Mackall, Leonard L. 1879-1937

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MACKALL, Leonard L. 1879-1937

PERSONAL: Born January 29, 1879, in Baltimore, MD; died May 19, 1937; son of Leonard Covington and Louisa Frederica (Lawton) Mackall. Education: Graduated from Johns Hopkins University; studied at Harvard Law School for two years; attended University of Berlin, 1902-04; graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University; studied at University of Jena, Germany.

CAREER: Book collector, scholar, bibliographer, reviewer, and columnist. Leipzig International Book Exhibition, bibliophily section for England and America and honorary secretary, 1914. Member, American Historical Association's Committee for Americana in College Libraries.

MEMBER: American Antiquarian Society, Georgia Historical Society (president, 1937), Bibliographical Society of America (first vice president, then president), Century Club, Coffee House Club, Grolier Club.


(Editor, with Flodoard Freiherr von Biedermann, Max Morris, and Hans Gerhard Graf) Goethes Gespräche, Gesamtausgabe, second edition, 5 volumes, F. von Biedermann (Leipzig, Germany), 1909-1911.

(Contributor) Contributions to Medical and BiologicalResearch, Dedicated to Sir William Osler, in Honour of His Seventieth Birthday, July 12, 1919, by His Pupils and Co-workers, 2 volumes, edited by William H. Welch and others, Hoeber (New York, NY), 1919.

(Editor, with Fielding H. Garrison, Harvey Cushing, and Edward C. Streeter) William Osler, The Evolution of Modern Medicine, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1921.

(Editor, with William W. Francis, R. H. Hill, and Archibald Malloch) Bibliotheca Osleriana: A Catalogue of Books Illustrating the History of Medicine and Science, Collected, Arranged, and Annotated by Sir William Osler, Bt. and Bequeathed to McGill University, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1929.

(Contributor) Essays Offered to Herbert Putnam byHis Colleagues and Friends on His Thirtieth Anniversary as Librarian of Congress, 5 April 1929, edited by William Warner Bishop and Andrew Keogh, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1929.

Catalogue of the Wymberley Jones DeRenne GeorgiaLibrary at Wormsloe, Isle of Hope near Savannah, Georgia, privately printed (Wormsloe, GA), 1931.

Contributor to periodical publications, including, Lamp, Goethe Jahrbuch, Euphorion, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, Athenaeum, Englische Studien, Georgia Historical Quarterly, American Journal of Philology, Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, Modern Language Review, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, American Historical Review, Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Modern Language Notes. Columnist for New York Herald Tribune, beginning 1924.

SIDELIGHTS: For about a dozen years, avid book collector Leonard L. Mackall wrote a New York Herald Tribune column called "Notes for Bibliophiles." Mack-all, a longtime resident of Savannah, Georgia, began writing and editing the column when the paper's Sunday book review supplement began in 1924. Mack-all wrote articles about literature, book history, and design and drew from his large network of colleagues.

Mackall's parents, Leonard Covington and Louisa Frederica (Lawton) Mackall, were and socially well connected. The Mackalls lived in Philadelphia until Leonard senior's death in 1890; the family then lived in Savannah. After traveling with family throughout France and Germany for about a year, Mackall began studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. After failing in mathematics, which ended his plans for an electrical engineering career, he took an interest in German literature. Fellow bibliophiles mentored him as a young collector, including William Osler, then physician-in-chief of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and professor of medicine at the university. And while studying at Harvard Law School Mackall met retired art history professor Charles Eliot Norton, editor of the correspondence of Goethe and Thomas Carlyle. Encouraged by Norton, Mackall left law school to study Goethe's works at the University of Berlin.

Mackall returned to Johns Hopkins University in 1904 for graduate study in German, focusing on philology and intellectual history: "the small facts that shape the larger picture: the influences on a writer's work, his sources, and the historical/cultural circumstances surrounding a book's printing and reprinting," as Carolyn Smith explained in Dictionary of Literary Biography. He was appointed a fellow in the German department in May 1906, but left the following autumn because of poor health. Mackall resumed his studies at the University of Jena at a slower pace. As he built his own collection, he relied on Jena's library for literary and scholarly writing, and edited a new collected edition of Goethe's conversations. While at Jena, he traveled throughout Europe. At Oxford, Mackall helped Osler build a library on the history of medicine (now at McGill University in Montreal). At the 1914 Leipzig International Book Exhibition Mackall was appointed honorary secretary of the bibliophily section for England and America.

Returning to the United States in 1916, Mackall became the librarian for Wymberley Jones DeRenne's collection. He helped with acquisitions and in preparing a catalogue for publication. As the United States became involved in World War I, the library lost support and was finally closed in July 1918, though Mack-all continued to work on the catalogue, published in 1931. From 1919 to 1921 Mackall joined his mother and younger brother and sister in New York City. His brother-in-law, artist Gari Melchers, helped Mackall join the Century and Coffee House clubs, and George Watson Cole sponsored his membership in the Grolier Club. Mackall contributed book reviews to the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post and continued his bibliographic work. When Osler died in 1919, Mackall helped edit his lectures and the catalogue of Osler's library, the Bibliotheca Osleriana.

Mackall returned with his mother to Savannah in 1921. He began writing his "Notes for Bibliophiles" column, which was as meticulous as his scholarly work. He wrote about printers' marks, types, editions, and issues, about the publishing history of books, reported sales, exhibitions and other book-world events, and reviewed new books. He reported authors' factual errors and what he perceived were scholarly shortcomings. His tone was often stilted and dry.

Mackall's library is a general collection, with some manuscripts. He listed his interests in a questionnaire for the 1922 edition of Private Book Collectors in the United States as "antiquarian Bibliography, Superstition, Early Science, Servetus, Goethe, Byron, Georgia History, Comparative Literature." Though a cautious and logical buyer, Mackall apparently arranged his books haphazardly. He kept his library on shelves throughout his home, in no perceivable order. Yet his memory rarely failed him. Mackall worried about the risks of storing his books in a wooden house, so he kept his most valuable books in a locker at the Century Club. He gave away many of his books, including 300 titles of early bibliography to the Grolier Club's library. He also donated books to the Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University, to Harvard Law School, and to the Pierpont Morgan Library.

Mackall, his health declining, was disappointed when the Georgia Historical Society did not elect him president in 1936. When Augustus H. Shearer, president of the Bibliographical Society of America, became seriously ill, Mackall succeeded him. In 1937 the Georgia Historical Society finally elected him president, but he became ill and died a few months later.

As a collector, Mackall was exceptionally skilled. He surfaced hidden facts and sources, contributed to major bibliographies, and aided other scholars and collectors. Smith wrote, "Through active participation he supported and often enlivened the book world of his time, and his newspaper articles record much of its history."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 140: American Book-Collectors and Bibliographers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994, pp. 147-152.

Mackall, William W., A Character Sketch of the LateLeonard Leopold Mackall, Mason (Savannah, GA), 1938.


Johns Hopkins Alumni, Volume 26, 1938, Lawrence C. Wroth, "Career in Books," pp. 81-86.

Special Libraries, October, 1937, John F. Fulton, "Humanism in Bibliography: An Appreciation of Leonard L. Mackall," pp. 279-283.*

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Mackall, Leonard L. 1879-1937

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