Raphael Salaman - 1906-1993

Collector and Scholar of Craftmen's Tools

Raphael Salaman
Photo: Saul Wordsworth

Raphael Arthur Salaman (1906-1993) came from an old-established Anglo-Jewish family which had many connections with both science and the arts.  His father Dr. Redcliffe Salaman had written the standard work on the history and the social importance of the humble vegetable, the potato.  Raphael followed his father’s example of scholarly research on simple objects of everyday use.

Raphael was born at Barley in Hertfordshire in 1906 and developed his early interest in tools watching the craftsmen at work in his village.  He read engineering at Cambridge and set up a light engineering works in south-east London.  During the second world war he worked for Marks and Spencer, organizing their fire-fighting and air-raid precautions.  He moved to Harpenden at this time, living on Hollybush Lane, in a large house that gradually filled up with his collection of tools.

His major interest in life remained the study and collection of craftmen’s hand-tools, which culminated in the publication of his two outstanding dictionaries: Dictionary of Woodworking Tools (1975) and Dictionary of Leather-working Tools (1986).

He amassed a large collection of tools, which were for many years on display at the Museum of St Albans but are currently in store, and in the wheelwright’s shop in the Science Museum in London.  A few items are also in the Harpenden local history archives.

He married Miriam Polianowsky and they had a son Myer and three daughters.  Raphael Salaman lived in Harpenden until his death in 1993, and was a governor of St George’s School.  One of his daughters, Tamara, married the literary reviewer and writer Christopher Wordsworth, and their son Saul Wordsworth is a passionate advocate of the importance of Raphael’s collection.


  • R.A. Salaman (1975).  Dictionary of Tools Used in the Woodworkling and Allied Trades, c.1700-1970.  London: Allen & Unwin.
  • R.A. Salaman (1986).  Dictionary of Leather-Working Tools, c.1700-1950 and the Tools of Allied Trades.  London: Allen & Unwin.
  • Ref: Obituary: R.A.Salaman by David Kessler.  The Independent, Thursday 13 January 1994.
  • See also:  www.saulwordsworth.com/blog/?p=373

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.