On a Sea of Glass : The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic

Titanic Review

On a Sea of Glass : The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic

People searching for new information on Titanic can be very specific in what element of the story they are interested in. Some are looking for technical and design information; Others want to see new photos of the ship. The history of the three sisters Olympic, Titanic and Britannic continues to fascinate researchers. Lastly, a book focusing on the passengers and crew will draw people to the human side of the story.  On a Sea of Glass is a comprehensive book for those interested in every aspect of the lost liner.

The introduction by historian and author George Behe sets the tone of what to expect from Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton and Bill Wormstedt: an authoritative text, crystal clear photos, and a wealth of new information. A glance at the table of contents shows that every facet of the Titanic's story is explored in close detail.

No book should try to match Walter Lord's narrative, but this book has an intimate quality to it. The reader can imagine themselves mingling with an interesting cast of characters. Whether walking with Joseph Bell, the future chief engineer of Olympic and Titanic, through the Harland and Wolff yards or trying to find your way around Titanic with Charles Lightoller. There's the sad letter David Blair writes aboard the docked Titanic about how he would not be making the maiden voyage. Various lookouts asked officers repeatedly during the voyage for a pair of binoculars. The request was never denied, just the assurance they would get them 'later'. It's easy to sense the frustration coming from George Hogg and George Symons on this subject. It feels like eavesdropping to be in line at the pursers desk when Eleanor Cassebeer carelessly makes an anti-Semitic remark to the Jewish Ben Foreman; sitting in a chilly lounge with Philipp Mock as a steward told passengers they were nearing ice; when William Silvey slips an apple into the pocket of his wife's coat as they are preparing to evacuate.

The appendices examine myths, misinformation and dangling questions on a variety subjects. Take, for instance, the chapter on the candidates for an apparent suicide during the final minutes. All possibilities are shown through a skeptic's eye and with the evidence skillfully presented, it allows the reader to come to their own conclusion. Other sections cover whether or not binoculars would have made a difference, Thomas Andrews final movements, and the factors dealing with Titanic breaking apart, among other questions readers might have. The authors use mostly first person accounts to illustrate their arguments. Charts and diagrams help illustrate their points.

It's clear, by reading the end notes, that the three authors didn't rely on just the usual sources for information. That is a trap many people writing about the ship fall into. Hence why so many Titanic books are interchangeable. On a Sea of Glass is different. Many of the sources the reader sees will not be found in other books. Each page reveals a new fact, story, anecdote. It also shows a collaborative effort between the authors, other researchers, and descendants of Titanic families.
A book this size may have some minor grammatical errors, or a mis-caption or two, but overall most things appear to be checked and double checked.

There have been a number of excellent books that are coming out, or have come out to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Titanic's sinking. This is one book that everyone interested in the ship must have. Fellow researchers will regard this as a definitive source to be consulted on the subject and readers will no doubt consider this book a favorite in their collection.

Acknowledgements

Michael Poirier

Comment and discuss

  1. Tad G. Fitch said:

    Hello, here is an update on Kent Layton, Bill Wormstedt, and my book, which is going to press, possibly as early as tomorrow. As such, TMB Studios is being asked to place our order for stock of "On A Sea of Glass" as soon as possible; we will be determining our stock levels by the number of pre-orders placed, and we are almost certainly going to be the only retailer who can get it to American readers in time for the centennial anniversary. Please place your order by Wednesday to help ensure pre-anniversary fulfillment: ... Read full post

  2. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    Thanks for the heads up Tad. I'm going to have to place my order ASAP.

  3. avatar

    J. Kent Layton said:

    Just a quick note: based on previous experience, we do not believe that American retailers such as Amazon, Barnes, Target, etc., will have time to get the book in stock before the centennial. We will be getting our stock super-fast direct from the publisher, and will be ahead of any other retailer on this continent. And our US customers won't have to pay any international shipping fees to get (quickly) from Europe. A few more details of note: A4 interior page size, hardcover with dust-jacket Publisher's retail price: 50GBP/$80USD 440 pages + 16 pages of full color (total... Read full post

  4. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    Placed my order for the signed edition. Looking forward to it!

  5. Tad G. Fitch said:

    Thanks Michael, I hope you enjoy the book, and I'm sure you will find it interesting. All my best, Tad

  6. Matthew Farr said:

    Just ordered my signed copy as well. Looking forward to reading it!

