Deeper than Indigo - cover“One of the most remarkable books I have ever read.” A N Wilson

“Go and read @jennyindigo1 ‘s amazing #DeeperThanIndigo, a journey which takes you to extraordinary and increasingly metaphysical realms…”   Ben Musgrave   ‏@BenMusgrave1

“Truly an outstanding read – #booksof2015” The Last Word Review

“There is no contest for my stand-out read of the year. It has to be Jenny Balfour-Paul’s incredible account of her global journey in the forgotten footsteps of explorer Thomas Machell…. Balfour-Paul explores the porosity of time and space in her narrative…. An inspirational read that speaks of all that is intangible in the world.” Hannah Finch – Western Morning News

Deeper than Indigo is a symphony of a book. It is a work that vividly evokes a time now lost, and yet clears a window to show how the past is always directing the present. In its investigations it has gone further than most dare go. It has plumbed strange depths that are indeed, deeper than indigo.” Tim McLaughlin —

“finished #DeeperThanIndigo by @jennyindigo1 – a horizon-expanding historical quest filled with nuggets of gold” – Alison Mercer

“I’ll also be devouring…the exotic Deeper than Indigo, a work of obsessive stalking from intrepid traveller and textile specialist, Jenny Balfour-Paul” — Costa short-listed Patrick Gale’s ‘best summer reads’ Independent, June 2015

Michael Kerr of the Sunday Telegraph chose Deeper than Indigo as one of the best travel books of the year: “…a remarkable story in which she brings vividly to life the man [Thomas Machell] and his times.”

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Deeper than Indigo

MachellThis intriguing odyssey, set on the edges of time, encompasses biography, memoir, detective story, travelogue and history to tell a remarkable tale of East-West connections and a mysterious love.

The author’s quest begins when the word ‘indigo’ draws her to the illustrated journals, now in the British Library, of Victorian traveller Thomas Machell. She finds her life to have striking echoes of his, not least travels to and within India, a career in indigo, and a passion for journal writing. She is also intrigued by his aspiration to write ‘a novel in the form of an autobiography’ and by his quirky watercolour sketches.

Retracing his footsteps – overland and by sea – from his ancestral home in the hills and dales of northern England to remote parts of the Middle East and Asia, she is often in her own footsteps too.

Machell of Crackenthorpe, born in 1824, first demonstrated his yearning for adventure when only twelve, and at sixteen left the family rectory to fulfil his childhood dream of travelling to the East. By chance, he witnessed many important historical events, including the infamous ‘First Opium War’ and ‘Indian Mutiny’. He spent most of his adult life in India; the author tracks him to indigo plantations in rural Bengal and Bangladesh, to coffee estates in Kerala’s Malabar Hills, to unexplored regions of central India and to the city of Calcutta.

Machell also travelled up the Indus River to the North-West Frontier and by sea from India to Egypt with Muslim merchants. The author voyages aboard the last freighter to take passengers from UK to India, facing the same threat of pirate attack in the Red Sea as Machell. She also follows in his wake by cargo ship to the most remote Polynesian islands, setting for his passionate love affair, and seeks his colourful descendants in the New World.

This spellbinding book brings to life Machell’s untold story, that of a spirited outsider reaching into the future at the time of the British Raj. Serendipity, intuition and an enchanting relationship, as well as the author’s quest to uncover the missing years of Machell’s life, give this book its magical extra dimension.

Deeper than Indigo
ISBN: 9781909339538
152 x 228 mm Portrait – hardback
320 pp with 32 pp colour plates
Pub­li­ca­tion: Spring 2015

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Confirmed Author Lectures, Talks and Events (check for updates)

Upcoming Events
12 Dec – 7:30pm Talk at Royal Scottish Geographical Society
– School of Midwifery, University of Dundee Fife Campus, 5 Forth Avenue, Kirkcaldy
14 Dec – 2:15pm Talk at Royal Scottish Geographical Society
– Appleton Tower (LT4), 11 Crichton Street, University of Edinburgh
14 Dec – 7:30pm Talk at Royal Scottish Geographical Society
– Gregory Building (Rm109), Lilybank Gardens, University of Glasgow


