on 2 April 2001
This book, subtitled, "The Coming of the Machine as seen by Contemporary Observers" is a selection of reportage from 1660 to 1886. The disparate articles illustrate the shift from naturalistic images as a means of explaining the changing world to mechanistic images. It says more about the difference between then and now than many an analytical history. The images are put before you and you supply the analysis.
This masterly collection, amassed over many years by Humphrey, was finally put into publishable form by his daughter, Mary-Lou. The substantial biographical detail about Jennings and his film making background is interesting too. She has done a splendid job in giving us this work.
It defies narrow classification, being of interest to artist, scientist, film buff, historian, novelist and novel reader alike.
The contemporary accounts collected here are in a variety of styles but they all share one common thread in that they are vivid, visceral pieces that really do put you "there". My one criticism, slight though it is, is that rather like the industrial processes and landscapes described, the book does become a bit relentless and almost overpowering which for me, leads it to losing some of its narrative "grip". For this reason I think this is a book best dipped into rather than read through in one go.