6. Owen and the Crystal Palace Restorations, 1854


Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins concluded his discussion of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs by saying that he was gratified in having obtained the reward of Professor Owen's sanction and approval for his restorations. This was evidently true, for Owen wrote his own account of the project, and defended the Hawkins restorations in great detail.

There are three quite different illustrations that accompany Owen's account. One is a folding plate that presents a birds-eye view of the Sydenham Park grounds (not shown here); it is impressive in its size, but it shows little detail of the dinosaurs themselves.


The second illustration is quite small, just a wood engraving set into the text, but it is much more revealing, and we reproduce it above. It shows in outline the Hawkins restoration of Megalosaurus, on which Owen has overlaid the bones that provided the basis for the restoration. As is evident from the few bones represented, dinosaur restorations in the 1850s had to go considerably beyond the actual physical evidence.

The third illustration, shown at the left, is a very tiny but utterly charming headpiece, giving a view of the Park grounds, with the dinosaurs standing around like giant sheep.


Owen, Richard. Geology and Inhabitants of the Ancient World. London: Crystal Palace Library, and Bradbury & Evans, 1854. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 6.

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