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When I was a kid (70's, 80's) there were two books about spaceships. Essentially, each entry was a sci-fi painting of a spaceship and a short two to three page story about the spaceship. It described whether it was a fighting, exploration, or commerce ship. These were large hard cover books. The painting that sticks in my mind was of a crashed space ship in a desert half buried in the sand along with an alien skull resting on the sand. Sorry, its been thirty years since I've seen these books.

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Sounds like Spacewreck: Ghostships and Derelicts Of Space By Stewart Cowley, part of a series called Terran Trade Authority.

from the Wikipedia article:

The Terran Trade Authority is a science-fiction setting originally presented in a collection of four large illustrated science fiction books published between 1978 and 1980. This series was written by Stewart Cowley.

The books formed a connected space-opera milieu, describing the future history of mankind's expansion into the galaxy, presented in the guise of official handbooks by the trade organization from which the setting takes its name.

[...]

The original four books are:

Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD (by Stewart Cowley, 1978) (UK and US Editions) [SC1]
Great Space Battles (by Stewart Cowley and Charles Herridge, 1979) (UK/US) [GSB]
SpaceWreck: Ghost Ships and Derelicts of Space (by Stewart Cowley, 1979) (UK/US) [SW]
Starliners: Commercial Travel in 2200 AD (by Stewart Cowley, 1980) (UK/US) [SL]

In addition, the books Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD and Great Space Battles were collected together and published as Spacebase 2000 (1984, UK/US). All the books are currently out of print, but can often be found through auction sites or used booksellers.

Large color illustrations cover at least half the pages in each book. Most of these illustrations are reprints from book covers, which explains why they sometimes do not exactly fit with each other.

All the illustrations were made by now-famous science fiction painters such as Jim Burns, Alan Daniels, Peter Elson, Fred Gambino, Colin Hay, Robin Hiddon, Bob Layzell, Angus McKie, Chris Moore, Tony Roberts, and Trevor Webb.

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