Isaac Lea (1792-1886) was an American publisher and geologist. Raised a Quaker in Delaware, he turned away from pacifist teachings and joined the militia in the War of 1812. After marrying Frances Anne, the daughter of publishing magnate Mathew Carey, Lea became a junior partner of Carey & Son in 1822. Mathew Carey left the firm in the same year and Isaac Lea worked primarily with his brother-in-law, Henry Charles Carey.
The pair conducted business as Carey & Lea, during which time they published A Complete Historical, Chronological and Geographical Atlas from 1822 to 1827. This work included roughly twenty maps engraved by Fielding Lucas Jr., as well as an American edition of Starling’s Cabinet Atlas. However, the firm increasingly turned away from cartographic publications.
By 1829, after the brief participation of Edward Carey, Henry’s younger brother, the company became known as Carey & Lea. William A. Blanchard joined the firm in 1833, causing another name change to Carey, Lea & Blanchard. Henry retired in 1838, leaving the firm as Lea & Blanchard.
Isaac Lea was not just a publisher, but an avid researcher with aptitude for geology. He was a member of the American Academy of Natural Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He retired from publishing in 1851 and turned increasingly to geological research, results of which he published until his death in 1886.