Very Heath Robinson is written by UK TV personality Adam Hart-Davis, with an entertaining foreword by Carnegie Medal winner, Philip Pullman.

Very Heath Robinson is a book that takes a nostalgic look back to the imaginative world of William Heath Robinson, one of the few artists to have given his name to the English language. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the expression Heath Robinson is used to describe ‘any absurdly ingenious and impracticable device.'

Adam Hart-Davis(below) is the perfect person to set the artist’s mechanical fantasies in context, to tell the stories of rapid technological and social change that lay behind Heath Robinson’s idiosyncratic brand of satire and to laugh along with the jokes. Known for his popular television series What the Romans Did for Us and other programmes on the history of science and engineering, Adam is an avid fan of Heath Robinson, and full of stories that lie behind the pictures. 

You will find plenty of weird and wonderful inventions in Very Heath Robinson. The book is full of quirky contraptions for lighting cigars, making coffee, extinguishing candles, and generally making everyday life easy. You can even mow the lawn in comfort, thanks to the super deluxe Ransomes motor mower, which comes complete with a wireless, a drinks cabinet, even a tiffin table.

Adam’s love of Heath Robinson is endorsed by Philip Pullman, who conveys the charm of the Heath Robinson repertory company, the earnest, top-hatted men who oversee the machines and are ‘convinced they are being rational and clever and up-to-date.’

A dozen collections of Heath Robinson (below) and his work have been published over the last 80 years, starting in his lifetime, but most have been compilations of pictures with minimal text. Very Heath Robinson is the first to explain the technical and social background out of which the pictures grew, and to weave art and history into a connected story. 

The book (cover below) portrays Heath Robinson as the visionary he was, foreseeing technical advances decades before they occurred, and commenting wryly on urban issues such as traffic jams, litter, and apartment living - problems that of course still niggle us today.

The publisher of Very Heath Robinson is the Sheldrake Press. They are raising money for the book with Kickstarter, so click here for much more information on the project.

TEE note: Philip Pullman is quite a catch to write the foreword of this book. Click here for more on him at The English Eye.


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