Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Titanic, again

Full title: Titanic 101. The Great Infographic History

Authors: Steve Hall (text) and Katie Beard (design)
Genre: Non fiction, monograph
Attributes: 144 pages, hard cover

Publisher: The History Press (2013)

On the scale of Zero to OneZero (i.e. borrowed from local library)

Titanic 101, with a title that sounds like that of a university course, is an interesting collection of facts for the Titanic devotees. This is not exactly a book to read. It is one to look through. For a quick absorption of all the facts listed in this little reference book, the authors incorporated suggestive infographics: 101 of them, to be precise. These visual aids are perhaps the most original aspect, since the factual load is sometimes so intuitive it seems like information taken from any of the encyclopedic works published at any time in the last century or so. But for the non-specialist there are still a lot of things to wonder at. We find out, for instance, that the most common surnames on-board the vessel were Swift, Taylor, Davis, and Brown. Insofar as the first names are concerned, one of the infographics shows that William ruled among men and Mary among women.
Of the 48 millionaires on board, Lt Col John Jacob Astor IV (who, like many others, did not survive) was the wealthiest, with a fortune of about one hundred million.
There are pages where we get a glimpse of more detailed aspects of the voyage. One infographic speaks of 12 cases of feathers, 860 rolls of linoleum (as to how long these rolls were, we don’t know), 78 cases of gloves. We take a deep breath and go on. 63 cases of champagne, 110 cases of brandy, 437 cases of tea, 107 cases of books (I wonder how many that means) – offerings to the leisure class, objects loaded on board that ship which narrowly missed being their temple, and instead became their mausoleum.
Insofar as the book itself is concerned, here are some of its own facts: 101 infographics (already mentioned), 143 pages divided into 4 categories: 1. matters of design, 2. the voyage itself, 3. the impact and the sinking of the Titanic, and finally 4. the post-wreck period.

The Titanic and its people: a floating society divided into classes
Source: The Casemate Blog
Each of the four sections has an introductory text by Steve Hall, “one of the world’s foremost authorities on Titanic’s design and general working arrangements.” Unfortunately, nothing is said about Katie Beard, mentioned on the cover as the author of the infographics but nowhere else cited; not even in the Acknowledgments section, where Steve Hall apologizes for any names he may have forgotten to add to his list of people of importance to the project. Never mind, one might say; an image is always worth a thousand words.