View from balcony of Lea Library, rare book room at Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania.
View from balcony of Lea Library, rare book room at Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania.

It’s not everyday that I get the opportunity to photograph such a unique space as a perfectly-preserved Victorian Gothic reading room embedded in the top floor of a modern library.

I was delighted to be commissioned by Cathy Gontarek, art director the Pennsylvania Gazette, to illustrate an article on the gorgeous Henry Charles Lea Library at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Link to PDF of Gazette article on Henry Charles Lea.

Here is another article that features my photos about renovation of Van Pelt Library, in which Lea Library is housed.

Portrait of Lea that hangs in the rare book room.
Portrait of Lea that hangs in the rare book room.

In 1925 Henry Charles Lea’s family donated his extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts to the University of Pennsylvania — along with the room in which they’d been housed since 1881.

The recently-completed Lea Library is now home to the Special Collections Center and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, and includes conference rooms, a digital media lab, seminar rooms and exhibition space for rare manuscripts, in addition to the refurbished reading room.

The double-height reading room is an impressive example of Victorian architecture and interior design — truly a treasure worth preserving for future generations of students and scholars.

Victorian bust from original Lea Library.
Victorian bust from original Lea Library.
The shelves are filled with rare volumes.
The shelves are filled with rare volumes.
Page from a book about witchcraft from the 1400s.
Page from a book about witchcraft from the 1400s.

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