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.
The room holding his collection, built in 1881 as an extension to his house at 2000 Walnut Street, was conveyed to the University in 1926 by Lea's children, Arthur H. Lea and Nina Lea. Arthur H. Lea further endowed the Lea collections with a generous bequest. Both the room and Lea's collection are part of the Penn's Kislak Center.