Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2019 Issue

Major Fire at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in St. Louis

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Flames rise from the Karpelis Manuscript Museum in St. Louis.

A major fire struck the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in St. Louis on the night of March 26. It both was and was not devastating. There was extensive damage to the building, with flames shooting high into the night air from the roof and second story windows. It took firefighters a couple of hours to put it out. Originally built in 1907 as a Christian Science Church, the structure has housed the Karpeles manuscript collection since 2015. It also housed the collection of the St. Louis Media History Foundation. The latter specializes in historic newspapers, photographs, and other documents pertaining to St. Louis' print, radio, and television history.

 

Whether the building can or should be saved is not yet clear. The roof caved in and damage was extensive to the second floor and back of the building. However, it is a solid, steel reinforced structure, and the front was not seriously damaged.

 

Now for the good news - the material inside escaped unscathed. Between firefighters and museum associates, it was all taken out of the building before the fire or water from the hoses reached it. The historic material from both organizations was saved. In the case of the Karpeles collection, that includes both St. Louis items, such as documents pertaining to Charles Lindbergh's famous flight in 1927, to others national or international in scope. It was taken to private homes for safekeeping until such time as a permanent home is prepared for it.

 

For many readers, the next question will be, what is the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum? This is even more interesting than the fire. The Karpeles Museum is actually comprised of numerous locations in unexpected places, which explains its relative obscurity. This story goes back to 1983, when it was founded by David and Marsha Karpeles.

 

David Karpeles is a mathematician who has held both university and private industry positions. However, the Karpeles also have been successful real estate investors, which provided the funds needed to develop a major manuscript collection. The collection began after a visit to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, with two of their children. They were fascinated by the original documents they saw, not just copies, but those created by the hands of great people years ago. They began collecting manuscripts, and as they filled more spaces in their home, looked for a location where they could be shared with others. That led to the opening of the first Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Santa Barbara in 1983.

 

There are a few surprising things about the Karpeles Museum. One is that admission is free. The Karpeles were particularly interested in making the manuscripts accessible to children. The cost of admission is such that even a child can afford a visit. Another is that it is held in numerous locations around the country. There are 14 buildings in 12 cities that house parts of the collection. Each has some documents of local interest, while others are rotated around the locations, enabling residents of each city to see major pieces in the collection at various times.

 

Here is one more surprising thing - the museums are not located in major cities like New York or Los Angeles. St. Louis is the largest city with a Karpeles Museum. The others are Buffalo, Charleston, Duluth, Jacksonville, Santa Barbara, Tacoma, Shreveport, Fort Wayne, Rock Island, Illinois, Newburgh, New York, and Alvin, Texas. The explanation is that they once opened a museum in New York City. Hardly anyone came. There is no shortage of museums filled with wonderful things in New York. However, when they took the exhibition to Jacksonville, the place was flooded with visitors. They were reaching people without access to such material as is available in New York.

 

Along with the historic collections, the Karpeles chose to do one more act of preservation. They placed their museums in historic buildings. That is how the St. Louis museum ended up in a century-old church. They are often in historic neighborhoods as well, part of the reason why they can be somewhat obscure even to locals. They may not be where you would expect to find a museum.

 

