Two centuries ago, the durable voices of town criers passed news of the nation's nascence to Americans unconnected by mass media, telephone lines or satellite transmissions.

For a modern man trying to re-create the community communication custom, part of the past has been lost in the duffel.

On July 13, somewhere along the route Leo Anderson bicycles daily between his Scott Circle home and his job at the Library of Congress, his yellow duffel bag fell from his bike rack.

In it were items needed for Anderson's performances as town crier: a $200 custom-made, ruffled, 18th-century style shirt, a neckpiece and silk stockings, and notes and clippings for the day's pronouncements.

Twice a week, Anderson delivers the news of the summer of 1787 in front of the library's Jefferson and Madison buildings, as part of its commemoration of the U.S. Constitution's 200th anniversary.

"I'm a pretty fast cyclist, despite my 64 years," said Anderson, speculating that the bag was jolted from the rack as he rode over a pothole. After obtaining another $200, ruffled 18th-century style shirt from Clarendon seamstress Jane Phelen, Anderson performed as scheduled.

"Two hundred years ago, they spoke and wrote in a ponderous, involuted form," said Anderson, a senior descriptive cataloguer and a library employe of 17 years, who gives a more understandable interpretation to this summer's audiences.

Although he enjoys American history, he said, a different attribute elected him to the town crier position: "My basic qualification is I'm a ham and have a sense of humor.

"Some people give odd looks" during the enunciation of issues that electrified earlier Americans, Anderson said, "but the tourists love it, as do many of my coevals."

Since he started the programs May 14, Anderson said, the high-noon temperatures have hovered around 90 degrees. He leaves most of the woolen costume overnight at the library, but launders the parts he can -- namely, replacements for those lost in his duffel bag.

Because the bag contained identification, Anderson fears that whoever found it has kept it. But he would greatly appreciate its return, and anyone who can help is asked to call library information officer John Sullivan at 287-9216.