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The Paper Time Machine

Imagine the past in colour? Now you don’t have to… by Wolfgang Wild and Jordan Lloyd

This book is fully funded, but you can still support it!


The Synopsis

Imagine the past in colour? Now you don’t have to…

The Paper Time Machine is a book that will change the way you think about the past.

The book will contain 130 historical photographs arranged chronologically, chosen and introduced by Wolfgang Wild, the creator and curator of the remarkable Retronaut website. That would be reason enough for a book – the site has become global phenomenon once it was launched in 2010, providing a stream of astonishing, sharable images that tear a hole in your map of time.

But The Paper Time Machine goes further. Each time-bending image chosen by Wolfgang have in turn been painstakingly restored and rendered in colour by Jordan Lloyd of Dynamichrome, a company that has taken the craft of colour reconstruction to a new level.

Each element in the monochrome images has been researched and colour checked for historical authenticity. As the layers of colour build up, the effect is disorientatingly real and the decades and centuries just fall away. It is as though we are standing at the original photographer’s elbow.

This is a unique book – a collection of historical ‘remixes’ that exist alongside the original photographs but draw out qualities, textures and details that have hitherto remained hidden. Each image will be accompanied by captions from Wolfgang on why the image matters and Jordan on how it was restored.

Brought to you by the team who published the international bestselling phenomenon, Letters of Note, The Paper Time Machine will be an exquisite 300 page object. Bound and printed on the best quality art paper, with two 8-page gatefolds, we are confident it will be the most important photographic book of the year.

And you can help us make it happen and get your name listed in the limited edition first run as a subscriber. Unbound, Retronaut, Dynamichrome and Getty Images all share a common vision. We believe making a book should be an adventure.

And what bigger adventure is there than going back in time…

Book specifications

304 pp

246 mm x 279 mm

130 5-colour images

130 gsm wood-free art paper with matt varnish

Stitched and bound in cloth

Head and tail bands

Silk ribbon

The Excerpt

Drag between the images to see them transformed.


July 1888: One year before the Paris World Fair for which it was created, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel's Tower stands one third complete. At 1,000 feet, it was eventually to become the tallest building in the world.

The original colour of the Eiffel Tower during its construction in 1888 was called 'Venetian Red' as shown in the photograph, applied in the workshop before being assembled on site. The tower has been repainted over a dozen times since in different shades ranging from a reddish brown to bronze.

Due to the increased blue sensitivity of the photographic emulsion used in the image, the sky appears much lighter and washed out, but the lack of cast shadows in the photograph suggest an overcast day.

Several paintings and picture postcards of the Exposition site were used as a reference for the background buildings, and the stonework of Port de la Bourdonnais on the Seine riverbank being constructed in the middle of the photograph are sampled from contemporary photographs.


1921: A pair of horn amplifiers at Bolling Air Field, Washington, USA. Such detectors, developed in response to the rise of military aircraft, were rendered obsolete by the arrival of radar.

The 99th Aero Squadron of the United States Army Air Service first served in World War 1 on the Western Front, and was re-designated as the 99th Corps Observation Squadron in 1921, coinciding with the unit's relocation to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C.

The neo-classical building of the National War College at Fort McNair completed in 1907 in the background of this photograph still exists today.


1935: Officials ride in one of the penstock pipes of the soon-to-be-completed Hoover Dam. In the same year, the pouring of the project's concrete had concluded - a total of 3.25million cubic yards.

112 people died building the Hoover Dam.

Conveying the officials in the photograph is a section of 30ft diameter steel penstock pipe nearly three inches thick. Contemporary photographs of the Hoover Dam concrete, made with locally sourced aggregate were used as colour references, and adjusted to reflect what would have been newly poured concrete. Arizona's geology in the background remains the same as it did back in 1935.


1908: A trapper boy, one mile inside Turkey Knob Mine in Macdonald, West Virginia, photographed by Lewis Hine. The mining town of Turkey Knob had grown up 15 years before - its name derived from the wild turkeys hunted in the area. Lewis Hine, a New York City schoolteacher and sociologist, traversed America on behalf of the National Child Labor Committee - often taking pictures of child workers without the permission of their employers.

Despite the darkness, the brief explosion of colour seen in the camera flash are sourced from contemporary examples of other mines within the region.


November 1925: Tutankhamun's burial mask. Three years before, Howard Carter made his momentous discovery of the boy pharoah's lost tomb. It was to be five further years before the tomb was finally emptied.

