Isaac Lea journals, 1832, 1852-1853


Date: 1832-1853 | Size: 16 volume(s), 16 volumes, 500 p., photocopies.


The first fifteen volumes of these "Notes of Travel" are Lea's account of his trips to Europe during 1832 and 1852-1853. He met with naturalists, scientists, and did much sightseeing in England, France, Germany, Italy, and Austria. He records in detail visits and discussions with scientists, and makes sketches of many of the places he saw, particularly the Rhine River. The sixteenth volume is a memorandum book, 1853, containing accounts and expenses while in Europe.

Background note

Isaac Lea was a geologist and publisher. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1828.

Collection Information

Physical description

16 volumes, 500 p., photocopies.


Restrictions on Use:

Journals are not to be copied.


Received by Lea H. Hudson and accessioned, 1971 (1971 1670ms).

Custodial history:

Photocopy made by permission of the owner, Mr. H. Lea Hudson, 1971.

Location of originals:

Originals in:Possession of H. Lea Hudson.

Alternate formats available

These materials are also available on microfilm (Film 1291).

Early American History Note

Isaac Lea was a Philadelphia based geologist and publisher. He was primarily a publisher, founding the firm Lea and Febiger, which had its origins in Matthew Carey's publishing house. Isaac married Carey's daughter Frances Anne in 1821. Always interested in science, in 1851, after retiring from the day-to-day operations of his printing firm, he dedicated his time to geology and other scientific interests. This collection contains the journals of Isaac Lea's trips to Europe in 1832 and 1852-53. Lea traveled to Europe to become acquainted with European ideas and methods, although both trips – especially the earlier one – included much sightseeing. Very much a gentleman scientist, Lea gained wide-respect for his knowledge and work, earning an honorary doctorate from Harvard. These travel journals provide insight into some of the people and practices he encountered in Europe that may have shaped his ideas about science.

The journals are not just – or even primarily – scientific. The numerous journals also chronicle his personal journeys and observations about European culture and cities. Lea was an astute cultural observer and his prose is not only engaging but also insightful. He also made a number of landscape sketches in these journals.

Also part of the collection is an account of George Washington consulting with Lea's ancestors near Brandywine during the War for American Independence. Related to this account is a well-written travel account of Isaac Lea's family visiting the site of the battle in 1849 and other places in the Chadds Ford area.

Some genealogical information is included as well.

The journals are all photocopies of the originals, which are in private hands.

General note

There is also a typescript of Lea's notes and a short list of Lea's ancestry.

Indexing Terms


  • Art
  • Journals (notebooks).
  • Sketchbooks
  • Travel Narratives and Journals

Geographic Name(s)

  • Austria -- Description and travel.
  • England -- Description and travel.
  • Europe -- Description and travel.
  • France -- Description and travel.
  • Germany -- Description and travel.
  • Italy -- Description and travel
  • Rhine River.


  • Scientists.


  • American Revolution
  • Americans Abroad
  • Military History
  • Naturalists.
  • Printing and Publishing
  • Science and technology