The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers

Humphrey Jennings

Introduction and image selection by Christopher Frayling

Gathering hundreds of voices, Pandaemonium is Humphrey Jennings's eyewitness account of the rise of the machine age – a superb, illustrated Folio Society edition of the book that inspired the London Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Add To Wish List
‘The most gorgeous, gorgeous thing…beautiful,’
  1. Dominic Sandbrook

Opening with an excerpt from Milton’s Paradise Lost – the founding of Pandaemonium, the capital city of Hell – this is a social history unlike any other. Humphrey Jennings collects more than 370 texts, written between 1660 and 1886, to create a vivid ‘imaginative history’ of the Industrial Revolution. With a master film-maker’s eye, he cuts together poems and literary works, letters and diaries, scientific journals and eyewitness reports into a sweeping, cinematic narrative of the machine age. Jennings's vision weaves together the thrill of technological progress and its dehumanising consequences, from the development of steam traction and Darwin’s evolutionary insights to child labour in a Derbyshire silk mill and the excitement of a balloon flight over London.

Pandaemonium gained fresh prominence in 2012 as the inspiration behind Danny Boyle’s astonishing Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics. Handsomely bound, the Folio Society edition contains more than 120 black & white and colour illustrations, selected by cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling, who contributes the introduction. Today, as artificial intelligence promises – and threatens – a new technological revolution, Pandaemonium stands not only as a singular artistic achievement but a book of great prescience and relevance.

Bound in cloth blocked with a design by Jamie Keenan 

Set in Adobe Caslon Pro 

624 pages 

Over 100 integrated colour and black & white illustrations 

Printed endpapers 

Ribbon marker 

Printed slipcase 

10˝ x 6 ¾˝  

Printed in Italy

‘Stimulating to mind and imagination ... a monument to one of the unique artists of our time, a visionary poet ... you will be illuminated and enriched’
  1. Spectator

Pandaemonium was a labour of love for Humphrey Jennings, a pioneering documentary film-maker described by his contemporary Lindsay Anderson as ‘the only real poet that British cinema has yet produced’. For more than a decade before his untimely death in 1950, he collected the excerpts (or in his word, ‘images’) intended for the book. His notebooks were edited by his daughter, Mary-Lou Jennings, and sociologist friend Charles Madge, who published Pandaemonium to great acclaim in 1985. For this superlative Folio Society edition, the original 28 illustrations have been vastly expanded to over 100 images. All were chosen by Sir Christopher Frayling, one of Britain’s most eminent historians of film and popular culture. As he explains in his new introduction, only pictures available during Jennings’s lifetime have been used, from famous artworks by William Blake, J. M. W. Turner and Ford Madox Brown to ephemera, book covers, newspaper engravings, satirical prints, scientific diagrams and early photographs. The Folio edition retains the original prefaces from the author and his editors, making for the most complete and faithful realisation of Humphrey Jennings’s vision ever to appear in print.

About Humphrey Jennings

Humphrey Jennings (1907–1950) was one of the great British film-makers of the 20th century, best remembered for propaganda films made for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War: works such as Listen to Britain, London Can Take It! and Fires Were Started are deeply patriotic but often experimental in technique and are still seen as classics of documentary film. Jennings was also one of the founders of the extraordinary Mass Observation project, which recorded everyday British life through the writings of hundreds of volunteer diarists, and helped to organise the landmark International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936. Earlier, having decided not to pursue his expected path as an academic in English literature, Jennings had also worked as a stage designer, painter and photographer. He was born in Suffolk and educated at Cambridge. He died, aged forty-three, in an accident while scouting film locations in Greece. 

About Christopher Frayling

Sir Christopher Frayling is a renowned cultural historian whose books have included studies of the spaghetti Western, the figure of the vampire, and the Sinophobic idea of the ‘yellow peril’ in British fiction, among an unusual range of subjects. He has also written and presented TV series of similar variety, from Tutankhamun and the Middle Ages to advertising. He is a former rector of the Royal College of Art, where he is now professor emeritus of cultural history, and also taught history at the University of Bath after completing his studies at Cambridge. Frayling’s long public service to the arts in Britain has included stints as chair of Arts Council England, chair of the Design Council and a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum.


You May Also Like

  1. Micrographia


    Robert Hooke


    Robert Hooke’s science classic Micrographia changed the way we view the natural world. This beautifully crafted Folio Society edition of the complete text includes all Hooke’s original illustrations and an introduction by historian Ruth Scurr.

  2. The Right Stuff

    The Right Stuff

    Tom Wolfe

    Illustrated by Tavis Coburn


    The Right Stuff is an exhilarating flight into the death-defying lives of the Mercury Seven, America’s first astronauts. This Folio edition of Tom Wolfe’s classic features superb retro-styled colour illustrations by Tavis Coburn.

  3. On the Origin of Species

    No book has revolutionised our view of life on earth more than Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Yet its enduring popularity is a testament to the immense energy and startling simplicity with which Darwin makes his revelations.

  4. Invisible Cities

    Invisible Cities

    Italo Calvino

    Illustrated by Dave McKean


    Italo Calvino’s beguiling and mysterious Invisible Cities defies explanation. Dave McKean’s rich visuals illustrate the wondrous and impossible urban landscapes in a Folio edition that is introduced by Jeanette Winterson.