Book selection in the 1st class Lounge R&W room and 2nd class library

Mark Baber

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Many years ago, in the third message on this page, Bob Godfrey noted that White Star obtained its library books from The Times Book Club. This was touted in the line's display advertising in The Times, as follows:
The WHITE STAR LINE ROYAL MAIL STEAMERS Titanic, Olympic, Adriatic, Oceanic, Majestic, Baltic, Cedric, Celtic, and Arabic have a perfect circulating library service for passengers. By contract with The Times the advantages of THE TIMES BOOK CLUB are available for first-class passengers during every voyage without charge, and a liberal supply is carried of all the newest books.
Similar notes (with different ship names, of course) were contained in the ads for the Cunard, Atlantic Transport, American, Allan and Union-Castle lines. The Cunard and Allan ads mentioned first and second class passengers, Union-Castle's mentioned "saloon passengers," but the those of the three IMM lines mentioned first class only.
 

Mette McCall

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Mar 27, 2011
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Does anyone know what kind of literature the 2nd class library offered its guests? Were there magazine subscriptions too, etc.?
 

N Alison

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May 19, 2013
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I've heard that Gracie tried getting others to read his book about the American civil war on board. Did he bring a copy himself or did the first class library have a copy on hand?
 

Bob Godfrey

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It was his own copy, and I doubt that any of his fellow passengers actually read it. The Truth about Chickamauga was dull stuff for anybody but military historians like Gracie, and not likely to be in any best-seller list! It did, however, inspire the title for his most famous book - The Truth about the Titanic.
 

N Alison

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May 19, 2013
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Thank you for answering my question.

I imagine that the betterment through education angle that was predominant at the time would have led them to be careful about what was selected for their bookshelves. Would any history work have actually made the cut or would they have tried to stick to purely fiction? I believe I heard that they picked books that were current, sort of like book-of-the-month material.
 

Bob Godfrey

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The books in the Titanic library cabinets were not selected by the White Star Line, being provided (and changed from time to time) under contract by the Times Book Club, so would have been mostly safe choices - books by well-known authors or which had at least been favourably reviewed. This could include popular histories, but nothing too academic.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Maybe - Morgan Robertson was a popular writer. More recently Quantas included the Denzel Washington film Flight, which dwells at length on all the possible causes of a plane crash, among its selection of in-flight movies!
 

Dan Kappes

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Sep 26, 2018
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Now that's what I call an interesting question. Given the preoccupation with respectability in those days, I expect choosing the books for the library might have been a bit tricky. One had to consider the ladies ... so no Elinor Glynn then, though I don't think she'd really got into her stride by 1912. Not sure. Some improving biographies and some religious books, for certain, I would have thought. I suddenly realise how little I know about books for popular consumption in that era. Did they have thrillers, or crime books? You'd expect some Dickens, but even he only became really iconic a little later on. Diary of a Nobody or Three Men in a Boat, maybe? And would they have reflected the international mix of passengers, with American and European literature?

Anyway, one does hope they didn't have Futility in there ....

I have a vague idea that anyone, in either 1st or 2nd class could use the library.
According to Charles Pellegrino in his book Her Name, Titanic, there was a copy of Futility on board, so that is ironic.