Library loses its Humanities head

BOOKS AND AUTHORS

May 29, 1994|By James H. Bready

Neil R. Jordahl goes out the door of Enoch Pratt Free Library one last time on June 30, and into retirement. For the moment, Central Library won't miss him -- July 1 being a Friday, the building will be closed -- but thereafter, the Humanities Department will have the task of replacing the man who has headed it for more than 20 years.

In 1973, when Mr. Jordahl came east from the University of Chicago to succeed Richard H. Hart, suspenders replaced belt, shirtsleeves replaced suit coat. But lifelong book reader succeeded lifelong book reader, each man strong on literature's classics (at Luther College in his native Iowa, Mr. Jordahl majored in Greek and Latin). Each has promoted the cause, inside the library and out (one as vice president of the Poe Society, the other as vice president of the Mencken Society).

At Pratt, Humanities also embraces philosophy, religion and psychology. Nowadays, third in usage, the department stands slightly behind business, technology, et al. and social sciences, et al. Humanities also stands slightly above, by reason of its move in 1965 from first floor to third, where it has more space (literature still misses its old next-door neighbor downstairs, fiction). When Central Library's building is extended west, Humanities may in time relocate on the second floor, where the Maryland Department now dwells.

Across a generation, the clientele has altered: earlier, many college students, working on term papers; now, more high-school students. Behind the change, Mr. Jordahl sees improvement in college libraries, decline in school. In his own 1950s youth, fresh out of library school, Neil Jordahl spent two years at the Pratt. Baltimore appealed to him then -- and still does: This time, at age 68, living in Lutherville, he has no intention of moving away. Also an ordained clergyman, he is on the staff of St. Paul's Episcopal Church downtown. He will go on trying to convert today's many literary heathen -- people who neglect that fine American novelist, Willa Cather.

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August is the projected publication date for "The Baltimore Orioles: 40 Years of Magic, From 33rd Street to Camden Yards," by Ted Patterson, broadcaster and sports-information authority. With foreword by Brooks Robinson, and some of the pictures showing Mr. Patterson's own memorabilia, this $36 book will be from Taylor Publishing, in Dallas.

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The local rare-book market stirs:

In the latest catalog from 19th Century Bookshop, there are 11 Poe items, three Washington items and eight John F. Kennedy items. Altogether, Stephan Lowentheil and Thomas L. Edsall list 494 books, maps, photos, letters, autographs.

In this store's rarities, the questions are: how unusual, and how high-priced. This time: Samuel Johnson's "A Dictionary of the English Language," 1775, two volumes, $17,500; a first edition of Jane Austen's first novel, "Sense and Sensibility," $13,500; "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum," the earliest English history, by the monk known as the Venerable Bede, an incunabulum from about 1473, $48,500.

A half-dozen Sachse lithographs of the Civil War military camps and hospitals in Baltimore are among the highlights of Baltimore Book Co.'s next auction, June 27, at Timonium Holiday Inn, 6:30 p.m. A scarce modern book is listed: "Maryland Historical Prints, 1752-1889," by Lois B. McCauley, with Robert G. Merrick autograph.

Six Baltimore directories include those for 1842, 1865 and 1887 (which gives two sets of street addresses, following renumeration). A 1914 topographic atlas shows Baltimore street by street, building by building.

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George Bush has been telling the nation/ How much he adores education/ But he doesn't know why/ "Between you and I"/In a way may be worse than taxation.

The author of such deft and devastating verse could only be George Neff Lucas, who skewers Republicans on the op-ed page of The Evening Sun -- and who has now published "Lines Formed on the Left: 400 Limericks on Politics, 1984-1992" ($10, paperback).

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Judith Baumel writes of "a lonely year in graduate school" in Baltimore in the new anthology, "Walk on the Wild Side: Urban Poetry Since 1975" (Collier Books, paperback, $12). "Good Friday. Driving Westward." and "The Woman on the Dump" are by Elizabeth Spires, of the Goucher College and Johns Hopkins University faculties.

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