9 March – 2:30pm Speaking for the Victoria and Albert Museum Year Course for 2016/17, Textiles (Printing and Dyeing).
15 March Morning talk on indigo at the Bodleian Library Lecture Theatre, Oxford
27 March – 6:30pm Lecture at Royal Geographical Society (with IGB), London
6 May Talk for World Textile Day at Wickham, near Portsmouth
Past Events

21 Nov – 6:30pm Talk at the Taunton Literary Festival, at Brendon Books, Taunton, Somerset
16 Nov Evening talk to the Friends of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford
15 Nov – 7:30pm Evening talk at The Island Sailing Club, Cowes, Isle of Wight
15 Nov – 11:30am Talk at Isle of Wight Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, in the Methodist Church in Ryde
Non-members welcome. (Coffee from 10:45am)
14 Nov Evening talk at Dimbola Lodge on the Isle of Wight
10 Nov Indigo: A World of Blue – Film screening at The George Washington University Museum
7-9 Nov Appearing at the Sharjah Book Fair
19-23 Oct Talk at the Biennial symposium of the Textile Society of America in Savannah, Georgia
20 Sep All-day workshop/salon at Maiwa School of Textiles (click here to register), Vancouver
19 Sep Evening lecture for Maiwa School of Textiles (click here for information and tickets), Vancouver
15 Sep Speaking at 7th Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, Devon
13 Sep Evening talk to SW region of Royal Geographical Society, at Blundells School, Devon (click for details)
10 Sep – 2:30pm

Talk to the London Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in the basement hall of St Stephen’s House, 48 Emperor Gate, London SW7 4HJ. Visitors welcome. Download the Guild’s 2016 Programme (PDF).

7 Sep Opening the biennial exhibition of the Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers at Killerton House, Devon
6 Sep – 1pm Speaking to the Cheriton Bishop (Devon) embroidery group. Contact Felicity Dudbridge on 01392 811647
16 Jul – 12:30pm Art in Action, Waterperry, near Oxford, Lecture Room 1
15 Jul – 2pm Art in Action, Waterperry, near Oxford, Lecture Room 1
13 Jul – 11am & 3pm Jenny Balfour-Paul’s Textiles at Textile Society at Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond
24 June Talk at Smedmore House, Dorset
7 May – 4pm Talk at The Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival, London.
5 May Talk at Selvedge magazine’s Indigo Study Day at Chelsea Physic Garden during the London Design Festival
14 Apr – 6pm Talk for the Royal Asiatic Society (non-members welcome). (Click to View/Download Royal Asiatic Society poster)
(Click to Listen to the RAS podcast of the lecture.)
13 Apr – 10am Talk to the Exeter forum at Mint church, Exeter
6 Apr – 6pm Q&A with A N Wilson at the FT Oxford Literary Festival
8 Mar – 8pm Evening talk at Ways with Words by the Water literary festival in Keswick
29 Jan – 11:30am Talk on ‘Natural Dyes of the Indian Sub Continent’ at J D Birla Institute, Kolkata.
24 Jan – 11:30am Talk and Indian book launch at the Victoria Memorial at the ‘Kolkata Literary Meet‘ book gathering (22-26th Jan)
16-17 Jan – morning Indigo workshops for children at Galle Literary Festival 2016, Sri Lanka
13-17 Jan Talk for the Galle Literary Festival 2016, Sri Lanka
JBP with AN Wilson at Oxford Lit Fest

JBP with AN Wilson at Oxford Lit Fest


16 Dec – 6:30pm
Exeter, English-Speaking Union – evening talk and Christmas party
19 Nov – 7pm Deeper than Indigo event/signing in the café bar of Waterstones Picadilly with
blues and jazz by Beyond Blues duo, keyboard Hamish Balfour and bass Mao Yamada.
18 Nov – 6:30pm Talk to the Bristol Society for the Arts of Asia
11 Nov Totnes NADFAS talk at Dartington
7 Nov – 11am–4pm ‘meet the author’/book signing at W.H.Smith, Exeter
5 Nov – 3:30pm V&A Museum, London, talk on natural dyes of India linked to ‘Fabrics of India’ exhibition
26 Oct – 6:45pm The British Library – Reading, and signing event
24 Oct North Cornwall Book Festival
17 Oct – 5pm Isle of Wight Literary Festival at Osborne House
16 Oct – 11:30am Isle of Wight Literary Festival at Northwood House
14 Oct YEDFAS, York – York Evening Decorative and Fine Arts Society
9 Oct – 11am Beverley Literature Festival
23 Sep – 7pm Talk at White Conduit gallery for the exhibition ‘Meaning of Blue’
23 Sep – 1:30pm Talk on a panel about ‘Culture and colour:’ at 100 percent design at Kensington Olympia
17 Aug Speaker for the evening lecture: Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers summer school
19 Jul – 2:45pm-3:45pm

