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Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  254 ratings  ·  40 reviews
"Skulls" is a beautiful spellbinding exploration of more than 300 different animal skulls---amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles--written by "New York Times" bestselling author, Simon Winchester and produced in collaboration with Theodore Gray and Touch Press, the geniuses behind "The Elements" and "Solar System."

In "Skulls," best-selling author Simon Winchester
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Black Dog & Leventhal
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4.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  254 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Ann Littlewood
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Most people who like natural history and the outdoor world are, in my experience, entranced by skulls. We find them beautiful (assuming the stinky parts are long gone) and they tell tales about the species and the individual. The individual tales are often tragic--a horse skull with a broken lower jaw, a coyote skull with a bullet hole, a smashed skull from a road-killed raccoon. The species tales are less freighted. Teeth and sagittal crests imply how the animal made its living and defended its ...more
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
The skulls on display here range from oddly cute to the stuff of nightmares. All are fascinating. You come away with a whole new appreciation of the way in which life forms evolve and adapt to their places in the ecosystem.

Most of the skulls in Dudley's collection are antiques or came from deceased zoo animals. However, it is easy to see how the passion for collecting could lead to unethical behavior. We read in the beginning of the book how Dudley was charged for buying a few skulls that were
Ann Keller
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In our bodies, the framework for muscles, tendons and ligaments is the skeleton, topped by a skull, a face as unique as each creature itself. Whether it be a reptile, primate, eel, catfish, frog, newt or penguin, the skull houses the central processing unit, the brain. This powers each animal, bird or snake. Teeth highlight the jaw and in some, a prominent brow ridge or horns crown the whole in magnificent glory.

Alan Dudley was fascinated by skulls. At an early age, he found the body of a dead f
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The skulls in this book range from the ho hum to the truly amazing and terrifying. I will never think of fishes the same way. The photographs are really gorgeous and the small blurb describing each skull provides enough information to the lay reader so that it does not become burdensome. I also appreciated the taxonomy included (all the way to the Genus level). Skulls that gave me pause were the Axolotl, the Dodo, the Atlantic Wolfish, the Triggerfish, the Pike and the Monkfish. Can you say terr ...more
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Unique book and portrait of a fascinating collection.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Skulls are tough.
Nathan Albright
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
This book's title is right about one thing, and that is that Alan Dudley's collection of skulls is definitely curious.  Whether or not that is a good sort of curiosity or not is up for debate, but it is a curious collection without dispute.  The origins of this book are somewhat odd.  Alan Dudley himself happens to be an English collector of skulls who has perhaps the largest private collection in the world, of which this book represents only about a seventh or so (some 300 of the more than 2,00 ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting book. As promised, it explores Alan Dudley's skull collection from five vertebrate classes. It also contains longer sections between the photographs exploring skulls from biological, historical, anthropological, and cultural perspectives. Even if you don't have time for the longer sections, the photography provides an engaging flip through.

There is a disclaimer in the beginning that the photographs are not to scale; however, I think some graphical indication of scale s
Claudia Loureiro
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dead-and-dying
This book is gorgeous! The collection is amazing, and the photography is beautifully done and well lit. The skulls are on a black background, which seems to intensify the details. I was afraid there wouldn't be many photographs, but the book is jam packed with them. The collection is diverse and the skulls are in great condition. Two people who couldn't care less about skulls or bones were fascinated. I can't wait for the weekend to get here so I can sit down and spend some serious time with it. ...more
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Someone please buy me this magnificent book.
I've never had a more useful photobook for painting. Never. I've never seen a more beautiful array of skeletal biodiversity in such a lovely package.
I just... Need this, you guys.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting survey of a collection. There's such a variety of skulls explored with facts about the animals and personal blurbs from Alan Dudley. The photographs of the skulls are beautifully rendered.
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it
It was okay. One thing that turned me off is that one of the photos didn't match the skull listed. Would be a good flip-through, coffee table book.
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Despite how extensive the collection depicted is, I wanted more - more sculls, more comparisons. A fascinating book.
Jill Sanders
This ebook is about every type of skull you can possibly think of! I enjoyed how the types of skulls were in alphabetical order. However, it was difficult for me to figure out how to escape from a close up view. If you clicked on the skull, you could spin it in 3D or learn more facts about the type of species. Not only does it show the skeleton, but it shows the life-like view of the creature as well. This is a great ebook with tons of information!