The funerary mask of Tutankhamun was placed directly over the mummified remains of the pharaoh. The 24 pound mask is made of solid gold inlaid with blue glass and other semi-precious stones; such as carnelian, obsidian and quartz, dulled by over 3000 years of dust.

For the colour references, Carter's original inventory notes were cross referenced with the restored artefact in the Museum of Egypt, with specific details checked and provided by Egyptologists.

The black resinous material seen is a result of post-mummification combustion, whereas in other areas the linen bandages are remarkably intact.


The Authors

Wolfgang Wild is the creator of Retronaut - a brand that shows “the past like you wouldn’t believe”. In its article on Retronaut, Fast Company wrote: "Retronaut's images are chosen to make the viewer feel like they’re looking not at the past, but rather at a different version of the present." In 2014, Wild licensed Retronaut to Mashable and National Geographic published the first Retronaut book with two further books following in 2016. Number 20 on the Times of London’s list of the “50 people you should follow on Twitter”, Wild is guest curator for a range of digital and physical museums, and lives near Oxford, England, with his wife, Annie, and two children.

‘Enlightenment and wonder’ GUARDIAN

‘Web time-lords’ TOWN MAGAZINE

‘Retronaut. Amazing.’ INSTYLE MAGAZINE

‘Frozen fragments of time. This is the joy of Retronauting’ JONATHAN JONES, GUARDIAN

Jordan Lloyd is the director of Dynamichrome, a team of creative experts based in London and Cambridge. We are dedicated to sharing the stories behind some of history's greatest black and white photographs through digital colour reconstruction.

Early photographic technology lacked a crucial ingredient - colour - the gap between the world as we see it, and the abstract, black and white world we imagine. As early as the invention of the medium, skilled artisans applied colour to photographs by hand, making an attempt to convey the vibrancy and immediacy of life in colour.

Questions & Answers

Stacey Canon Stacey Canon asked:

What an exciting project! Do you know approximately the timeline when the book would be published and ready to ship? 3 months, 6 months etc. I realize you must reach your pledge goal prior to moving forward. Thank you so much for your assistance.
- Stacey

Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

Hi Stacey! Thanks for your question, and thank you for finding the book exciting. We're really looking forward to creating it, fingers crossed. Assuming it’s funded, the book will be published in October 2016 but it is absolutely on track to hit 100% by the end of April. Wolfgang

Hi Wolfgang, it's heresy to say so, but amazing though the colouring is I still prefer the images in black and white (something to do with history books at school I guess). That being said, I love the project, I'm a long term fan of retronaut, thanks for everything you do. I'm not sure this is a question, is it?

Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

Hi Jen! It may not be a question, but its certainly good to get your thoughts - and thank you for being a long term fan! That's really cool. Jordan and I also love the images in b/w - this is like a remix. Its not meant to replace or improve the images, just give another angle. Nothing can replace the originals. Feel free to add any more comments! Wolfgang

luz lu0213 luz lu0213 asked:

muy bueno

Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

Thank you!

Gloria Hayes Gloria Hayes asked:

Do you have any idea how thrilling it is to simply "wave a magic wand" and bring the past to life once again? I adore the concept of moving the cursor over the pictures instead of clicking or before and afters, etc. It gives one a sense of stepping back in time ,of being there at the very moment ! Brilliant !

Jordan Lloyd Jordan Lloyd replied:

Hi Gloria,

Thank you very much for your comment, it's very much what The Paper Time Machine hopes to achieve.



Hi I sent you both a message, did you receive it?

Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

We did! I think Jordan will have replied...?

Hi, I'm a web producer for The Weather Channel ( I would love to create a slideshow of your images! Please let me know if this is possible. I can be reached at

Thank you!

Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

That sounds great, Nicole! I'll drop you a line


Neal Grant Neal Grant asked:

is this open to international residents (USA in this case?) if so would shipping be included or additional? thanks.

Unbound Unbound replied:

Hi Neal,

Thanks for getting in touch. We certainly do accept pledges from the USA. The shipping cost is calculated on the payment page after you've entered your delivery details.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community & Events Manager

Drew Stean Drew Stean asked:

I pledged on this because I have a photo my father took of the Sydney Opera House in the final stages of construction in 1965 whilst he was working on the SS Canberra. The picture is rather poor but full colour. Would you be able to work your magic on it as I would love a larger version on my wall.

Kindest regards,


Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

Hi Drew! Well, normally that's a piece of work that Jordan would charge for - but send it over, and we'll take a look...