11th Biennial ASTENE Conference
Exeter University Business School, Henderson Lecture Theatre, Xfi Centre.
Tracing Thomas Machell, forgotten explorer.

12 Jul Ways with Words Literary Festival, Dartington, Devon
10 Jul – 7:30pm Music and book reading event in Crediton Library in association with the Crediton Bookshop and Crediton Festival
30 Jun – 6:00pm Devon Weavers Workshop
24 Jun – 12:30pm Royal Society for Asian Affairs lunchtime talk – Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London
19 Jun – 7:00pm Ebenezer Chapel, The Seed Factory, Aller Somerset, TA10 0Q
13 Jun – 1:00pm Charles Causley Literary Festival, Launceston
4 Jun – 5.30pm Evening talk and launch at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University
2 Jun London launch of Deeper than Indigo: Joss Graham Gallery
16 May Somerset Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers
2 May – 9am–5pm London School of Economics: Indigo Workshop (free to all), now in the NAB (New Academic Building)

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The Explorers Journal
Summer 2016, Vol 94 No.2

RSGS Geographer - Summer 2016

RSGS Geographer, Summer 2016

Arbit review, June 4 2016

Arbit review, June 4 2016

ASTENE Bulletin 67 - Summer 2016

ASTENE Bulletin 67 – Summer 2016

Review in Cumbria Life - March 2016

Review in Cumbria Life – March 2016

Telegraph of India, Feb. 13, 2016 - t2 - Books

Telegraph of India – t2 – 13 February 2016

Sri Lanka Daily Mirror

Sri Lanka Daily Mirror

Ei Samay, the Bengali daily from The Times of India

Ei Samay, the Bengali daily from The Times of India – 26 January 2016

The Oldie - November 2015 - DTI Review

The Oldie – November 2015

Crediton Country Courier – 31 July 2015

The Telegraph - 25 July 2015

The Telegraph – 25 July 2015

Country Life - 22 July 2015

Country Life – 22 July 2015

The Spectator 27 June 2015

The Spectator 27 June 2015

The Independent - 18 June 2015

The Independent – 18 June 2015

Western Morning News - 18 June 2015

Western Morning News – 18 June 2015

The Independent - 13 June 2015

The Independent – 13 June 2015

The Guardian - 3 June 2015

The Guardian – 3 June 2015

Hull Daily Mail - 24 April 2015

Hull Daily Mail – 24 April 2015

May 2016 Gulf News logoRead: The intriguing Indigo story on, Jenny Balfour-Paul on the history of the natural blue dye, and how her story interweaves with that of adventurer Thomas Machel.
March 2016 Books Cumbria logo“Jenny Balfour Paul […] winds a skein that takes in the distant past, distant countries and familiar places…” Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends. Also published in the Cumberland News and in Workington Times and Star
December 2015
The TelegraphMicheal Kerr has chosen Deeper than Indigo as one of the best travel books of the year; he calls it “a remarkable story in which she brings vividly to life the man and his times.”
November 2015
The Oldie - logo

‘…this intriguingly complex book…where the relationship between author and subject takes over from straight- forward biography.’
Chloe Colchester, The Oldie

