The New York Times reported on this story in June of 1912, several months after the sinking. In the article, Quaritch says that as Widener was leaving, he pulled the recently purchased copy of the Essaies out of his pocket and said, "If I am shipwrecked, you will know that this will be on me."
I spent months researching the life of Harry Widener, reading his letters and inspecting his books, but this story is what prompted me to write Dangerous Waters. My obsession with water, which kids are always asking me about, probably factors in as well. Oh, and I was once on a sinking ship, too. But we climbed off and onto another boat before ours went down.
Of course, the book is fiction. Several of the main characters are entirely invented, or at least borrowed form the manifest of my own life, and not that of the ship. Here is the official plot summary, which I love:
A stowaway, a stolen book, a murderous villain: an adventure on the most famous shipwreck in history.
The great ocean liner Titanic is preparing to cross the Atlantic. Onboard is a sinister thief bent on stealing a rare book that may be the key to unlocking infinite treasure; a wealthy academic traveling home to America with his rare book collection; and Patrick Waters, a twelve-year-old Irish boy who is certain that his job as a steward on the unsinkable ship will be the adventure of a lifetime. In Dangerous Waters, disguises, capers, and danger abound as the ship makes its way toward that fateful iceberg, where Patrick will have to summon all his wits in order to survive.
Look for Dangerous Waters at your local bookstore, online, or at your school's Scholastic Book Fair!
I apologize for that last exclamation point. You must understand, though: I'm excited.