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W Heath Robinson (1872-1944) began his career contributing to periodicals. In 1902 he illustrated his own book, The Adventures of Uncle Lubin, and created his first commercial works for advertising. He was soon experimenting with colour, moving into book illustration with the poetry of Poe and Kipling, and children's books including Andersen's Fairy Tales and The Water Babies. Later he developed his humorous drawings for magazines such as The Sketch, creating the series of 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 art collector and chairman of the Imaginative Book Illustration Society, and an authority on the work of William Heath Robinson.

Britain at Play

William Heath Robinson
Edited by Geoffrey Beare

BRITAIN AT PLAY is a must-have collection of spectacular and hilarious drawings by the celebrated illustrator William Heath Robinson. Though known for his humorous pictures of ingenious and improbable contraptions (featuring steam kettles, candles and lengths of knotted string), Heath Robinson's mechanical devices were only part of his huge and wide-ranging output.

Heath Robinson's work for such publications as The Tatler, The Sketch and The Bystander features the British at play in the home and outside it, indulging in outlandish sports, going to extraordinary lengths to hunt down an elusive prey, or finding opportunities for romance in surprising circumstances. Presented together for the first time, these stunning illustrations show Britain in the garden, at the beach and on the golf course. We find distinguished gentlemen playing aquatic golf, fish squash or mountain cricket, gathering edelweiss, trapping whelks and catching tigers or perhaps indulging in some Jazz-tennis. We find automobile disasters (‘cartastrophes’) aplenty, and bizarre acts of kindness by well-meaning boy scouts. We find city commuters sprinting across sand dunes, ladies reading whilst waltzing, lovers stealing a bus-top kiss in the midst of a traffic jam.

Charming, eccentric, endlessly inventive, Heath Robinson’s unforgettable drawings in this collection perfectly capture the peculiar character of the great British nation at leisure.