I noticed that this book allowed you to spin the
Maxzine Rossler
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Skulls tell the story of the skull in the human and animal world. This electronic book states that skulls are symbols both of existence and of former existence. Skulls tell about life, death, and afterlife of good and evil. This book talks about all different aspects of skulls and skulls of art along with the general nature of skulls and its component parts. This book’s illustration really gives the reader a great understanding of skulls it provides variety and hands on learning for the students ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing photographic record of Alan Dudley's private collection of animal skulls. An avid collector, Dudley has been collecting skulls for years, buying them or preparing them himself when he comes across a dead animal.
But more than just a record of his collection, this book, courtesy of author Simon Winchester, delves into the enduring human fascination with skulls and what they represent. What skulls have historically symbolised, how they have appeared in art, how they are celebrat
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a somewhat peculiar book because it displays the collection of a private British skull collector who at times surrendered his moral compass to his collecting fervor.

Nevertheless, I give it 5 stars, a thing I rarely award, for its excellent photography.

It gets about a 2-star rating for its writing.

The written portions divide neatly into two categories: a few larger expositions on the subject of skulls in general and a lot of small bits that are basically identifiers and captions for the
This was a fascinating book. An odd book, but fascinating. It is a both a scientific/biological book, and an expose on a very unique private collection. The pictures of the skulls are beautifully shot, and they are always partnered with a photograph of the living animal, showing how the bone relates to the shape of the head in life.

I will say, though, that I have a few concerns in regards to ethics. The collector has quite a few skulls from endangered animals, and there was not nearly enough inf
Mansour Sadhan
Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
First I have to clarify that I own the interactive iPad version of this book, so my review is predominantly for the digital version made by Touch Press. As for anything made by those guys, it's amazing! The interactive versatility of the digital version is so outstanding, you can gain a thoughtful insight on skulls, various animal groups, domestication, form and function, and many other aspects related to skulls without reading one sentence from the book! It's possible to compare, group and turn ...more
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some of these fantastic images will live on in my nightmares. Thank you, Alan Dudley.

Best skulls belong to birds, reptiles, and snakes. Wait, are snakes reptiles?

This would've gotten 5 stars had the blurbs on each skull included just a BIT more detail. For instance, I was fascinated by the skulls of alligators and crocs because of the mottled and pitted texture of the bone. I read every blurb hoping for information on WHY the texture of those bones was so different from most of the hundreds of
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Incredibly interesting. Winchester takes us on a guided photographic tour through the macabre collection of skull-enthusiast Alan Dudley. Absolutely fascinating, and if you don't marvel at the complexity of our planet after reading this, I don't know what can be done for you. My only caveat is that occasionally Winchester repeats himself when writing about similar organisms--a slightly heavier editor's hand might have been in order. Beautifully photographed, charmingly written, scientific intrig ...more
Oct 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: skulls-and-bones
I bought this mostly as a reference book. I have enjoyed looking at all the lovely photos, but haven't read all the articles/text. To me books like this are not something I read cover to cover. They are books I turn to when I need to find info to help ID a particular skull, or to discover new skulls I would like to eventually add to my collection.
David Bales
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Fascinating books about the skull collection of Alan Dudley, a resident of England who has a private collection of 2,000 skulls of various creatures, from mice to Gaboon vipers. The amazing diversity of skull type and shape from species as various as the toucan to the grizzly bear is fascinating. With commentary by Simon Winchester.
Phil Cannon
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-books
I have been using this book for my warm-up paintings each morning. I enjoy the variety of shape found within each of the different kinds of skulls. The photography and layout is well-done. A fun book to experience over and over.
Ali Baylor
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes biology
Recommended to Ali by: found at library
Shelves: biology
What an amazing, informative book about the world's largest private collector of skulls, and his incredible collection. Great trivia, wonderful pictures, and cool anecdotes.

I got it at the library, and just HAD to own it. Thanks, Amazon!
Beautiful photographs, well written essays on a variety of skull-related themes. One can only take in so many skulls, however, and the essays tend to read like homework assignments, however nicely composed.
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing photographs of animal skulls from prehistory to the present with solid science about the evolution of the skull across species. Definitely worth reading in the paper copy for full effect of the photography.
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I would highly recommend this book just for the amazing photography. It is a very beautiful collection. They did a great job picking a variety of specimens, and in addition to the beautiful pictures there is a lot of interesting factual information.
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Love this book. I can't stop going through it. I just carry it around everywhere. Best purchase I've made in the last two months.

So informative and pretty. I love it!

I need to find more books like this.
Ty Keith
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a fun and interesting book, seriously. Fact-filled text combines with stunning photography to give us a book that should appeal to a wide variety of persons.

Some of skulls jump out as possible inspirations for H.R. Giger's design for the movie, "Alien."
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Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel, and his articles appear in several travel publ ...more