The Karpeles collection began with the purchase of a draft of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Other manuscripts now in the collection include a proposed draft of the Bill of Rights, a declaration of allegiance from various American Indian tribes, the Thanksgiving Proclamation of George Washington, and the Confederate States Constitution. It is not limited to such American historical documents. There are manuscripts from musicians such as Beethoven and Mozart, scientists including Einstein and Darwin, religious figures including Calvin and Luther, even Peter Roget's original thesaurus. It now numbers over one million items. We are not aware of a private manuscript collection quite like this, other than the Aristophil collection in France. However, that one was built as a financial investment, and as a Ponzi scheme at that. When the scheme collapsed, it became necessary to sell the collection. That sale is currently underway and will continue for several more years. One imagines the Karpeles will be keeping close tabs on those sales to see what comes up.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><br>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Maps & Atlases<br>Natural History<br>& Color Plate Books<br>December 9, 2021</b>
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. Carolina Parrot. Plate 26. Hand-colored aquatint and engraved plate from Audubon's <i>Birds of America.</i> $80,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Francisco Henrique Carls. [Album de Pernambuco e seus Arrabaldes]. Fifty-three chromolithographed plates of landscape, town views and more of the state of Pernambuco, northeast Brazil. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Captain Thomas Davies, after. Group of 5 engraved topographical scenes of North American waterfalls. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><br>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Maps & Atlases<br>Natural History<br>& Color Plate Books<br>December 9, 2021</b>
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> William R. Morley. Morley's Map of New Mexico. Large lithographed pocket map with original hand-color in outline. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Frederick William Beechey, et al. <i>The Zoology of Captain Beechey's Voyage; Compiled from the Collections and Notes Made by Captain Beechey…</i> $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> ZUDA ROKASHI (Priest Hotan.) Nansenbushu Bankoku Shoka No Zu. Woodblock wall map of the world on 16 sheets joined. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b><center> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 29th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b> Latin Book of Hours, Langres around 1490. Est: €50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>T. Livius, <i>Römische Historien,</i> 1533. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>G. Mendel, <i>Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden,</i> 1865-66. Est: €30,000
    <b><center> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 29th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>A. Verard, Book of Hours, around 1488. Est: €30,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>A. Ortelius, <i>Theatrum orbis terrarum,</i> 1601. Est: €80,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br><i>Der Sturm,</i> 1910-1916. Est: €16,000
    <b><center> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 29th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b> <i>Cronica van der hilliger Stat Coellen,</i> 1499. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>M. Catesby, <i>Piscium serpentum insectorum,</i> 1777. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>W. Grohmann, <i>Das Werk Ernst Ludwig Kirchners,</i> 1926. Est: €20,000
    <b><center> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 29th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>P. Borgo, <i>Aritmetica mercantile,</i> 1491. Est: €16,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>D. Roberts, <i>Egypt and Nubia,</i> 1846-49. Est: €8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b> <i>Estampes,</i> with the suite by P. Picasso, 1950. Est: €15,000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Zang Tumb Tuuum:<br>la révolution futuriste<br>Online Auction<br>30 November – 7 December</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 18:</b> The "Official Edition" of the United States Constitution and the First Printing of the Final Text of the Constitution, 1787. $15,000,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. I Paroliberi Futuristi. 1914-1915. 8 p. Unique corrected proofs, for an anthology that remained unpublished. €40,000 to €60,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Cangiullo, Francesco. Studenti in Lettere. Università. 1915. Seminal work, featured in 3 historical futurist exhibitions. €20,000 to €30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Cangiullo, Francesco. Chiaro di luna. Circa 1915. Collage and gouache on paper. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. Manicure. Faire les ongles à l'Italie. Circa 1915. A fantastic parody of an advertising poster. €20,000 to €30,000.
  • <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>December 9</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 47. Roosevelt, Theodore. Photograph inscribed to Morris J. Hirsch. May 7th 1918. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 178. Whitman, Walt. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York: [Printed for the author], 1955. First edition in the first issue binding. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 38. Mather, Cotton. <i>Magnalia Christi Americana; or, the Ecclesiastical History of New-England.</i> London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, 1702. First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 55. Taylor, Zachary. Autograph letter signed as President-Elect. Baton Rouge: January 15, 1849. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 203. Picasso, Pablo. <i>Verve</i> Vol. V, Nos. 19-20. Paris: Editions Verve, 1948. Inscribed on the title page by Picasso. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>December 9</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 211. Domergue, Jean-Gabriel. L'Ete a Monte Carlo. Lithographed poster, Lucien Serre & Cie, Paris, circa 1937. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 105. Manuscript Illumination attr. to Neri da Rimini. Large excised initial "N" from a choirbook, extensively historiated. [Likely Rimini: first quarter of the 14th century]. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 40. McKenney, Thomas L. and Hall, James. <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs.</i> Philadelphia: Rice, Rutter & Co., 1870. $3,00
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 222. Searle, Ronald. [Pets--a dog, cats and a parrot-- surrounded by books, and inspecting a globe, perhaps planning global domination]. Original drawing, 17 3/8 x 13 1/2 inches. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 98. Faden, William; Scull, Nicholas and George Heap. A Plan of the City and Environs of Philadelphia, Survey'd by N. Scull and G. Heap. London: William Faden, 12 March 1777. $3,000 to $5,000.
  • <i>Der Sturm.</i> 1922. Sold October 2021 for € 13,000.
    Diophantus Alexandrinus, <i>Arithmeticorum libri sex.</i> 1670. Sold October 2021 for € 18,000.
    <i>Cozzani Ettore e altri, l’Eroica. Tutto il pubblicato.</i> Sold October 2021 for € 11,000.
    Newton Isaac, <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> 1714. Sold October 2021 for € 7,500.
    Manetti Saverio, <i>Storia naturale degli uccelli.</i> 1767-1776. Sold April 2021 for € 26,000.

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