Robertson's Book of Firsts: Who Did What for the First Time

Robertson's Book of Firsts: Who Did What for the First Time

by Patrick Robertson


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Patrick Robertson's compendium of inventions, breakthroughs, and other "first" events is a stunning achievement of over fifty years of research, collecting, and writing. Robertson writes with charm and fluency on a massive range of topics-the first computer, the first department store, the first black head of state (it's not who you think), and a seemingly limitless array of others. The United States, in particular, has been a cradle of innovation-44 percent of modern innovations, by his calculation-and Robertson has identified a first time in America for each entry. Comprehensive yet carefully curated, Robertson's Book of Firsts catalogs watershed events of social relevance. It includes major achievements, like the first women to serve in a regular army (bravo, Canada, and would you believe as early as 1906?), but not mere curiosities, like the first women to serve disguised as men. The result is a catalog of useful inventions and beginnings of trends, an index of American and global culture of a kind you can't get anywhere else. Handsomely designed, elegant, and effortless to read, this is both a work of essential reference and a beautiful gift for history buffs, scientists, inventors, and anyone with an inquiring mind.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781596915794
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 11/08/2011
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 7.70(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Patrick Hickman Robertson began compiling his collection of firsts fifty years ago at the age of fourteen. He continued his extensive research in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa before settling down to a career at the BBC's cutting library. The first incarnation of this book, The Shell Book of Firsts, appeared in the UK in 1974 and became an immediate bestseller. Robertson has been a Visiting Scholar the University of North Carolina, a former chairman of the Ephemera Society, and owns the largest private collection of vintage magazines in Britain.

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Robertson's Book of Firsts 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
ryan.adams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well-compiled book for all sorts of random firsts that you didn't know you needed to know before now. It's worth having it for trivia buffs, or for people who just have 5 minutes to pick up information.Being here in the US, it's also interesting to see the firsts in the US where possible.
booksgaloreca on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as part of the early reviewers program. I have not finished the book yet, but feel I have read enough to review it. It is a reference book of interesting 'firsts'. They are arranged alphabetically and are short, so is a fun read to pick up over and over to check on or learn some new, interesting information.
vpfluke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fun book to own. One can just open the book anywhere to find an interesting fact or achievement. It is desinged for the information hound, and I am one. The index is pretty good for finding something specific. Obviously, you just don't read through a book like this. It is more modern era oriented and shines on to the United States. There are entries for paper money (China, ~935) and paper clip (Norway, 1900), but none for paper itself. It does reflect mankind's curiosity and inventiveness, and is a welcome addition to my library. For the subway entry, I might have liked seeing some reference to the first electrified subway in Europe that made intermediates tops between end-points, that is the one in Budapest, Hungary (otherwise, London, England). The article on buses is rather interesting. Horse drawn omnibuses and stage coaches preceded the motor bus, and these apt noted. The problem for the transport historian is trying to figure out when the last horse omnibus or stage coach operated. Note, a horse-drawn railway still operates in the Isle of Man
Panopticon2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love reference books. Back in my high school Reach for the Top glory days, this book would have served as essential training material, alongside weighty tomes such as David Wallechinsky's "The People's Almanac" and Hirsch et al's "Dictionary of Cultural Literacy". The product of decades of painstaking research, "Robertson's Book of Firsts" is a towering achievement for the sort of personality that thrives on trivia, and I appreciate the staggering amount of labour that goes into producing a reference work like this. I did find the US focus odd, however. (Whenever a particular First was not achieved by an American, the author - not himself American - takes special note of the US First.) I can't imagine that the market for this sort of reference material is *that* huge in America, that the author/publisher felt the need to cater to a potential audience that believes that if it didn't happen in the United States, it didn't really happen?
Esta1923 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robertson¿s Book of Firsts, subtitled ¿Who Did What for the FIRST TIME¿ is the brainchild of Patrick Robertson. It is a handsome volume, weighing 2.5 pounds.The back of its book jacket lists a sample of offerings, from A to Z. My eye landed on ¿G¿ for garbage bags (since they now are a subject of controversy in California). Opening to p. 212 I also was drawn into reading about the first Gas Cooker, Gasoline, Gay Marriages.Do I need to know these and other facts found idly? Perhaps! Maybe there will be a lull at dinner table and I can share what I¿ve learned. Surely if coffee is served I can say it was once used as fuel on steam locomotives in Brazil, and segue to the history of both instant and decaff.While reading about the first book clubs I found an error (p. 86). Not of fact, I hasten to say, but a typographical one. (This proves old proofreaders never die, they join LibraryThing!)Do you know what the Book -of -the -Month Club¿s initial choice was? Not ¿Holly Willowes,¿ as on p. 86, but Sylvia Townsend Warner¿s beautiful ¿Lolly Willowes,¿ one of my favorite books.Other casual readers will discover other gems. It is a book to dip into, perhaps use as a basis for a party game. I¿m keeping it handy for moments when a little knowledge is just what I need.
TheFlamingoReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From the very first page to the last you'll be astounded at the amount of information included in "Robertson's Book of Firsts". Written in the style of an encyclopedia (A to Z as opposed to by topic) every page contains eye-opening facts about just about everything. Want to know the first person to put a slice of cheese on a burger? You'll find out not only who, but when and where. Curious about the first novel by an American? You might be surprised to find out it was a woman in 1752. How about the first operatic performance (in 1735), the first college to admit women (in 1833), the first ice cream (first documented in 1672), or the first restaurant (in 1766).This book is chock-a-block with well-researched facts and, for those of us who love trivia, it's a wonderful resource for answering those previously unanswerable questions. Obviously the gathering of information and the writing of the book was a massive labor of love for the author, Patrick Robertson. According to the end piece, he has been compiling any and all bits regarding the first of anything for 60 years. While some sections may not be as interesting as others, you're sure to find many others that are confounding and relevant. The author starts with a topic, such as the first machine gun, and then also provides information about the first used in warfare and then the first automatic machine gun, so each general topic is fully covered in every incarnation.Although many of the firsts did occur in America, and some may find this to be US-centric, because so much information is included no one country should feel slighted. Remember, he is drawing on printed material for a lot of his references and if it is not available to confirm then it has been left out. There are many, many examples of firsts out of Europe and Asia. Several times the author asks for the reader to provide any information they may have which lends a tone of democracy to the book: he does not pretend to be the final authority on each and every topic.This book is extremely entertaining, well written, and a welcome addition to the trivia lovers bookshelf. Highly recommended to anyone who loves facts and loves being right.
varielle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Apparently Patrick Robertson is a list maker. This encyclopedia is a list he compiled over 50 years of the first of every invention, trend, custom, event, etc. that he could think of. Interesting to dip a toe into for amusement or if you are researching a particular topic. In between the antics of airplanes and yachts of various types, you can indulge in the first popsicle, while wearing the first eye lashes, while jumping with the first parachute on your way to mailing the first postcard. You get the drift. Have fun.