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
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
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
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
The buyer's premium was 20/12%
Exchange Rate: £1 = $1.53