Weird things from my past that I don’t remember

Today, while purging the Downloads folder of my main computer, I found a file titled Library_Catalogue_contents.xlsx. As the name suggests, it is an Excel file listing the contents of some library somewhere. It is 17.5 MBs, and it was downloaded a month ago, on 22nd of October, 2018.

It is a list of some fifty-six thousand books, I have not checked how many – the last row is row 56,438, but that includes blank rows and the title row. That is a very respectable number of books. When I was in my early teens, I used to have access to the library at the local university, where for the first time I saw more books than I could possibly read in my life. The library had the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and in one of the books of the year supplements from the EB, I found a list of libraries of the world, which included the library that I was in, the local university library. The EB book of the year said that the library had a hundred and fifty thousand books, which might have been a dated number, but probably not off by a magnitude. The library should have had more than a hundred thousand books, but well below, say, five hundred thousand books.

So, a collection of fifty-six thousand books sounds pretty good.

The first row of the catalog lists a book titled Friction and wear of materials by Ernest Rabinowicz. A column titled ‘Abstract’ has the following entry for the book: “Chapters are as follows; Surface Interactions, Friction, Types of Wear, Adhesive Wear, Abrasive and other types of wear, Lubrication, Adhesion and Sample Problems.” Another column in the excel, titled ‘Subject’ has the following entry against the book, “Shipbuilders; Ship repairers; Engine Builders; Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij.”

[The Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij, wikipedia informs me, “was the largest pre-World War II shipbuilding and repair company in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, existing from 1902 to 1996.” I haven’t been able to discover what relation Ernest Rabinowicz or the book has with the Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij.]

The last row of the catalog lists a book titled The Penance way: the mystery of Puffin’s Atlantic voyage by Merton Naydler. 252 pages, published in 1968 (ISBN number blank, since it pre-dates ISBN) and sold for fifteen pence. That surprised me a little because I hadn’t realised that the puffin was a migratory. Turns out the subject of the book according to the catalog was “Named ships ; Puffin”, and not about the bird. Further study reveals that it is a report on a failed crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a row boat.

The other books listed are also mostly nautical. Books about shipbuilding, ship yards, engine building, steam engines, welding, yachting, & c.; histories, biographies, nautical periodicals, registers, rules and regulations, bulletins, atlases, wreck books, studies, presentations, and museum records. There are small sections on aeronautics, concrete, coal mining and trade, and law. But, by and large the focus is on whatever floats their boats.

So, that was the weird thing from my past. And though I must have downloaded it just a month ago, I don’t remember why I would download the catalog of a library of some nautical society.

Edit: I remember wondering if there was any shipping register available online – I wanted to chart the highest tonnage ship afloat on a given year for the last few hundred years, and must have downloaded this at that time.

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