Pictures from my past (3)

Last time we looked at the Romano-Scottish discussions of 148 AD about the height of the New Wall . Some limited progress was made towards a solution: As promised, though, here is “Where’s Wally?” on his visit to a famous battlefield, the “Battle of the Little Bighorn” where George Armstrong Custer finished a close second to the Lakota warriors led by Crazy Horse and Tatanka Yotanka or Sitting Bull :

Wally takes some finding because he hasn’t got his usual shirt. Instead he is masquerading as a Lakota horseman on the far left of the picture. Bare chested, he has been forced to paint his skin with his trademark hoops, on this occasion in blood red:

Today though, I wanted to tell you about some pictures which were very important to me as a child, as I ploughed through the ten volumes of the Arthur Mee’s Encyclopedia which had been owned by my Dad when he was a boy in the early 1930s. Arthur Mee was a wonderful contributor to the education of children:

The encyclopedias contained a good deal about dinosaurs. I was very struck by the picture of Mary Anning, the 11 year old girl who, in 1811, found the first ever ichthyosaur skeleton:

I hadn’t realised what an incredibly hard life Mary had. She was oppressed for six things she couldn’t help. She was working class. She was poor. She was a Dissenter, a group who were not members of the Church of England. Her father died when she was eleven. She was a woman. Furthermore she was not allowed to join the Geological Society, because she was working class, poor, a Dissenter and a woman.

I didn’t ever realise that, in order to supplement her income, Ann used to sell those delightful Henry de la Beche scenes from prehistoric life. There were some beautiful ones in Arthur Mee’s “Children’s Encyclopædia”:

The first image occupied only the top part of the page, and on the lower half there was a representation of the fossils created by those splendid creatures:

To help children learn the names of the dinosaurs, they were added to the second picture. There were Ammonites, Cetiosaurus, Chelonian, Rhamphorynchus,  Scelidosaurus and Teleosaurus. Go on, have a go, you know you want to!

Every volume of the Arthur Mee encyclopedia had a full colour frontispiece. For this volume, not surprisingly, there was a picture of an Iguanodon. It is probably the most striking image of my childhood:

I love the way that this iguanodon has exactly the same enigmatic smile as the Mona Lisa. And as an added bonus, his eyes follow you all round the room, just like the world’s greatest artists do in all their pictures. Such greats as Michelangelo. Raphael. Leonardo. And Donatello.









Filed under History, Humour, military, Science, Wildlife and Nature

21 responses to “Pictures from my past (3)

  1. More great memories. Somewhere I have books by Arthur Mee about the English counties.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Derrick. In the future, I shall be doing a series about “Who deserves a statue?” and looking at the almost unbelievably hard life of Mary Anning, who eventually became the foremost expert on dinosaurs in Europe, despite all her handicaps.

  2. Thank you for sharing this John. That is a real shame about Mary Anning.

    • Yes, Lloyd, blind prejudice is a very formidable barrier for a lot of people. As you will see in some of my future posts, though, she does get past it and become Europe’s greatest expert on dinosaurs. And all because she went out into the field and dug them up herself.

      • That’s good to hear, I like a happy ending. How are you going John?

      • Fine so far, Lloyd. We are waiting for the blue envelope that will tell us how to book our vaccine jabs. This is the time for patience. They have at least 65-70 million to do, with a huge number of illegals who will have to be done as well. As far as I know I am in the fourth or fifth group in the queue, “cantankerous old men”

      • I suspect you’re after front line workers and over 80s. Don’t worry you’ll be in the mix, I hope teachers are high up there too. Keep me informed and take care. 🙂

  3. I wonder if she ever knew just how much she had affected children.

    • That’s a very interesting question. Over the years, she did beat a lot of the prejudice against her, although she was eventually forced to join the Church of England. Ultimately she became the top expert on dinosaurs in Europe and all the lords and professors came to see her. I’m sure that in her quieter moments, she realised what she had achieved.

  4. I recently heard about her. I am listening to a talk called, ‘Extinctions. Past, present and Future.’ Thank you for this post 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I just looked at books about her on Amazon, and a great many of them were for little girls. I think Mary must have a new job now, teaching the women of the future that there is no barrier which cannot be beaten

  5. The two black and white photos reminded me about a magazine I had when I was young. It had colour pages with virtually the same layout, dinosaurs on the surface with their corresponding skeletons beneath. Charged with curiosity I searched Google and all I could find was ‘Look and Learn’ and ‘Tell me why’. The names ring a bell but I can’t be certain it’s them. They were a great series, educational, colourful and very interesting.

  6. That way of illustrating dinosaurs was invented by Henry de la Beche who cashed in on the fact that dinosaurs were only just beginning to be discovered and nobody knew very much about them. His best picture is in Google images and is called “Duria Antiquior”. He also invented the phrase “Deep time” which means millions of years ago, so far back that it has little meaning.
    Mary Anning would make a great role model for girls (get yourself some Brownie points there with a lesson or two).
    I don’t know “Tell me why” but I bought “Look and Learn” right from issue 1 in 1962. It’s freely available on ebay and occasionally you can find 200 editions on a digital DVD. It’s just a question of waiting for one to appear!

  7. She was working class, poor, a Dissenter, and a woman. Hear, hear, Mary!

    • It’s great to have you back! Mary Anning was a real achiever, even though the game was rigged to make sure that she stood no chance of winning. Eventually, though, in spite of all those rules and regulations, she finally came through to win.

  8. Chris Waller

    A fascinating story. I have to confess that I had never heard of Mary Anning until now and it is a gross injustice that she is not more widely known. Unfortunately so many people who are famous today were just very good self-promoters.

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