An illustrated advertising cover for Leary’s book store, which at one time was the oldest operating bookstore in the United States. W. A. Leary Jr.
An illustrated advertising cover for Leary’s book store, which at one time was the oldest operating bookstore in the United States.
An illustrated advertising cover for Leary’s book store, which at one time was the oldest operating bookstore in the United States.

An illustrated advertising cover for Leary’s book store, which at one time was the oldest operating bookstore in the United States.

Philadelphia: circa 1875. Envelope or Cover. This advertising envelope features an illustration of the Leary second hand book store in Philadelphia on the front and a list of “Books Bought” on the reverse. It is franked with a green 3-cent Washington stamp (Scott #147). In nice shape. Very good. Item #009459

William A. Leary first began selling books from a sidewalk stall in 1836, not far from Philadelphia’s Old Market. In time, it moved to a three-story building with basement all filled with 20,000 used books. It was the oldest book store in the United States when it closed in 1968. Its final stock was sold at a Freeman’s auction, and while preparing for the sale, catalogers found items that hadn’t been examined for over a hundred years including a first printing of a Dunlap Declaration of Independence that sold for over $400,000 to a pair of Texas businessmen who donated it to the city of Dallas where it is on permanent at the Dallas Public Library. Leary’s may be most famous for its long running advertising campaign, which was tied to Carl Spitzweg’s iconic painting, The Bookworm (not included) that shows a bibliophile perched on the top step of a tall ladder in front of a massive library shelf, reading one book while precariously balancing three others. A cropped version of the image was painted on the side of the store for the Centennial Exhibition and used on advertising posters and bookmarks until the store closed. See “Late, Great American Bookstores: Leary’s Books” in The Saturday Evening Post, 25 February 2011, and many other on-line references.

Price: $125.00

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