He worked as a saddler and coach-builder in different German cities, moved from Dresden to Basel and Paris, and then, 23 years old, settled in London. He established himself in Long Acre, the centre of coach-making in London and close to the market at Covent Garden. His extraordinary business instinct, as well as his flair for design and talent for self-promotion, won him the £200 contract to design the ceremonial coach for the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, John FitzGibbon, 1st Earl of Clare. After this he designed The Royal Sailor, an 8-wheel omnibus that ran between Charing Cross, Greenwich and Woolwich.
Ackermann then moved to Little Russell Street where he published Imitations of Drawings of Fashionable Carriages (1791) to promote his coach-making. Other publications followed. An able artist in his own right,  in 1795 he established a print-shop and drawing-school at 96 Strand. Ackermann set up a lithographic press and began a trade in prints. He later began to manufacture colours and thick carton paper for landscape and miniature painters. Within three years the premises had become too small and he moved to 101 Strand, in his own words "four doors nearer to Somerset House", the seat of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Between 1797 and 1800 Ackermann rapidly developed his print and book publishing business bringing together wide variety of talented artists and printmakers including Thomas Rowlandson, Isaac Cruikshank, John Bluck, Theodore Lane, Henry Singleton, Maria Cosway, F. J. Manskirchten, J. C. Stadler, J. H. Schultz, Henri Merke, Thomas Sutherland, Nicholas Heidelhoff, Augustus Pugin, and G. M. Woodward in numerous projects to produce both individual prints as well as illustrations for books and magazines, encompassing many different genres including topography, caricature, portraits, transparencies and decorative prints.
In 1809 he applied his press to the illustration of Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, which appeared monthly until 1829, by when forty volumes had appeared. The Repository documented the changing classicising fashions in dress and furniture of the Regency; Thomas Rowlandson and other distinguished artists were regular contributors. William Combe and Rowlandson's parody, Dr Syntax in search of the Picturesque first appeared in parts in Ackermann's Poetical Magazine and was then reissued as a bestselling separate book. Ackermann also published Rowlandson's masterpiece The English Dance of Death (2 volumes 1816). He introduced from Germany the fashion of the once popular Literary Annuals, beginning in 1823 with Forget-Me-Not; and he published many illustrated volumes of topography and travel, including The Microcosm of London (3 volumes, 1808–1811), Westminster Abbey (2 volumes, 1812), The Rhine (1820), The Seine (1821), and The World in Miniature (43 volumes, 1821–1826).
An inventor and innovator, he was important as a carriage designer and patented the Ackermann steering geometry. In 1801 he patented a method for rendering paper and cloth waterproof and erected a factory in Chelsea to make it. He was one of the first to illuminate his own premises with gas. Indeed, the introduction of lighting by gas owed much to him.
During the Napoleonic wars, Ackermann was an energetic supporter of the Allied cause and made significant contributions to British propaganda through his publication of anti-Napoleonic prints and military manuals. He became a naturalised British citizen in March 1809. After the Battle of Leipzig, Ackermann collected nearly a quarter of a million pounds sterling for the German relief effort.
As one of the pioneers of modern publishing methods, Ackermann developed an international distribution network for his publications and came to have significant commercial interests in South America. The business he founded in London flourished throughout the 19th century under the management of his descendants. He was buried at St. Clement Danes in The Strand, London.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ackermann, Rudolph". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 148.
- Ford, John (2018). Rudolph Ackermann & the Regency World. Sussex: Warnham books. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-5272-1944-1.
- James Hamilton (2014), A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Atlantic Books. ISBN 9781848879249.
- Ford 2018, p. 32.
- Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 6
- Ford 2018, p. 43.
- Ford 2018, p. 259.
- Ford, Jill (Winter 1981). "Ackermann's History of Westminster Abbey: its publishing history and the unique copy in Westminster Abbey". The Book Collector. London: 461–78.
- J.J. von Gerning (1820). A Picturesque Tour along the Rhine, from Mentz to Cologne. London: R. Ackermann.
- Jean Baptiste Balthazar Sauvan (1821). Picturesque Tour on the Seine, from Paris to the Sea. London: R. Ackermann.
- King-Hele, Desmond (2002). "Erasmus Darwin's improved design for steering carriages––and cars". Notes and Records. 56 (1): 41–62. doi:10.1098/rsnr.2002.0166. PMID 11949679. S2CID 31462520.
- Maxted, Ian (1977). The London Book Trades 1775-1780. Folkstone, England: Dawson. p. 1. ISBN 0-7129-0696-7.
- Ford 2018, p. 137.
- Ford 2018, p. 110.
- Ford 2018, p. 293.
- Ford, John (1983). Ackermann, the business of art. London: Ackermann Ltd.
- Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie – online version at Wikisource
- Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Mary Dorothy George. Vol VI 1938, Vol VII, 1942 VOL VIII 1947, VOL IX 1949
- Rudolph Ackermann (1808), Microcosm of London, Illustrated by Augustus Charles Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson. 1904 reprint + Illustrations
- Ford, John (2018), Rudolph Ackermann & the Regency World, Warnham Books, Sussex. ISBN 978-1-5272-1944-1. 
- Martin Hardie (1906), English Coloured Books, London: Methuen & Co and New York: G.P. Putnam's & Sons. Chapter X: Rudolph Ackermann. (pp. 96–116; with index of works, pp. 310–314).
- S.T. Prideaux (1909), Aquatint engraving. London: Duckworth & Co. Chapter VI: Rudolph Ackermann and his Associates. (pp. 110–152; with index of works, pp. 374–378)
Media related to Rudolph Ackermann at Wikimedia Commons
- Forget Me Not: A Hypertextual Archive of Ackermann's 19th-Century Literary Annual reproduces elements from the 1823–1830 volumes of the earliest British-published literary annual, Forget Me Not, published by Rudolf Ackermann between 1823 and 1847. Hyperlinks allow the volumes to be examined by author, engraver, etc., and include references to other works submitted to similar 19th century literary journals.