3. The Country of the Iguanodon, 1838


For years, after finding the initial Iguanodon teeth, Mantell had little further fossil evidence that could be used to reconstruct his giant fossil reptile, with the exception of a large horn that his wife had discovered. But in 1834, in a stone-quarry in Maidstone, a blast revealed a mass of rock containing a number of fossil bones of what proved to be an Iguanodon. The Maidstone slab provided enough evidence for a restoration. Mantell himself attempted one, with moderate success.

Much greater success was achieved by an artist, John Martin, who happened to visit Mantell's Museum and was inspired by the Maidstone slab to attempt his own restoration. In a painting which he called The Country of the Iguanodon, he not only gave life to the Iguanodon, but he showed it in its proper ecological setting, preyed on by Megalosaurus, flanked by a gigantic crocodile, watched by a pterodactyl, and surrounded by a landscape filled with cycads, tree-ferns, and yuccas. This painting was reproduced as a mezzotint for the first edition of Mantell's Wonders of Geology, where it appeared as the frontispiece to volume 1.

One of the other attractive plates in this book is an idealized geological section of the earth's crust. It is useful because it shows the relative positions of the dinosaur-bearing formations in England and the nomenclature then in use. To see the geological section plate, click here.


Mantell, Gideon. The Wonders of Geology. London: Relfe and Fletcher, 1838. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 3.

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