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The Holtzapffel dynasty of tool and lathe makers was founded in Long Acre, London by a Strasbourg-born turner, Jean-Jacques Holtzapffel, in 1794. The firm specialized in lathes for ornamental turning but also made a name for its high-quality edge and boring tools.
Coming to London from Alsace in 1792, Jean-Jacques worked initially in the workshop of the scientific-instrument maker Jesse Ramsden, anglicizing his name to John Jacob Holtzapffel. In 1794 he set up a tool-making partnership in Long Acre with Francis Rousset, trading under the name of John Holtzapffel. From 1804 he was in partnership with the Mannheim-born Johann Georg Deyerlein until the latter's death in 1826, trading under the name Holtzapffel & Deyerlein.
Holtzapffel sold his first lathe in June 1795, for £25-4s-10d, an enormous price at the time. All of Holtzapffel’s lathes were numbered and by the time he died in 1835, about 1,600 had been sold. The business was located at 64 Charing Cross, London from 1819 until 1901 when the site was required “for building purposes”. The firm then moved to New Bond Street, and was in premises in the Haymarket from 1907 to 1930.
The turning manuals
John’s son, Charles Holtzapffel (1806–1847) joined the firm in 1827, at around which time the firm became known as Holtzapffel & Co. Charles continued to run the business after his father’s death. He set about writing a treatise entitled Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, eventually running to some 3,000 pages, and which came to be regarded as the bible of ornamental turning. The first volume was published in 1843, but the final two volumes were completed and published after his death by his son, John Jacob Holtzapffel (1836–1897).
When Charles Holtzapffel died in 1847 his wife Amelia ran the business until 1853. John Jacob II, the son of Charles and Amelia, was head of the firm from 1867 until 1896. A nephew of John Jacob II, George William Budd (1857–1924) became head of the firm in 1896. His son John George Holtzapffel Budd (1888–1968) later ran the business. By the early twentieth century, ornamental turning was going out of fashion, and the firm sold its last lathe in 1928.
- Jean-Jacques was the eldest of nine children of the Strasbourg wood-turner Jean-Jacques Holtzapffel and Marie-Madelaine Schlalerin. Details can be found on the family in Mémoires written by his brother Jean-Daniel, a musical-instrument maker, on Gallica.
- See denization papers for John Jacob Holtzapffel (HO/1/10/53) and Johann Georg Deyerlein (HO/1/9/26), as well as Deyerlein's will (Prob 11/1717, proved on 31 October 1826) in the National Archives, Kew, London. See also "The great tool-makers", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, September 2014, pp. 58–62, in which is given an updated summary of the Holtzapffel chapter in Antique Woodworking Tools, as listed below in the Bibliography.
- See Illustrated price list of lathes, turning tools, etc. manufactured by Holtzapffel & Co. (c. 1903).
- See the Wikidata entry for Charles Holtzapffel.
- In the Morning Post of 3 December 1827 there is an early instance of an advertisement placed by Holtzapffel & Co.
- Holtzapffel, Charles. Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, London: Holtzapffel & Co. (vol. 1 1843; vol. 2 1846; vol. 3 published posthumously 1850)
- Holtzapffel, John Jacob. Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, London: Holtzapffel & Co. (vol. 4 1879; vol. 5 1884)
- Holtzapffel, John Jacob. Hand or Simple Turning: Principles and Practice, London: Holtzapffel & Co. (1881), reissued Dover Publications Inc (1976), ISBN 978-04-8623365-9
- Holtzapffel, John Jacob. The Principles and Practices of Ornamental or Complex Turning, London: Holtzapffel & Co. (1894), reissued Dover Publications Inc (1973), ISBN 978-04-8622965-2
- Russell, David R.; with photography by James Austin and foreword by David Linley. Antique Woodworking Tools: Their Craftsmanship from the Earliest Times to the Twentieth Century, Cambridge: John Adamson (2010) ISBN 978-1-898565-05-5 (pp. 362–76)
- Russell, David R., with John Adamson, "The great plane-makers: The history behind the Holtzapffel dynasty", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 222, September 2014, ISSN 1365-4292, pp. 58–62 (updated summary taken from David Russell's book)
- Holtzapffel.org - A catalog and history of Holtzapffel lathes
- Biographical article on Charles Holtzapffel
- Pictures of Holtzapffel lathes
- The Holtzapffel Family
- A Brief History of Ornamental Turning
- 19th-century makers of ornamental turning equipment
- Mémoires by Jean-Jacques Holtzapffel's brother Jean-Daniel