DescriptionWilliam M. Timlin. The Ship That Sailed to Mars. A Fantasy. Told and Pictured by William M. Timlin. London: George G. Harrap & Company Limited, [n.d., 1923].
First edition of "the most original and beautiful children's book of the 1920s" (Dalby). Large quarto. Forty-eight pages of calligraphic text lithographed in blue, black, and gray and forty-eight color plates mounted on gray mat paper.
Publisher's quarter vellum over gray boards with front cover decoratively lettered in dark gray and spine pictorially stamped and lettered in gilt. Corners noticeably rubbed, some rubbing to board edges and spine extremities, vellum spine dust-soiled, browning to boards and endpapers, minor thumb-soiling or light staining to the textblock top and fore-edge, and a few tiny marginal tears. Gilt spine titles remain vibrant. In the scarce original gray paper dust jacket with front panel pictorially stamped and lettered in gray and spine pictorially stamped in brown. Dust jacket chipped and worn at edges, spine ends, and corners. Fold lines and edges noticeably abraded with slight creasing throughout. The folds, spine ends, and corners have been professionally restored at several spots, maintaining a very appealing overall look. A very good copy of a book difficult to find in a dust jacket of any quality.
William M. Timlin (1892-1943) was born in Northumberland and "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...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 [before his later series of paintings, intended as plates for a book to be entitled The Building of a Fairy City, was published]" (Horne, The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators, p. 413).
"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...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...A total of only 2,000 copies of the book were produced in Britain, of which 250 were distributed in America by Stokes of New York (in 1924)" (Dalby, The Golden Age of Children's Book Illustration, p. 102).
The story follows the adventures of an Old Man who "had taken his leave of men, and mens ways," and with the help of Fairies, builds a Ship to sail to Mars. The book is divided into three parts: Part One describes the planning, building, launching, and departure of the Ship; Part Two describes its journey to Mars, including its encounters with the Monsters, the Seven Sisters, the Meteor, the Eden Serpent, the Air sprite, the Star of the Classic Myths, and the Pirate Planet; Part Three describes the arrival and landing at the City of Mars and follows the Old Man as he explores the wonders of the City, including the Temple, the Zoo, the Palace Garden, Thunder City, and the Finished Palace of the Princess.
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