William Mitcheson Timlin was an noted architect and fantasy illustrator. He was born in Ashington, Northumberland, the son of a colliery foreman. He showed talent for drawing at Morpeth Grammar School, and received a scholarship to the Armstrong College of Art in Newcastle. In 1912, he joined his parents in South Africa where he completed his training in art and architecture and remained for the rest of his life.
Timlin founded the Kimberley Athenaeum Club's Art Section in 1914, and began exhibiting illustrations and poetic fantasies in pen and watercolor, as well as landscapes in watercolor, pastel, and oil. He did numerous designs for covers and illustrations, as well as commissioned illuminations. His huge output was maintained while he worked as a practicing architect in Kimberley, designing its hospital, the War Memorial, and the Boys' and Girls' High Schools. His work was regularly exhibited. He also wrote stories and composed music.
Timlin worked on his masterpiece, The Ship that Sailed to Mars, for two years. The fantasy classic was published in England by Harrap, in 1923, in an edition of only 2000 copies – a mere 250 of which were made available in America – The Ship that Sailed to Mars contains 48 color plates, which alternate with 48 pages of Timlin’s own calligraphic text.