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Karpeles Historical Museums

Updated on August 19, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession, and I enjoy writing about medical issues. I'm also interested in history, genealogy, and travel.

Original Mark Twain Writing

Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer
Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer

Karpeles Library Museum

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is the world's largest collection of original manuscripts and documents, plus antique books, and manuscript drafts for such things as the Bill of Rights.

In 1983, David and Marcia Karpeles founded the first library in California. These museums are truly a timeline of history with original, priceless documents and pictures. There is something very special in being able to see and read documents that decades or hundreds of years old.

Their goal was simple; they wanted to stimulate interest in learning, especially for children, plus all of the Karpeles Manuscript Libraries services are free.

Karpeles History

Karpeles started researching manuscripts in 1978 and his first purchase, for $40,000, was a copy of the "Emancipation Proclamation" signed by Abraham Lincoln.

Traditionally universities dominated this market, which made Karpeles a rare private collector. Initially, his bidding strategy was to bid until the other bidders dropped out, as he assumed they knew what the documents were worth.

Ultimately this strategy did drive the prices up, but by 2001, Karpeles stated he had accumulated more than 1 million documents.

Abraham Lincoln

source Karpeles Museum
source Karpeles Museum

Museum Locations

This is a list of the current ten locations around the United States:

  • Porter Hall; Buffalo; New York
  • North Hall; Charleston, South Carolina
  • Duluth, Minnesota
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Newburgh, New York
  • Santa Barbara, California
  • Tacoma, Washington
  • Shreveport, Mississippi
  • Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Each of these libraries is located in a historic building.

Topics included in this vast array of manuscripts and documents include; art, religion, political history, literature, science, and war.

To make documents more accessible around the United States, they have created a program where items are rotated between Museum's quarterly and each of the museums present a daily general exhibit, plus one or more special scheduled exhibit throughout the year. Karpeles is also continually expanding its website.

Karpeles Museum Jacksonville, FL

Karpeles Museum pamphlet
Karpeles Museum pamphlet

Jacksonville Location

Since I live in Jacksonville, Florida and have visited the museum, I will focus more on the Jacksonville Museum, which opened in 1992. Richard Minor, a lifelong Jacksonville resident who has been the museum's director for the past six years.

Their primary focus is the preservation and education of the writings of great authors, scientists, composers, philosophers, statesman, sovereigns, and leaders from all periods in world history.

They have a community partnership in association with local schools and libraries and they are able to impact their first audience of children with special programs called Many–Museum out reach program.

They particularly try to promote history illiteracy in the Mayor’s Intensive Care Neighborhoods.

The Jacksonville Museum is housed in an historic Neo-Classical building in Springfield, which was formerly housed the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

There is also an antique book library with volumes dating from the late 1800s and they have a children's center.

Karpeles Jacksonville Museum

101 West 1st. Street at Laura Street.Jacksonville Florida:
W 1st St & Laura St N, Jacksonville, FL 32206, USA

get directions

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum Outreach Program Jacksonville

Current Jacksonville Exhibit

Currently, the exhibit in Jacksonville is on Sigmund Freud, which includes Freud’s views on psychoanalysis and United States; a theory of migraines; his attempt to strengthen his claim as the discoverer of "The Theory of Dreams"; and Freud's analysis of his own dreams.

Each year the museum has several specific new projects and adds new exhibits, which is true of all the other locations as well.

Original Draft of Bill of Rights

source Karpeles Museum
source Karpeles Museum

Examples of Some Documents

Some of the manuscripts include such things as the original work on Roget's Thesaurus. This English physician and lecturer, Peter Mark Roget, published his thesaurus in 1852, which is a collection of English words and phrases arranged according to the ideas they express, rather than alphabetical order.

He wasn't the first one who made an attempt to create a thesaurus, but those earlier attempts date back to the 10th century of Sanskrit and several others that lived before Roget. He felt he created a more orderly classification then had been created before.

Another unique manuscript is Mark Twain’s and written story of Tom Sawyer which was written in 1876.