July 2015
The Telegraph‘Travelogue, memoir, detective story, love story – her book is partly each of these and wholly compelling… Balfour Paul makes him [Machell] live on the page.’ Michael Kerr, The Telegraph
Country Life Magazine‘The book evolves into a conversation between herself and her subject, with Machell beginning to write parts of it himself, so that she confesses: “Now I no longer know who is writing this book.” Unorthodox? Certainly, but no less entertaining for that.’ Helena Attlee, Country Life.
The Lady ‘…sure to leave a lasting impression on the reader. A complex and painstakingly researched story.’ The Lady
Talk Radio Europe – live interview with Pippa Jones, Friday 10th July at 10:35am
BBC Radio Devon
RADIO DEVON, breakfast show with Michael Checkers, Saturday 4th July
‘…a strikingly original book, full of fact and feeling.’
Mick Herron, Geographical
June 2015
IndependentThe ‘exotic’ Deeper than Indigo selected by novelist Patrick Gale as one of The Best Summer Reads. The Independent
‘…a curiously compelling book’
Sarah Wheeler, The Spectator
Western Morning News ‘…the story of a forgotten pioneer whose startling diaries shed a surprisingly progressive light on European colonialism.’ Hannah Finch, Western Morning News
The Monocle Weekly, episode 312 – Monocle 24 (Radio)
Independent‘…a valuable addition to our understanding of a time marked by intellectual questioning’ James Attlee, The Independent
Independent ‘…there are coincidences in this beautifully written, cleverly structured book which seem to crack open the very nature of life itself’ Victoria Finlay, The Independent
FemaleFirstTop 10 reasons to travel if you want to write by Jenny Balfour Paul Female First
Link to BBC recording (appearance at 13mins)
Link to BBC recording (appearance at 1hr 32mins)
Link to BBC recording (appearance at 1hr 11mins)
BBCAlisonFernsLink to BBC recording (appearance at 2hr 42mins)
Guardian Thomas Machell: the explorer, the cannibal’s daughter and me “Jenny Balfour Paul has followed Victorian adventurer Thomas Machell from India to Patagonia, from Polynesia to Afghanistan. She reveals how a chance meeting in the British Library sparked a 15-year obsession”
May 2015
South Yorkshire Poetry Festival Postcard Poems: First Place to Jenny Balfour Paul ‘…the whole is more than the sum of its parts’ Peter and Ann Sansom, Bank Street Arts
April 2015 “The life of an East Yorkshire adventurer, Thomas Machell, has been explored in a new book … Jenny’s travels and those of Thomas are woven together as beautifully as any fine bit of indigo … it’s a cracking tale!” Kevin Rushby, author and Guardian travel writer

“Balfour Paul writes with the poetic grasp of Herrick and the narrative authority of Theroux.” Nick Smith for the Explorers Journal

“The author’s alliance with Thomas is an amazing and magical thing — this book must at all costs be read, because the author’s voice — her passion and her mission — is utterly captivating.” Gillon Aitken of Aitken Alexander Associates

March 2015 ‘A deeply moving, totally enchanting account of a great metaphysical mystery.’ A N Wilson

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Jenny Balfour Paul

DeeperThanIndigoSOONJenny Balfour Paul, writer, artist, international lecturer and intrepid traveller, is the author of two books on Indigo, and numerous other writings.

She was consultant curator for the Whitworth Art gallery’s 2007 touring exhibition ‘Indigo, a Blue to Dye For’ and consultant for two documentary films.

IndigoJenny is an Honorary Research Fellow at Exeter University; a Fellow, Councillor and Trustee of the Royal Geographical Society, a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and New York’s Explorers Club; and President of the UK’s Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

She is involved in research into dyes recovered from shipwrecks, is a partner in ‘Silk Road Connect’, an educational initiative launched by cellist Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project in New York in 2009, and promotes revivals of natural dyes throughout the world.

Thomas Machell images reproduced with the kind permission of the British Library.

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GALLE LITERARY FESTIVAL 2016, SRI LANKA (click here to watch the Festival’s trailer video)



Jenny Balfour Paul and Steve Sims (poet and former publisher) watching the Blues Band performing at the launch: Milla Wood, singer, Tim Herniman, sax and violin, Jim Rintoul double bass and Hamish Balfour on keyboard

Jenny Balfour Paul and Steve Sims (poet and former publisher) watching the Blues Band performing at the launch: Milla Wood, singer, Tim Herniman, sax and violin, Jim Rintoul double bass and Hamish Balfour on keyboard

A capacity audience gathered at the Crediton Library in Devon on Friday 10 July to enjoy an evening of author Jenny Balfour Paul reading from her latest book Deeper Than Indigo, with live music provided by four members of Beyond Blues group.

The readings captured the life and writing of the 19th century explorer, mariner and indigo planter Thomas Machell and the extraordinary experiences of Balfour Paul when researching and following the remarkable, hitherto forgotten Victorian.

