Academic journal article Michigan Historical Review

Louis Charles Karpinski and the Cartography of the Great Lakes

Academic journal article Michigan Historical Review

Louis Charles Karpinski and the Cartography of the Great Lakes

Article excerpt

For Great Lakes map enthusiasts and Michigan historians, the word "Karpinski" evokes two related phrases: "Karpinski number--" or "not in Karpinski." These phrases refer, of course, to the 1931 Bibliography of the Prated Maps of Michigan, by Louis Karpinski, with its accompanying Historical Atlas of the Great Lakes and Michigan. But these are not the only works that deserve the appellation "Karpinski." Even more famous is his Bibliography of Mathematical Works Printed in America through 1850, which has served collectors of American imprints so well. The work Early Military Books in the University of Michigan Libraries, written with Thomas Spaulding, may also claim "Karpinski" status. (1)

These tides represent only a small portion of Karpinski's written opus. His work in the form of monographs and articles concerning the history of mathematics and the history of science fills a foot of shelf space. The most recent bibliography of Karpinski articles, reviews, and speeches in the history of cartography numbered 166 items. (2)

As well as bibliographies and monographs, the label "Karpinski" also refers to collections. For the cartographically inclined, the "Karpinski collection" signifies the seven hundred-plus photostats of manuscript maps in European collections relating to American history. But this is not the only "Karpinski collection." Yale University houses the Karpinski-von Wieser collection of maps and atlases; another Karpinski map collection resides at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida; and yet another finds its home in the library of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America in New York City.

Nor are "Karpinski collections" just maps. There is a Karpinski collection of Lutheriana and early Protestant books in the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. (3) And Karpinski sold a collection of children's literature to the Detroit Public Library. (4) The one hundred slides concerning the history of mathematics that Karpinski produced from the illustrations in his Bibliography of Mathematical Works and sold in sets could also be called a "Karpinski collection."

In addition to the books he wrote and the maps he collected, Karpinski also sold books, maps, and atlases to many libraries throughout North America, from Yale in the East to the Newberry Library in the Midwest. He also gave away books: to college libraries, like that of St. Olaf in Minnesota; to individuals, such as prisoner number no. 54578 in Jackson Prison; and to worthy causes, like the "Committee for the Rehabilitation of Polish Science and Culture" after World War II. (5)

Louis Charles Karpinski (1878-1956) was a professor of mathematics on the faculty of the University of Michigan from 1904 to 1948 (fig. 1). His scholarly expertise was twofold. First, he specialized in mathematical education and wrote about the quality of teaching, curriculum, and textbooks in America's schools. Second, he was a historian of mathematics. His research on early mathematical texts led to several jointly authored monographs on the history of numbers, on the numerical notation for zero, and on the manuscripts of early works of algebra. He was a collector of manuscripts, maps, and books. He was a campus gadfly who did not hesitate to write directly and often to the Board of Regents of the university, nudging them to raise faculty salaries, encouraging faculty representation on the board, and deploring the decline of academic standards. Karpinski also raised intellectual and ethical questions on the national level. He was one of the first people in academe to warn of the mushrooming connection between money and science, as the link between private business interests and "scientific experts" grew ever stronger. And he was a dealer, who plied his wares of books and maps to numerous libraries during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The focus for this article is on Karpinski's Bibliography of the Printed Maps of Michigan and his contributions to the history of cartography of the state. …

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