21. A Triceratops Skull, 1896


Just as Seeley was distinguishing between Saurischians and Ornithischians, a brand new sub-order of dinosaurs was coming to light in the United Stares: the ceratopsians, or horned dinosaurs. The first Triceratops skull was discovered by John Bell Hatcher in 1888, and Marsh published a description and named it within a year. By 1892 Hatcher had recovered more than thirty skulls of Triceratops for Marsh, which must have caused severe storage problems at the Peabody Museum.

In 1896 Marsh published his Dinosaurs of North America, one of the true classics of the field, the first great survey of the Dinosauria. It was issued as an appendix to the Annual Report of the U.S. Geological Survey, and it has eighty-five large, full-page plates, mostly wood engravings, that show primarily skeletal restorations or drawings of individual bones and skulls.

There are a number of plates in this work devoted to Triceratops, mostly reprints of figures that had accompanied Marsh's many articles in the American Journal of Science. But one plate stands out as an important innovation. It is a photograph of a Triceratops skull, mounted on a small iron stand and viewed against a plain background. Photographs had been used before in dinosaur literature (see item 17), but they were primarily of skeletal restorations, and the photographs were usually trimmed and mounted on white backgrounds to look like drawings. Here the photograph is allowed to stand unaltered, and it does a commendable job of capturing the sheer massiveness of this enormous chunk of bone.


Marsh, Othniel C. "The dinosaurs of North America." Sixteenth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey, pp. 133-244. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 21.

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