout showing 
ocean life from the surface to the depths. Part eight was on coral reef 
habitats, nine was on desert habitats, ten was on the tundra and arctic 
habitats, eleven was on rain forests, and twelve was on temperate woodlands. 
My dad brought all these home in 1954, and they were a visual feast. For 
example, part nine had an ingenious two-part foldout scene of life in a 
desert. The first part showed the desert by day, with diurnal animals and 
plants, and the second part showed the same scene by night, with nocturnal 
animals and plants.

The end of part twelve announced that part thirteen would be about the 
"starry cosmos." Well, I was right into astronomy then, and I couldn't wait 
for that one to appear. The days went by, but alas, the issue never arrived. 
For some reason, my dad was unable to find it on any newsstand, and we missed 
it. Perhaps it sold out very quickly, considering it had a Chesley Bonestell 
cover.

Having also missed parts one through four, I had, while the serial was 
underway, also gone on a private quest to locate and read the issues I hadn't 
seen. Amazingly, part four, on the earth's atmosphere, turned up in a pile of 
Life back issues accumulating on our living room shelf. None of us had 
noticed it, perhaps because it is the only issue of the thirteen that did not 
cover-feature the serial article. Instead, the cover had a black-and-white 
picture of Roy Campanella. (This, by the way, has made the issue a bit more 
expensive from back-issue dealers: Life issues with baseball-player covers 
carry a collectors' premium.) And of course, we didn't know that Life was 
running a serial until after we had picked up part five.

One of my parents' social friends collected Life magazines and even went to 
the trouble of binding back issues. Every so often we were invited to have 
dinner with him and his wife, so I asked whether they had copies of the 
missing issues that I could read. The World We Live In issues were too recent 
for him to have had bound, and his unbound collection was somewhat 
disorganized, but he managed to find parts two (on the sea) and three (on the 
earth and geology) for me. Parts one and thirteen, however â the parts loaded 
with the fabulous Chesley Bonestell paintings (I didn't know what I was 
missing) â remained elusive. I can only imagine what part three would be like 
if it were published today; we knew nothing of plate tectonics then.

One day while passing by a little book store in our neighborhood, I spotted a 
giant new book, titled _The World We Live In_, prominently displayed in the 
window. (If you're familiar with Buffalo, this book store, now long gone, was 
situated on Elmwood Avenue between West Utica and Hodge streets. I think it 
was called the Blue Bird Bookstore.) I was in the sixth grade then. I 
understood immediately what the book was, and I spent the next hour or so in 
the store poring over its pages, until the proprietors (two little old 
ladies) at last requested that I leave. I finally got to see parts one and 
thirteen, and what a trip they turned out to be! Paintings of stars as seen 
from hypothetical planets, the origin of the earth, colliding galaxies, a 
chart of the solar system, a view of Saturn's rings from its upper 
atmosphere, the Local Group of galaxies, and other astronomical wonderments. 
Chesley Bonestell was at the height of his talents during the 1950s, and I 
think his space art from that period has never been equaled by anyone, before 
or since.

Part one was on the earth's origin, and the most famous painting in it is 
Bonestell's depiction of the earth as a magma ocean with the enormous moon, 
newly formed and molten, rising above the horizon. I later learned that the 
painting had been on the cover of the part one issue, and it was also used 
for the book's dust jacket. It was subsequently republished from time to time 
in various places, the latest I know of being on the jacket of the recent 
book _Rare Earth_. I didn't realize at the time that Bonestell had altered 
the painting before it was reprinted in the book; only after I found an 
actual copy of the part one issue did I see the painting in its original 
rendition. In light of the modern theory of the origin of the moon following 
the impact of a Mars-size planet with the earth, the painting is not out of 
date: It shows the newly formed moon, only a few tens of thousands of miles 
away, rising above the magma ocean formed in the heat of the impact.

I had never encountered anything like that book before (or since), and I 
>had< to have it. Unfortunately, the cover price as I recall was $13.50 â 
>way< too much for my parents to pay for this kind of toy for their kid. In 
those days, hardcover books sold for $1.95 or $2.50 and paperbacks were a 
quarter, so the book was an expensive item indeed. Had I been more 
industrious, I might have mowed lawns for a few weeks to earn the money, but 
instead I discovered that the book was available from our neighborhood branch 
of the Buffalo Public Library. It was classified as an adult-level book, so 
my kiddie library card couldn't touch it, but my mother's library card could, 
and did. I had that book out many times during the year that followed its 
publication, handling it very carefully so that the library would have no 
excuse to curtail my mother's borrowing privileges.

The next year, our family moved away from that neighborhood to a different 
part of the city, and I was no longer easily able to borrow the book. Other 
things also intruded, and my desire to own a copy gradually became a 
backburner issue. My uncle made me a Christmas present of an abridged 
children's edition that Life produced, but it was smaller, on a more childish 
level, and not the same thing at all; at the time, however, it was the only 
edition available, and I had to make do. (Yes, I still have it.) Sometime in 
high school I learned that the series was available as offprints for 
educational purposes to schools at several dollars apiece, and I managed to 
get hold of the offprint of part one. Here I discovered one Bonestell 
painting that had been excluded from the book: the end of the earth â a 
dramatic scene of the earth's surface melting after the sun becomes a giant 
star. Too apocalyptic? Or just too swiftly outdated? I've never seen it 
reprinted in any space art collection. Also in high school I acquired library 
privileges at the long-gone Grosvenor Branch of the Buffalo Public Library, 
which was a reference library that housed the library system's bound 
back-issue magazines (read-in only, no borrowing). They had a complete 
collection of Life, and I was finally able to read all the parts of the 
serial. I discovered a few more art pieces here and there that had been 
excluded from the book edition, and I also noticed that some of the covers 
had artwork or photography that didn't make it into the book, either.

It wasn't until I was a college student in Boston that I spotted a jacketless 
copy for sale in a used-book store for $7.95. Being a bit better off than 
when I was in elementary school, I picked it up, and I still have it in my 
library. My quest then shifted to finding those thirteen original issues of 
Life themselves. Having turned into a comic-book collector in the late 1960s, 
I explored used-book stores and back-issue magazine stores after I moved to 
Toronto for graduate work. It took a while, but by the end of the 1970s, 
after having moved to San Diego, I managed to find copies of all thirteen 
issues for my library. A couple still need to be upgraded, but at least the 
articles are all intact and most enjoyable.

When I suggested producing a revised serialization of The World We Live In 
for its 50th anniversary in 2002, I thought the series should be expanded to 
15 parts. I would add a part on the subatomic quantum universe, which (most 
appropriately) could come at either the beginning or at the end of the others 
in the series, and another part on the cell, in between parts four and five. 
After all, Watson and Crick's paper on the chemical structure of DNA appeared 
while the original serial was in progress; we knew next to nothing about 
molecular biology or genetics before then. Parts four and seven through 
twelve would not need much revision, but fifty years of scientific 
discoveries mandate complete rewrites of parts one through three and 
thirteen. We would also need all new illustrations for parts five and six, 
reflecting the tremendous increase in our knowledge of the ancient world. But 
I don't think it should be done at all unless it's done on pages the size of 
the ones the original serial was published on, filled with glorious artwork 
and written in a style like that used by its original writer, Lincoln 
Barnett, with the grandeur of the universe contained in every word.