This drawing is from the beginning of Chapter 1 – ‘Of the Genealogy and Antiquity of Gargantua.’ Here’s the relevant quote from the chapter (the translation from French is from 1653, the original having been written in the 1530s):
‘Would to God every one had as certaine knowledge of his Genealogy since the time of the Arke of Noah until this age. I think many are at this day Emperours, Kings, Dukes, Princes, and Popes on the earth, whose extraction is from some porters, and pardon-pedlars as on the contrary, many are now poor wandering beggars, wretched and miserable, who are descended of the blood and lineage of great Kings and Emperours, occasioned (as I conceive it) by the transport and revolution of Kingdomes and Empires, from the Assyrians to the Medes, from the Medes to the Persians, from the Persians to the Macedonians, from the Macedonians to the Romans, from the Romans to the Greeks to the French, etc.’
At the beginning of the 20th Century the introduction of the new technology of process engraving meant that a drawing could be photographically transferred onto the printing plate. This ushered in a new school of illustrators who were no longer dependent on an engraver’s interpretation of their work. The process allowed Heath Robinson to work for the first time at a very large scale, thus freeing up his, until then, tightly controlled line, and allowing him to meet the spirit of Rabelais’ rambling, earthy satire with flowing lines and dense, roughly crosshatched shadows. Instead of following his early influences of Beardsley and Doré (who had also illustrated ‘Gargantua and Pantagruel’) he was able to develop a more personal style inspired by Breughel and Da Vinci and the scenes of hell and damnation in early illuminated manuscripts.