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W Heath Robinson began his career illustrating works of poetry by Poe and Kipling, later working on children’s books, including Andersen’s Fairy Tales, The Water Babies and Perrault’s Fairy Tales. Later, working for magazines such as The Sketch, he developed a penchant for humorous illustrations for adults, culminating in the creation of a series of complex, yet inspired contraptions for which he is best remembered today, and for which he became known by his contemporaries as ‘The Gadget King’.

Geoffrey Beare is an operations research scientist in the Ministry of Defence. He has been collecting and studying the work of William Heath Robinson for many years. He is a trustee of the William Heath Robinson Trust. Geoffrey pursues his more general interest in the history of book illustration through the Imaginative Book Illustration Society, of which he is chairman.


William Heath Robinson
Edited by Geoffrey Beare

Genius ahead of his timeThe Metro

More than 60 years after his death, the term Heath Robinson is still used to describe ludicrous contraptionsThe Sunday Times

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A stunning collection of the most brilliant and memorable work by one of the most inventive minds in illustration and cartoon wizardry.

Heath Robinson’s cartoons of crazy inventions captured the British imagination on their publication at the turn of the 20th century. This was the age of the machine, and Heath Robinson’s slightly mad inventions were perfect reflections of the creativity and industrious work taking place during the era. Ingeniously devised, they also required the operation of the very decent, solid chaps with paunches, moustaches and important bottoms who fell in love with his drawings. These men featured in all of his works - pushing levers, tugging pulleys, working ratchets and oiling cogs. A champion of pragmatic man, he had a wonderful eye for essentially British types.

This distinguished volume of Robinson’s art covers the breadth of his comic work, from his early musings on the state of British industries and his very first inventions, through the mocking, anti-German propaganda created during the First World War, to the final sketches of the Second, during which he died. Contraptions is a definitive collection that will enchant future generations for as long as machines remain machines and human beings need reminding that that is all they will ever be.