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Henry Charles Lea Library

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Founded by the historian and publisher Henry Charles Lea (1825-1909) in the nineteenth century, the Lea library continues to collect primary materials for the study of the late medieval and early modern period. The Library focuses on the history of the Catholic Church 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 and Spanish America. Witchcraft and magic are also subjects that the Lea Library collects extensively. 

  • Photograph of Lea's library in his home at 2000 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
    Photograph of Lea's library in his home at 2000 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
  • About the Library
  • Henry Charles Lea, 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 located on the sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, now part of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts.

  • Books and Manuscripts in the Lea Collection
  • Records for the 11,000+ cataloged printed books in the Lea Library can be searched through the Penn Libraries' catalog . Though many of these titles were owned by Lea in his original library, a substantial number have been added to the collection in the years since its arrival at Penn. 

    All but three of the medieval and early modern manuscripts owned by Henry Charles Lea have been fully digitized and are available from the Penn Libraries here

    Lea's personal and family papers are cataloged as UPenn Ms. Coll. 111 and UPenn Ms. Coll. 11. Additional letters to Lea from his wife Anna Caroline Jaudon Lea can be found in UPenn Ms. Coll. 605 as well as a small number here.

    Lea's collection of research materials and manuscript copies 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.