Rasor's Titanic Historiography Annotated Bibliography


Nov 12, 2000
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Hi all,

thought I would get a discussion rolling on Eugene Rasor's Titanic bibliography. here is my review as it will appear on my website. who else has an opinion on this one?

the author: Eugene Rasor.
the book: The Titanic: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography.

The author is a professional bibliographer with some 11 bibliographies to his credit. As such, his Titanic bibliography has both the strengths and weaknesses of someone educated in bibliography, if not necessarily in Titanic. The work is split into three parts, a historical narrative, descriptive subject lists, and the annotated book list.

Parts one and two are very well done with extensive descriptive text in general references, history, background and context. The subject lists are also extensive covering in excellent detail such diverse items as paintings, sermons, poems and memorabilia. There is excellent discussion of movies, museums, societies and journals, amongst others. An exception is the Internet, which is very poorly represented.

The book list, however, is the most important part of any Titanic bibliography, and here things are a bit more problematic. There are indexes for authors and subjects, but not for titles, for example. Another surprising omission is the lack of isbn numbers.

There are also some printing inaccuracies, including listing Lawrence Beesley’s book as being published just three weeks after the disaster; it was actually published in June, 1912.

Some of the issues that crop up from the author’s inexperience with the subject include a few humorous mistakes, such as identifying William Barnes’ book as a biography of Thomas Andrews. Also Martin Gardner’s book is identified as a pro-psychic work, when it is quite the opposite. A few other quirks include identifying Charles Lightoller as the ship’s First Officer; and the Carpathia’s name gets mangled as Carpathian a few times in the text.

Other faux pas include, in the descriptive text, crediting Eaton but not Haas for Falling Star, yet crediting Haas but not Eaton for A Journey through Time (although they are correctly credited in the book list itself).

The book list contains a total of 674 entries. A fair portion of these entries are only marginally related to the subject, however. There are quite a few titles representing generic works on British history, shipbuilding, and maritime history; the Titanic connection is often marginal. There are also a number of works about other famous shipwrecks that really have nothing to do with Titanic.

Of more concern than what was included is what was not. A very quick perusal turned up quite a number of titles missing in action including works by Arthur O. Cooke, William Sloper, David Haisman, Philip Littlejohn, Tom Kuntz and Beverly McMillan, just to name a few. Finally, although some titles published in the year 2000 are included, most are not, including important works by David Brown, Senan Molony, and Alan Ruffman.

Despite these omissions, the book list is quite extensive. It cannot be said to be the definitive list, however. Still, there is a lot more to this work than just a list of books, and on most other fronts this work does a very credible job of covering the subject.
 
Dec 8, 2000
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Only about half way through, Mike, but pretty much in agreement with what you've written, all while enjoying the book immensely. I've already been struck by the curiously inconsistent coverage of recent publications: very US-centric, this bibliography, it seems. Sadly he's not much chop on poetry or fiction either.

Then there's the listings of magazine articles in with the books. I haven't yet worked out Rasor's rationale for this these listings (or his selection criteria for inclusion in the first place), even if the listed items are quite interesting. However, if I stopped flitting through the book like a mad thing and actually READ it, I'd probably find out, right? Right.

(Avert your eyes from the next bit, Mike.)

Apart from the academic and curiousity value of the work, the majority of those interested in Titanic related books would find the readily available on-line resources such as *cough* The Titanic Book Site of more immediate use in the degree and depth of material covered. Another strength is that the information is constantly updated as new material comes through.

Rasor's book is a good one to have available through the local library network, perhaps, rather than buy it unless you're a bibliomaniac like, well, people on this thread.

Adieu,
Fiona
 

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