Collections Spanning Eras

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Collections of Literature

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The S.O.T. CD

Aside from the Holtzapffels' Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, the most important reference for ornamental turning and related work is the collection of the Bulletin of the Society of Ornamental Turners, considered as a whole. Fortunately, the S.O.T. has compiled this onto CD-ROM for sale to members.

The first CD was released in 1998 and includes Bulletins 1 through 98. It also includes the 1987 edition of Abell, Leggat and Ogden's A Bibliography of the Art of Turning, Grace's The Art and Craft of Ornamental Turning, and Tweddle's The Rose Engine Lathe.

This first CD has been supplemented by three others: a second CD with "high quality copies of all the known photographs from the first 60 bulletins," a third CD containing Bulletins 99 to 109, and a fourth CD with Bulletins 110-124.

If you have a serious interest in OT, you should joing the S.O.T. and buy these CDs.

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Edwards' "Holtzapffel Volume VI"

The sixth volume of the Holtzapffels' Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, which was to have been "The Principles and Practice of Amateur Mechanical Engineering," was never completed or published.

John Edwards has published in CD-ROM format a "Compendium of rare or previously un-published material related to the art and craft of Ornamental Turning" under the title Holtzapffel Volume VI. Rather than attempting to complete the Holtzapffels' projected volume on amateur mechanical engineering, Edwards presents instead "a new volume [devoted to] the many known ornamental turning techniques and accessories that had not been included in Volume V." Edwards' CD-ROM is a splendid compilation which is indeed a fitting completion of the Holtzapffels' series on Turning and Mechanical Manipulation. For ordering information, see John Edwards' website at:

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Collections in Museums

The great science and technology museums of Europe have a number of interesting ornamental turning machines. Here is a collection of images of them as shown in public domain, Creative Commons, or noncommercial-use images.

The Birmingham (UK) Science Museum

These are images of a "La Crois Ornamental Turning Lathe" taken on August 1, 2005 at the Birmingham Science Museum. It is licensed by the Birmingham Museums Trust under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

For a discussion of the provenance of this lathe, see Olga Baird's 2005 article "The Ornamental Lathe of Louis XVI from the Birmingham Collection of Science and Industry."

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The CNAM (Paris)

Unfortunately, the official photographs by the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (Paris) are restrictively licensed and cannot be reproduced. There are few other sources for images from their great collection.

"Tour à guillocher de Mercklein, 1780" / "Mercklein's rose engine, 1780." Photograph by Wikimedia Commons user "Rama," licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 France license. This photograph is online at

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The following images of plain and ornamental lathes are from postcards in my own collection. These are undated, but were published by the CNAM at some point in the early 20th century. They probably date from after 1904 (when two-column backs for postcards were introduced) but before World War I (after which postcard use declined). I am presuming that they were published before 1923; if so, they are in the public domain in the United States (and elsewhere). Each of the small images below links to a 2048 pixel wide medium-resolution version of the image. A list with links to the full-resolution scans follows (they are 2400 DPI RGB and very large). The "item" numbers are CNAM accession numbers.

Item 15, a model lathe executed by the studio of Vaucanson before 1783.

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Item 108, a guilloché lathe equipped for oval turning. Item 114, a gulloché lathe by Mercklein for Louis XVI constructed before 1780, equipped for oval, eccentric, and cycloidal turning.

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Item 305, a portrait lathe given by Peter the Great. Although the postcard does not indicate it, this lathe was constructed by Nartov and is the only Nartov machine outside of Russia.

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Item 1117, a guilloché lathe. Item 3415, a portrait lathe by Collas, aquired in 1818. This is a single-arm pantograph.

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Item 4028, a portrait lathe dating from before 1849.

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Item 8809, a portrait lathe by Condamin, donated to the museum in 1873.

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Item 10496, a portrait (medal and cameo) lathe by Ambroise Wohlgemuth, donated to the museum in 1885.

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The last two lathes here aren't ornamental turning machines at all. But I bought the postcards at the same time, so I might as well put them up here. The first is Item 6221, a lathe for turning wagon wheels. The second is item 7753, a bow lathe with a continuous motion.

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The backs of the postcards are all like this one:

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The original scans are quite large:

The State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg)

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg contains a collection which has all but one of the surviving machines by Nartov, as well as a medallion lathe of Italian manufacture apparently contemporary with Nartov's machines. They license their visual materials generously: "The State Hermitage permits the use of the pictures of items from its collections and also the views of its buildings and halls that are published on the website for personal, educational and information purposes: ... the creation of educational handouts ... and other interactive forms used for the presentation of scholarly works ..." I believe that the use of these images here is covered under these noncommercial licensing terms. Please note however that you must evaluate any re-use you make of these images according to their original licensing terms. In the reproductions below, the identifying information is from the online presentation of these images on the Hermitage website.

Below left, a portrait of A. K. Nartov.q Right, a "Copying Lathe for Making Medals and Guilloche Patterns" attributed to Nartov, 1721. Original images at the State Hermitage Museum at and

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Below left, a Copying Lathe for Making Guilloche Patterns" attributed to Nartov, 1718. Right, another "Copying Lathe for Making Guilloche Patterns," attributed to Nartov and to George Zanepens (called Kurnosy), 1713-1725. Original images at the State Hermitage Museum at and

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Below left, a "Turning Machine for Copying a Guilloche Pattern" attributed to George Zanepens (called Kurnosy) and Nartov, 1722. Right, "Turning Machine for Copying" attributed to Franz Singer and Nartov and dated to the period between 1718 and 1729. Original images at the State Hermitage Museum at and

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Below, "Turning Machine for Copying Medals" attributed to Franz Singer and Nartov and dated to the period from 1710 to the early 1720s. Original image at the State Hermitage Museum at

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Below, a "Gear-Cutting and Milling Machine" attributed to Nartov, 1721. It looks like a large horological wheel cutting engine. Original image at the State Hermitage Museum at

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Finally, the Hermitage contains a "turning machine for copying" (which appears to be a medallion lathe) identified as from Italy (Florence) from 1711. Original image at the State Hermitage Museum at:

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The Science Museum (London)

To its great credit, the Science Museum (London) is doing the right thing and is licensing their photographs under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 4.0 license (when indicated in their distribution of the materials). This is a great service to scholarship. (But note that not all of their photographs are so licensed. In particular, the photographs distributed through their fee-based "Science and Society Picture Library,", are not.)

Given the depth of the Science Museum collection it also presents an embarassment of riches. There is too much to be presented here, and it would serve little purpose to do so. Instead, go to the Science Museum website and do a search based on "image license:

Make sure that the box for "Non-Commercial use is ticked. As I write this (2018-07-04) there were 28,519 images available with this licensing. Then search for terms such as:

For items of technology with roots in ornamental turning, search for terms such as:

But if you stop with these you have no true love of machines.