Zumpe, Johann Christoph (1726-1790)

Johann Christoph Zumpe (1726-1790) was born in Saxony and originally trained as a cabinetmaker. He immigrated to London in the 1750s like so many others at the time, and is one of the group of German craftsman sometimes referred to as the “Twelve Apostles.” Zumpe initially worked for harpsichord maker Burkat Shudi until he opened his own workshop in 1761 on Princes Street, also in London. While working for Shudi, Zumpe brought three square pianos to London from a trip to Germany, thus introducing the square piano to England. It is believed that the first public performance on a square piano was in London in 1767, using a Zumpe square piano. The popularity of this new instrument was so great that Zumpe could not meet the demand for his pianos, so in 1769 he partnered with Gabriel Buntebart to increase output. During this time the pianos were marked as Zumpe & Buntebart. In 1778 this partnership ended, and for a time Zumpe had another partner in Meincke Meyer, a piano maker of either German or Dutch origin. In 1784 Zumpe stepped down and Georg D. Schoene, one of Zumpe’s senior associates, took over management of the company. From this point on, the the firm was know as “Schoene & Co successors to Johann Zumpe.” All of Zumpe’s instruments were square pianos, using hand levers instead of pedals. Although his pianos were made quite plainly, Zumpe made several contributions to piano manufacturing such as inventing the damper rail which raised all dampers at once.

Literature References:

Clinkscale, M., 2006. Makers of the piano, 1700-1820. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.229-230.

Palmieri, R. and Palmieri, M., 2003. Encyclopedia of Keyboard Instruments. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, p.463-464.