Hi - a pleasure to pledge towards such a great idea! I'm wondering about the funding slowing down and what could be done to promote things? I know you expected to be at 100% by April - are there plans to push for more support/funding?

Thanks and good luck


Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

We'll get there, Stephen!

J M J M asked:

Will there be a black and white only version available? Thanks.

Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

HA! We will be featuring the b/w images along side the colorised images.

Hi guys - amazing project and will support it! I just had two questions for you:
1) It's my first time on Unbound: what happens if the project is not fully funded?
2) I love the detail you've put in this restoration and can't wait to see the book. A question (pardon for my ignorance, perhaps could be the object of a future publication): In an age of HD colors, I wonder why you chose to restore the photos with a gentle vintage feel to them essentially reiterating that they are indeed aged 'mixes' of historical photos? How would the experience change (perhaps in the future) had they been restored as if they had been photos taken with a DLSR in our time, with vivid & rich colors? :)

Jordan Lloyd Jordan Lloyd replied:

Hi Christian,

Thanks for your comments. I can only comment on the colour work rather than the actual book, but we're going with the most authentic representation of what the photographer was looking at through their viewfinder, rather than trying to aim for a specific look like an Autochrome, Kodachrome or DLSR. The looks associated with those film stocks are representative of their process, much like the black and white information is present in the monochrome photographs that are colour reconstructed in the book - the process brings together a restored version of the image before any deterioration and whatever colour references we can find and bring it all together. I can say that our research alone could be a book by itself!



Hi, I've just pledged, very excited! 2 process Questions...

1) If I want to get two copies, should I just pledge twice, or is there a discount for shipping two at once somehow?
2) The 2 A4 prints you get with the $465 version... can they be of any photo in the book, or also chosen from the same 6 options as the A3 print on the $200 version? Also, why is the more expensive version a smaller paper size?



Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

Hi Dan! Thanks very much for pledging - and we are very excited that it will definitely be being published.

Two copies - I would imagine you could certainly get a discount on postage. Can I suggest you email Unbound support ( who can answer this for you.

Prints - let us know which you are interested in and we will see what we can do... I think the size is an error - but support can help with that too.

Thanks again for your support!


Hi There,

Any updates on the progress of this project??


Wolfgang Wild Wolfgang Wild replied:

There is, Brandon - its coming out! And we're extremely pleased


David Riker David Riker asked:

I've just learned about your project and have made a pledge. What an extraordinary undertaking! Thank you! As a filmmaker living in New York City I have made a number of films about the city's new immigrants and have often looked at Sherman's Ellis Island portraits and dreamed of what they would look like in color. When I saw some of these images transformed by the artists at Dynamichrome I was left breathless. To me it is not only a beautiful work of artistry, but a deeply political project, allowing us to see with new eyes -- and hopefully to understand in new ways -- the humanity of those uprooted. I hope that one of the six images might be a Sherman... My very best, David

Jordan Lloyd Jordan Lloyd replied:

Thank you very much David, we very much hope you do enjoy the book, it will be rather special! - Jordan, Dynamichrome

The Rewards

All supporters get their name printed in every edition of the book. All levels include immediate access to the author's shed.

E-book edition and your name at the end of the book
📖 Pledge $15 89 pledges
1st edition hardback book, ebook edition and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $40 518 pledges
Signed 1st edition hardback book, ebook edition and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $65 107 pledges
A pack of sixty postcards featuring 6 different images from the book (10 of each), plus signed 1st edition hardback book, ebook edition and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $95 19 pledges
Everything up to collectable level plus a 297 x 420mm (A3) giclee digital print on 310gsm art paper (choose 1 of 6 images from the book), plus signed 1st edition hardback book, ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge $190 27 pledges
Deluxe Edition
A signed & dedicated, hand numbered 1st edition in a linen presentation box with 2 giclée (A4) digital prints on 310 gsm art paper
📖 Pledge $440 6 pledges
Getty Tour
Everything up to the collectable edition, plus a guided tour of the Getty Archive with Wolfgang (travel not included)
📖 Pledge $625 2 pledges
Your Own Photograph Transformed into Colour
The Paper Time Machine will transform one of your own family photographs, restoring it like new and reconstructing it into colour. The result will be a beautiful 297 x 420mm (A3) giclee digital print on 310gsm art paper (mounted, but not framed). Plus a signed 1st edition hardback book, ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

Everything up to the deluxe level, plus we will restore and colour one of your own photographs and produce a broadcast quality 15 minute film of the whole process from initial consultation to the final unveiling of the coloured print