Presses sprang into life with survivors accounts of the Titanic sinking, as well as "true stories" by people who were no closer to the iceberg than the engraving on a newspaper frontpage. Quality varied, and it was consistent integrity that pushed the New York Times from one of a dozen local papers into a national media outlet. Lawrence Beesley, a schoolteacher and survivor, prefaced his 1912 book The Loss of the SS. Titanic: Its Story and Its Lessons with this very issue of accuracy:
Some five weeks after the survivors from the Titanic landed in New York, I was the guest at luncheon of Hon. Samuel J. Elder and Hon. Charles T. Gallagher, both well-known lawyers in Boston. After luncheon I was asked to relate to those present the experiences of the survivors in leaving the Titanic and reaching the Carpathia... When I had done so, Mr. Robert Lincoln O'Brien, the editor of the Boston Herald, urged me as a matter of public interest to write a correct history of the Titanic disaster, his reason being that he knew several publications were in preparation by people who had not been present at the disaster, but from newspaper accounts were piecing together a description of it. He said that these publications would probably be erroneous, full of highly coloured details, and generally calculated to disturb public thought on the matter.
Published in June 1912, Beesley's account was released only nine weeks after the disaster. Yet it was in response to even earlier released and contemporaneously planned books. The Loss of the S.S. Titanic can be read by clicking on the frontispiece below, courtesy of the Internet Archive.
Amongst the most interesting and lurid of 1912's Titanic publications is the following. Sinking of the Titanic advertised itself as a memorial edition with the byline of "Thrilling Stories Told by Survivors". The frontispiece, reproduced below and far more resplendent than the tastefully understated Beesley book, describes it in considerably greater detail. As a whole, it is rich with hymns, poems, survivors accounts, moralizing, photographs, drawings, memorials, news articles, urban legends and ample blame, organized in a fashion nearly devoid of reason. The following excerpt from the preface exemplifies the violent hue of the prose:
Sorrow that is too deep and strong for words clutches the heart-strings of humanity and the Nation mourns for the heroic dead, who were carried down into the sea with the crushed "Titanic." They faced death with high hearts, making the Supreme Sacrifice so that the women and the helpless little ones might live.
It is a heart-rending story, redeemed and ennobled by the heroism of the victims. Its details are appalling. The world is full of mournings for the dead. Nature has conquered again destroying with ruthless hand the most marvelous ship that ever floated on the bosom of the deep.
It is the worst disaster that ever befell any vessel. It is the wrecking of a whole armada within one hull of steel, vaunted as unsinkable.
The sinking of the "Titanic" is an appalling catastrophe, in the contemplation of which any words that can be uttered are as futile as in the presence of the awful majesty of the Angel of Death.
Click on the frontspiece below to read a copy of Sinking of the Titanic.
In much the same vein is Marsahll Everett's Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic, also claiming to be replete with thrilling survivor's tales, religious admonitions and reprinted editorial cartoons. It can also be read by clicking on the frontispiece.