Making room for a treasury of books WMC dedicates 'special' library

November 19, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Western Maryland College dedicated a special-collections room at its Hoover Library yesterday, featuring "treasures and curiosities" ranging from signed editions by American literary giants to a 1930s-era guide to New York cocktails published by an alumnus.

Included are inscribed books by H. L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker and Sinclair Lewis, and collections from and published works by people connected with the college.

The Eleanor and Keith Richwine Special Collections Room honors two of Western Maryland's longtime supporters and former faculty members, librarian Eleanor Richwine and her husband, English professor Keith Richwine, who died March 15.

"The library was a special place for them," said Robert H. Chambers, the college's president. "So this new room housing our very best is a fitting tribute to their devotion and service to our college and its community.

"It is immediately destined to become a much-used space in the Western Maryland library."

Each of the Richwines spent more than 30 years at the college, and both continued to support it after they retired.

It was their recent $100,000 donation that made it possible to convert a third-floor multipurpose room into a library for the collection, said LeRoy Panek, a professor of English and former colleague, who spent much of the weekend moving bookcases into the room.

"These books had been kept in storage for about 20 years," he said. "We have some very extensive and valuable collections, [and] there are as many that haven't been processed as those that are up here."

Chambers named Richwine the honorary archivist of the collection, and she was obviously moved by the ceremony -- whose guests included Samuel Hoover, the 93-year-old honorary trustee for whom the library is named.

The college's collection of first editions includes volumes by John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and poets Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Robinson Jeffers. Other works include a 19th-century edition of the Koran and an 1844 book of sacred songs.

The late Keith Richwine, who retired in 1994, was the college's English department chairman and held the post for 31 years. Eleanor Richwine, who retired in 1993, was catalog librarian and taught library science at the college. She also developed and taught a course on intellectual freedom and censorship.

The college is to receive their collection of 20th century American first editions, with an emphasis on the Beat Generation and especially novelist Jack Kerouac.

Panek said the college's special-book collection probably is too large to be displayed all at once.

The initial exhibit features four groupings of books in glass cases: American novels, Mencken, poets and "a miscellany from the WMC collection."

Among the latter are an 1869 history, "Bundling: Its Origin, History and Decline," and a signed copy of drink recipes from the Waldorf-Astoria's bar, whose author includes J. P. Morgan, Buffalo Bill, Bat Masterson and William Butler Yeats among those who imbibed during what he termed "The Age of Strut" between World War I and the early 1930s.

History books include a 1924 volume by Mary Bostwick Shellman titled "The Pioneers of the Early Days of Westminster." Also on display is an extensive collection on Abraham Lincoln, including biographies and papers, and memoirs by Civil War generals.

The current display also includes shelves full of recent books donated by Diane Rehm, a college trustee and WAMU radio talk show host, that have been autographed by many authors who have appeared on her show.

The volumes in the collection will be available for viewing or research by appointment through the library, said college spokeswoman Joyce E. Muller.

"We're excited about having them here," Panek said, "so people who are interested can use them."

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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