Americana: Ex Libris

U. S. Grant used to stop at Low-dermilk's bookstore in the afternoon to browse, and Teddy Roosevelt ordered volumes on wildlife there. The more literate Congressmen and Senators prowled among its shelves. Sometimes their own books found their way back into Lowdermilk's massive stocks. The store in downtown Washington had volumes bearing the senior Henry Cabot Lodge's bookplate, the Ex Libris of Speakers of the House, even that of Davy Crockett, the Tennessee Congressman who died at the Alamo.

The 98-year-old Lowdermilk's, oldest of the nation's great secondhand bookstores, was a print fancier's Golconda. In a pre-paperback age, the books...

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