Friday - 19 December 2014

London-made lathe takes $190,000 in Massachusetts

10 January 2013Written by Tom Derbyshire

A rare Holtzapffel & Company rose engine lathe turned a few heads at Skinner’s recent Science, Technology and Clocks sale to take $190,000 (£124,185) as the top lot of the day.

The most complex and fully featured rose engine lathe that the London-based firm ever made, coming complete with a cabinet of accessories, it shattered the upper estimate of $90,000 at the Marlborough, Massachusetts auction on December 1.

Numbered 1636, it was two years in the making and originally sold for a price reportedly "in excess of 1,500 pounds sterling" on December 20, 1838, to a London civil engineer, John Taylor Esquire (1779-1863).

John Jacob Holtzapffel II wrote to a later owner in 1886 that it was "one of three, the last and best we have made".

John Jacob Holtzapffel I founded the firm in 1795 and it became Holtzapffel & Deyerlein in 1804 as a partnership with assistant John George Deyerlein. Deyerlein left in 1827 but - as Holtzapffel & Company, at 64 Charing Cross
Road - the business continued to make lathes and precision tools until 1928.

Elite Instrument

Ornamental lathes were used by the elite of society, but during the Victorian age princely enthusiasm waned and the high cost of the equipment mainly restricted their use to wealthy scientific amateurs, often professors and clergy.

Skinner's lathe and accessories came from the collection of Richard I Miller, a prominent ornamental turner of Tucson, Arizona. Bidding started off at $70,000 and quickly climbed to $130,000, with many paddles raised, until there were two remaining phone bidders when the hammer came down. 

In August 2011 Skinner sold what they called one of the most complete ornamental turning lathes to come to the market in many years: a Holtzapffel & Deyerlein made c.1827, which more than doubled its top estimate to take $55,000 (then £35,950) hammer.

The buyer's premium was 20/12%

Exchange Rate: £1 = $1.53

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