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Henry Charles Lea Library

Vintage photograph of Lea's library
in his home at 2000 Walnut Street, Philadelphia

The Henry Charles Lea Library collects primary materials for the study of the late medieval and early modern period. The Library focuses on the history of religion with a special interest in the institutional, legal, and ecclesiastical bases of Church organization and governance during these periods 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.

Henry Charles Lea (1825-1909), Philadelphia publisher and civic reformer, was also America's first distinguished historian of the European middle ages, focusing on institutional, legal, and ecclesiastical history, as well as magic and witchcraft. His library became a specialized working collection out of which Lea wrote his History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages (1888), History of the Inquisition of Spain (1906-1908), and other studies. Lea discovered and acquired most of his materials from European sources, purchasing manuscripts and incunabula as well as other early printed books. The room holding his collection, built in 1881 as an extension to his house at 2000 Walnut Street, was conveyed to the University in 1925 by Lea's children. Since 1962, both the room and Lea's collection have been part of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1995, as part of a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust to PACSCL (Philadelphia Area Consortium for Special Collections Libraries), were cataloged and preserved.

Records for the cataloged printed books in the Lea Library can be seen through the Penn Libraries' catalog
Lea's personal and family papers are cataloged as UPenn Ms. Coll. 111
Lea's collection of manuscript materials relating to the inquisition are cataloged as UPenn Ms. Coll. 729.
The Henry Charles Lea Library Microfilm Collection is a composite of archival manuscript and printed material gathered by Kenneth M. Setton during his tenure as Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

For more information about Henry Charles Lea and his library, see Edward M. Peters's article, "Henry Charles Lea and the Libraries within a Library," in The Penn Library Collections at 250.