Who did what for the first time

Motorcyclist - - Garage - —Chris Can­tle

ROBERTSON’S BOOK OF FIRSTS is an end­lessly di­gestible ref­er­ence, a long, al­pha­bet­i­cal list of ac­com­plish­ments that takes plea­sure in bawdy tan­gents. Mo­tor­cy­cles, nat­u­rally, get a men­tion. We learn that among the first Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cles were the in­ven­tions of E.S. Pen­ning­ton, “a some­what du­bi­ous char­ac­ter,” who made wild claims of his ma­chines, took or­ders in quan­tity and failed to fill them, then dis­posed of his patents for an out­ra­geous sum. A note on the first Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cle fa­tal­ity sits con­ve­niently ad­ja­cent to one of the first mo­tor hearses. But Robertson’s Book of Firsts isn’t about rid­ing. It’s not about achieve­ment ei­ther, re­ally. It’s about in­no­va­tion. Be­ing the first across the line. Find­ing a bound­ary and cross­ing it, whether it’s me­chan­i­cal (the first es­ca­la­tor, p. 178) or per­sonal (the first Medals of Honor, p. 286). As we hu­mans con­tin­u­ally as­cend and im­prove, real fron­tiers grow ever more rare. Hav­ing a cat­a­log of bound­aries crossed and con­quered by oth­ers on your cof­fee ta­ble or tucked among your shop man­u­als is as fine an in­cen­tive as any to go search­ing for your own.

A A guide to lim­its pushed past.$20/Hard­cover

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