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Medieval Collections of the University of Pennsylvania

The Penn Libraries maintain a strong collection across most areas of interest to medievalist scholars - in traditional formats like print, as well as in manuscripts, electronic resources, and in our collections of images and audio compact discs. Special note needs to be made of the Constance L. Rosenthal (ED '24 G '32 and GR '36) Book Fund, which was established in 1990.

The collections are located primarily in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, including the Ormandy Music Center and the Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Fisher Fine Arts Library.

Henry Charles Lea Library (Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, 6th floor).
The centerpiece of the Libraries' Medieval collections is the Henry C. Lea Library. Located on Van Pelt's sixth floor in a reconstruction of the original library of the Philadelphia publisher and medievalist scholar Henry Charles Lea (1825-1909), the collection consists of primary materials for the study of the late medieval and early modern period. It focuses on the history of religion with a special interest in the institutional, legal, and ecclesiastical bases of Church organization and governance and, most especially, the Inquisition in Europe generally, Spain particularly, and Spanish America. Witchcraft and magic are also subjects that the Lea Library collects extensively. A secondary Lea specialty is the history of Italian city-states. In particular, the Florentine Medici-Gondi archive, comprising manuscript materials from the fourteenth through the nineteenth centuries, documents the business activities of the family firm specifically as well as commercial, social, and familial relationships of the period in general.

Manuscripts: Codices, Fragments, and Documents; Facsimiles and Microforms
The Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds approximately nine hundred manuscripts from the medieval and Renaissance periods ( Until recently, the collection focused on manuscripts of historical or textual interest, but thanks to funding support provided by Larry J. Schoenberg and Barbara Brizdle (, the Libraries have begun to add significant examples of illuminated, illustrated, and glossed codices as well. For further details, see the descriptions at

In addition to a small but growing collection of manuscript facsimile volumes held in the Fisher Fine Arts Library and medieval facsimiles and microfilm codices in the Ormandy Music Center, the Libraries own a large collection of medieval manuscripts on microfilm that was initiated in the late 1960s with a Council on Library Resources grant to establish a national clearinghouse of such material at Penn. Though this plan proved unsustainable, the collection continued to grow in response to local needs. The strengths of the collection, which numbers approximately a thousand manuscripts, reflects the wide range of research interest of faculty and graduate students over the past forty years and includes Greek and Latin lexical works, Old English glosses, Middle English literature, Old French poetry, Welsh law, manuscripts of Alcuin's De Fide, etc. A listing by country/repository/shelfmark is available at

Medieval Studies Seminar Room (Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, Room 405)
The Medieval Studies Seminar provides researchers with a non-circulating selection of primary texts as well as major commentaries, criticism, dictionaries, encyclopedias and manuscript materials. The room houses the entire Patrologia Grecea and Patrologia Latina and the series Corpus Christianorum, Sources Chretienne, the Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile and the Henry Bradshaw Society collection. A few titles in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica are shelved in the room while the rest of the series is in the Van Pelt stacks. Individual works have been added to the room at the request of faculty. The room has a large table that seats eight as well as a networked computer workstation and a micofiche and microfilm reader. All Seminar books are cataloged in Franklin.

Penn Libraries Subject Specialists
Responsibility for medieval studies collections is divided up among the Libraries' bibliographers according to their broader subject responsibilities - notably general medieval studies, religious studies, history, music, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, history of art and architecture - and among the curators in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Related collections
The University's membership in the Center for Research Libraries provides long-term access to a number of large collections of medieval manuscripts, including those of Trinity College (University of Cambridge), Pembroke College (Cambridge) and the Rawlinson Manuscipt Collection (Bodleian Library, Oxford). Also, the Free Library of Philadelphia (Rare Book Department) has an important collection of some 255 codices and 2,000 illuminated leaves ( to which Penn scholars have ready access.