  7. Tad G. Fitch said:

    Thanks Matthew, I hope that you will enjoy the book. Kind regards, Tad

  8. Tad G. Fitch said:

    I just found out from our editor that "On A Sea of Glass" is officially being printed, which means that it should be available soon. Here is the preorder link for those who haven't had a chance to reserve a copy yet:

  9. avatar

    J. Kent Layton said:

    What I am not sure anyone can understand without actually seeing the book is just how many different aspects of the disaster are touched on in its pages, and just how much detail we get in to in the narrative and appendices. It is an unprecedented tome on the legendary liner, and I can't wait until it starts arriving in people's hands and they are able to read it for the first time!

  10. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    Kent, what's good to see with the avalanche of books and re-releases of some of the movies is that there are some real gems coming out from the hands of the varsity teams of Titanic researchers. I'm already reading my copy of the Centennial Reappraisal and I'm learning a lot. When I saw the names of the people behind On A Sea Of Glass, I knew this was going to be one of the "must haves."

  11. avatar

    J. Kent Layton said:

    Thanks for the kind words, Mike

  12. avatar

    J. Kent Layton said:

    Well, I heard a truck in my driveway this afternoon. Peering out, I saw the yellow truck with the letters "DHL" on the side. A clearly-overwhelmed delivery girl then proceeded to carry nine large and very heavy boxes to my side door. Seconds before I saw the tag with the return-address, I figured out what it was. could not finish one-hundred years ago. I've already claimed my own copy and flipped through every page. The book is tremendously large, heavy and well put together. The... Read full post

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  13. Jake Peterson said:

    When should I expect to see it in bookstores? I'll certainly look for a copy next time I'm there.

  14. avatar

    J. Kent Layton said:

    Jake, When it does eventually arrive State-side, it will be available everywhere. But that won't be for weeks yet. That's because the book is published in the UK and shipped to American retailers via 'slow boat'. We had ours shipped super-fast via air freight; not cheap, but we knew plenty of people would want to order and receive them in time for the 100th anniversary. Hope this helps!

  15. Jake Peterson said:

    Well, Amazon gives a Jun 2012 release date, so I guess y'all were able to get it published earlier than expected. Will certainly look into buying a copy. I'll read through the descriptions and see if it's something I might be interested in getting.

  16. avatar

    J. Kent Layton said:

    Jake, There is a review already up at this site which may be of use to you: As far as the release date, Amazon has been notorious in "creating" release dates out of nothing. We always intended, barring disaster, to publish this in February or March, and that's how it worked out in the end. We just managed to get it in stock for anyone on 'this side of the pond' before any other retailers. That DHL delivery girl certainly... Read full post

  17. Jake Peterson said:

    Well, as you can tell, U.S.'s Amazon is the one that gave the date, so you know which side I'm on. LOL Will certainly re-read the review. Thanks! edit: It sounds like a good read, but since I just spent $30 for Mr. Halpern's book, I'll have to wait a while. It does sound like an interesting updated re-telling of Walter Lord's books with letters being supplied from the people who where there. Sounds like a good read.

  18. avatar

    J. Kent Layton said:

    Jake, Glad you liked the review. I can assure you that this is far more than an 'updated re-telling' of anything that's been in print before, though... I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how we took the familiar and the new and wove it all together in a narrative that reads like none other. But, I digress ... LOL! As far as Sam's book, I just received my copy of that from the publisher for having penned the Foreword. It is an excellent book, and should give you a great deal of 'food for thought' while you save your pennies for the next book. :) Take care!

  19. Jake Peterson said:

    Only negative thing I have to say so far, is that the cover of your book, and Mr. John Maxtone-Graham's books almost look alike, save for the reverse image. I'm sure that was unintentional, but I guess there are only so many ways to show a sinking Titanic on the cover when you want to use that for the picture of the book.

  20. Matthew Farr said:

    The book looks great! I ordered a signed copy so to hear that it should be arriving soon has me super excited. I can hardly wait to get it and read it!

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2012) On a Sea of Glass : The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic (Titanic Review, ref: #15842, published 15 March 2012, generated 6th August 2020 09:36:33 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/on-a-sea-of-glass.html