New York: Frederick A. Stokes Comapny, 1923. Item #03973
William Timlin's Masterpiece
'The Ship That Sailed To Mars'
Forty-Eight 'Fantastic' Color Plates
TIMLIN, William M. The Ship that Sailed to Mars, A Fantasy. Told and Pictured by William M. Timlin. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, .
First American Edition. Limited to 250 copies for the US of which this is number 43.
Large quarto (12 x x 9 3/16 inches; 305 x 233 mm.). 96 pp. All on thick gray paper, comprising forty-eight mounted color plates and forty-eight mounted leaves of calligraphic text.
Quarter vellum over gray boards, front cover decoratively lettered in black, spine elaborately stamped in gilt, gray end-papers. A near fine copy, the gilt on the spine bright and fresh, one of the best that we have ever seen.
William Timlin (1893-1943), “born in Ashington, Northumberland, Timlin was educated in England but emigrated to South Africa before 1915 and studied art there. He did illustrations in pen and ink and watercolour, and exhibited regularly in South Africa, where he practised as an architect. He wrote stories, composed music, illustrated periodicals, produced watercolour fantasies, painted in oil, and produced etchings. His book, The Ship That Sailed to Mars, was published in 1923 and the film rights were purchased in the US, where Timlin was popular during his lifetime. It has been asserted that the illustrations to this book put him in the top ten of fantasy illustrators with Rackham, Dulac, Goble and Nielsen. He died in Kimberley, South Africa” (Alan Horne, The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators).
“The most original and beautiful children’s book of the 1920s was William M. Timlin’s masterpiece The Ship That Sailed to Mars: A Fantasy. Excelling the production values previously lavished on Willy Pogany and Harry Clarke, George Harrap published this huge and magnificent volume in November 1923, finely bound in quarter vellum richly decorated in gilt. ‘Told and Pictured by William M. Timlin’, the book contained 48 superb colour plates by the artist, alternated throughout with 48 leaves adorned with his fine calligraphic and poetic text. These pieces of art were all mounted by hand on grey matte paper, reminiscent of Harrap’s best pre-war editions de luxe, notably Pogany’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Timlin’s fantasy is a magical combination of science fiction and fairyland. His watercolours equal the best work of Arthur Rackham and W. Heath Robinson, seen to great effect in ‘The Raising of the Tower’, ‘The Celebration’, ‘The Palace Gardens’, ‘The Seven Sisters’ (living in compact little moons, each complete with doors, windows and chimneys), ‘The Jeweller’s Shop’ (‘An elf would run out from some low-browed jeweller’s shop and press a priceless ruby into his hand’), and ‘The Temple’ (‘Myriad-pinnacled, with daring spans of flying buttress and airy bridge, a place of supreme happiness’).
The film rights to the book were sold in America, but the movie, which was to be called Get Off the Earth, was never completed… His later series of paintings, intended as plates for a book to be entitled The Building of a Fairy City, were never published in that form, but some (including the magical ‘Fantasy and Triumphal Arch’) have been issued as postcards in South Africa” (Richard Dalby, The Golden Age of Children’s Book Illustration, p. 102).
"Only 2000 copies were printed (including 250 copies prepared for distribution in America under the Stokes imprint). Harrap's remaining stock of the book and the original drawings were destroyed by enemy action in early 1941 and the first edition is scarce." Locke, A Spectrum of Fantasy Volume II, p. 109.