Fall promises seasonal delights on topics from railroads to rivers @

BOOKS & AUTHORS

August 29, 1993|By James H. Bready

Forget the thermometer: In bookstores, it's already Christmas-gift time. (Indeed, dozens of different 1994 calendars are on display.) And the publishers' and booksellers' favorite season is also a book-reader's, because of the important works by gifted authors that now appear. Due out this fall are such promising books as:

"The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore & Ohio, The Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853," by James D. Dilts (Stanford University Press; 592 pages, 94 illustrations, 15 maps; $49.95 through Dec. 31 and $60 afterward). An "extraordinary effort" has occupied Mr. Dilts, a former Sun reporter, upward of 20 years. Now, in October, comes his far-reaching account of "the most important and influential early American railroad . . . the Railroad University of the United States."

"Slavery, Slaveholding and the Free Black Population of Antebellum Baltimore," by Ralph Clayton (Heritage Books, Bowie). Someone has finally dug into census figures and property records to determine how many slaves there were in Baltimore, and just who their owners were (all classes, including fellow African Americans). Along with the statistics, "Slavery" includes an essay by Mr. Clayton, a Pratt Library department head.

"Susquehanna, River of Dreams," by Susan Q. Stranahan (Johns Hopkins University Press). If this book is by a Pennsylvanian, well, more of the Susquehanna's length is above us. Ms. Stranahan follows "this majestic river" from its source to its mouth.

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In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a ward (headed by a bishop) corresponds to a parish; a stake, to a diocese. Susan Buhler Taber's "Mormon Lives: A Year in the Elkton Ward" (University of Illinois Press, 368 pages, $29.95) relates to northeast Maryland and adjoining Delaware. (Successive bishops of Elkton Ward have been full professors at the University of Delaware.)

In 1984, Elkton Ward set out to record a typical church year, the resulting documents to go into Mormon archives. Then Mrs. Taber, a member and a discerning writer, was to summarize in a book.

Of the congregation's 293 adults, one in 10 was from Utah or Idaho; one in 10 was past age 50; two thirds were converts. Particularly in the oral histories, diversity of belief comes through, and similarity to other denominations ("On a good Sunday, at least half the members never attend.") On the other hand, "Mormon Lives" tellingly attests to the fullness, self-sacrifice and devotion of its participants' daily lives.

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One aspect of the recent centennial celebration at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine was the publication of "A Century of Biomedical Science at Johns Hopkins." In two volumes, the book reprints (with introductions) path-making research papers by Johns Hopkins personnel from 1893 on; they span "all fields of preclinical and clinical medicine." As chosen by A. McGehee Harvey, John L. Cameron, M. Daniel Lane, Guy M. McKhann, Victor A. McKusick and Paul Talalay, the sum is 100 papers by 100-plus individuals (School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, 720 Rutland Ave., Baltimore 21205; $50; 11 pounds, 9 ounces.)

Cited most often among the 400-plus alphabetized names is William Stewart Halsted (1852-1922).

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Some high times also await the fanciers of old, rare, used books. In Baltimore, Labor Day weekend means, as usual, the Convention Center Book Fair. The following weekend, there will be 100-dealer shows in Philadelphia and Washington. The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, which sponsors a yearly dealer show in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, is experimentally expanding the circuit.

The day after, Sept. 13, Baltimore Book Co. holds a periodic auction (Towson Quality Inn, 6:30 p.m.), featuring 19th-century color-plate books, autographs of Jefferson, Madison, Osler and Joe DiMaggio.

Two other events on Sept. 11: the Friends of Goucher Library's eighth annual symposium (topic, "Mystery Novel"; speakers, Annette Meyers, Louise Titchener). And, once again, Mencken Day at Pratt Library, featuring Edward C. Papenfuse, the state archivist (Mencken Society, 11:30 a.m.); Russell Baker, the columnist (3 p.m., open to the public), and, the Mencken Room will be open (10 a.m.-5 p.m.)

The speaker at Baltimore Writers' Alliance, Sept. 14: Linda Pasten, Maryland's poet laureate (7:30 p.m., Elkridge Estates club room).

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