Music between readings – played by Hamish Balfour, Milla Wood, Tim Herniman and James Rintoul – included Blues, folk, Victorian ballads and a rendering of Loretta McNair’s Blues song Deeper Than Indigo.

The event broke new ground for Crediton Library with the shelves rolled back to create a performance area and seating for 100. Local Chinese and Indian restaurants provided food in the interval.

Book sales for the author signing were managed by Crediton’s Community Bookshop.

More of Devon’s 50 libraries plan to host Jenny Balfour Paul reading from her acclaimed book Deeper Than Indigo as well as live music.

The event was introduced by Steve Sims, poet and former publisher.


Jenny Balfour Paul was a featured speaker at the 2015 Ways With Words Festival of Words and Ideas at Dartington, Devon. Her illustrated talk, ‘Missing Pieces’, evocatively described how her life’s fascination with Indigo led to a deeply personal quest to unpick the life of a forgotten Victorian mariner, indigo planter and explorer, Thomas Machell, which resulted in her widely reviewed and acclaimed book Deeper Than Indigo.

IMG_3124Andy Christian, writer, curator, former managing director of Dartington Hall Trading Company and Vice President of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen chaired the popular session on Sunday 12 July in Dartington’s magnificent Barn theatre.

“I have read the book twice,” said Christian, “and am fascinated by the story, which reveals an increasing integration and synchronicity of their lives. The spiritual journey is an important part of the book and it is a true story.”

Jenny Balfour Paul being introduced by Andy Christian

Ways with Words book signingUsing Machell’s colour sketches and her own watercolours and photographs, Balfour Paul transported the audience to the exotic places she explored in the footsteps of Thomas Machell (and often the footsteps of her own younger self too). These included Indigo and coffee plantations in Bengal and Kerala, China during the Opium wars, the pirate coasts of Arabia and the remote Polynesian Marquesas Islands in the southern Pacific, where Machell fell in love with a cannibal chief’s daughter (and where she confessed to falling for a handsome tattooed local sailor 150 years later).

Balfour Paul explained that: “Without the word ‘Indigo’ I would never have found the forgotten five journals and embarked on a ten-year journey in which I got to know Thomas better and better.”

Dartington’s Ways With Words 2015 Festival featured ten days of international speakers, including Ben Okri, Karen Armstrong, Penelope Lively, Michael Buerk, George Monbiot and A.C. Grayling.


The Exeter University launch of Deeper than Indigo was held in the internationally renowned Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, where Jenny is an Honorary Research Fellow. Her talk, introduced by Middle Eastern historian Dr James Onley, was delivered to a packed lecture hall and followed by a lively reception in the ‘Street’ gallery space, spilling over onto the terrace outside. Guests included Professors Emeritus Tim Niblock and Richard Hitchcock, and Paul Auchterlonie (who first alerted Jenny to Machell’s journals) from the Institute and, from the English department, Professor Regenia Gagnier, Dr Andy Brown and Dr Corinna Wagner. The festive atmosphere was enhanced by live music played by Peter Adcock. (Photos by Alison Edwards)

A N Wilson, Kitty Carruthers of Medina Publishing and the author, Jenny Balfour Paul

A N Wilson, Kitty Carruthers of Medina Publishing and the author, Jenny Balfour Paul


Ten years in the making, Jenny Balfour Paul’s new book on tracing forgotten explorer Thomas Machell, entitled Deeper than Indigo, has been heralded by A N Wilson as ‘One of the most remarkable books I have ever read’ and Gillon Aitken as ‘utterly captivating’.

Joss Graham

Hosted by the Joss Graham Gallery in Belgravia, London, the event was proclaimed a great success with crowds spilling onto the street. Celebrities and guests included two of Thomas Machell’s relatives, Peggy Machell and David Mills, the former journeying specially from the USA for the event. Jenny’s only respite from signing books for 3 hours was to pose for pictures taken by Liz Thompson for BookBrunch. Music was provided by pianist and composer Hamish Balfour, accompanied by Mao Yamada on the double bass.

Deeper than Indigo is described as an intriguing odyssey set on the edges of time, encompassing biography, memoir, detective story, travelogue and history to tell a remarkable tale of East-West connections and a mysterious love.

order your copy now