Some of the examples of documents from the music collection are Mozart's" The Marriage of Figaro"; and Wagner's" Wedding March" in the field of music. The science manuscripts include things like Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Descartes Treatise as the Father of Philosophy, a note written by Charles Lindbergh and numerous other documents.

In the field of religion here is the first printing of the 10 Commandments from The Gutenberg Bible and Luther and the Birth of the Protestant Movement. There are several political historical documents that include the Bill of Rights, the Confederate Constitution, and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to name just a few. There is a great array of artwork as well.

There are at least three known drafts of the Bill of Rights. One draft in Madison's handwriting was recently discovered in the National Archives. The draft at the Karpeles Museum was signed by the "President" of Virginia and by the Secretary of the State Convention.

A third copy, similarly signed, remains in private hands. The framing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in Congress was lead by prominent Virginians, George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson..

In Summary

I believe these museums are each worth a visit in every city where one is located. To preserve the history of this age is a difficult undertaking, and the Karpeles has created these wonderful antique keepsakes that would not have survived without very special care. This is a wonderful place to take your children for the educational benefit.

They are freely given the people of the United States for a closer look at their past history. What a marvelous gift!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Bethany, It would be a nice learning experience for them. thanks for your comments.

  • profile image

    Bethany Culpepper 

    10 years ago

    So interesting! I'm going to have to start scouting out these museums - I'd love to take my family to one. Thanks for the info!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Audrey, Thanks for your comment.

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    10 years ago from Washington

    I'd love to see this too, Pamela - fabulous!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    KKGals, Hope you will get to visit one of the museums one day. Thanks for your comments.

    JY, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 

    10 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    Very interesting material Pam. I had no idea.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Hazelton 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    How exciting it would be to walk among the manuscripts of some of the best, well-known authors. I would love to be able to visit this museum. Rated up and awesome.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    zzron, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

  • zzron profile image


    10 years ago from Houston, TX.

    I love history and museums. Thanks for the history lesson, very informative.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    drbj, I think you'll really enjoy visiting the museum and I appreciate your comments.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    10 years ago from south Florida

    Thank you, Pamela, for sharing this valuable information about the Karpeles Museum in Jax. I look forward to visiting it in person the next time I head northward.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Rob, Perhaps traveling someday you will get to visit one of the museums. Thanks so much for your comments.

    Darsky, I'm so glad you really like this hub and I very much appreciate your comments. Love and peace to you girlfriend.

    kafsoa, Thank you so much for the complements. I never really thought about the marketing aspect.

    Acer, You made a very good point. We hear of history books being changed but you can't really argue with original documents that have been preserved so well. I love history so this is very exciting to me. Thank you so much for your comments.

    WillStarr, That is exactly what is fascinating to me which even holds true in my genealogy research. I have held my grandfathers original cards which they signed to be put in the draft for World War I, and I have held papers in court houses of land ownership from the 1800s and it just gives me the chills to do this. I have a great respect for history. Thank you so much for your comments.

    Enlydia Listener, I hope you get to visit one of the museum some time. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Enlydia Listener profile image

    Enlydia Listener 

    10 years ago from trailer in the country

    Wow, how lucky for you that this is close by...I love knowing about the old manuscripts. So cool!

  • WillStarr profile image


    10 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona


    Imagine seeing such great works in the author's original handwriting.

    Great Hub Pam!

  • Mentalist acer profile image

    Mentalist acer 

    10 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

    As a futurist,one thing I can say about the present,is the determination to preserve unfiltered history like hardly any other time in history which is a hopeful trend.;)

  • kafsoa profile image


    10 years ago

    Pam, you're a great hubber, I believe. You have a wonderful way in marketing too :)

  • Darlene Sabella profile image

    Darlene Sabella 

    10 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

    How cool is this, I love it Pamela, your writing get more intersting everytime I visit your hubs. Love this one and wish their was one close to me. rate up, love & peace darski

  • rpalulis profile image


    10 years ago from NY

    I would love to visit one of these museums, excellent job Pamela this is another outstanding hub.


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