Born to a middle-class Irish family in Dublin in 1760, Matthew Carey entered the bookselling and printing business in 1775. At 17 years old, he published a pamphlet criticizing the merits of dueling. He followed it shortly thereafter with a pamphlet criticizing the severity of the Irish penal code. Authorities threatened Carey with prosecution, which caused him to move to Paris in 1779 to avoid arrest. He met Dr. Benjamin Franklin there, who hired Carey to work in his own printing office. Carey worked for Franklin for a year before returning to Ireland where he edited The Freeman's Journal and The Volunteer's Journal, two politically polemic publications. He fled Ireland for good in 1784, and settled in the United States as the nascent country was settling into its role as a nation free of English rule, an identity desired but unshared by the Irish.
Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, General Lafayette lent him some money to establish himself, which Carey used to found a new publishing outfit and bookseller. He created the Pennsylvania Herald, Columbian Magazine, and American Museum, another magazine, none of which turned a profit.(Latham, 1990.) He printed the first American version of the Douay Bible, in addition to the King James version. He often wrote on social topics, discussed politics, and reported on debates in the state legislature. Carey was an original member of the American Sunday-School Society.
In 1825, Carey retired, leaving his business to his son, Henry C. Carey. The junior Carey's brother-in-law, Isaac Lea joined the business with him. Under their direction, the publishing house became one of the most prominent in the country for several years, publishing such works as the Encylopedia Americana, and a dictionary of German lexicon under the name Carey and Lea. Matthew Carey died in 1839, and Henry Carey retired in 1846. The firm changed from Carey and Lea to Lea and Blanchard, then later to Lea Brothers and Company.
Latham, Charles. Cataloger. "Matthew Carey Letter, 1804." http://www.indianahistory.org/library/manuscripts/collection_guides/sc2296.html. 28 November 1990.