|Jean-Louis Boisselot (1782-1847) belonged to a dynasty of instrument-
makers active in Montpellier from about 1770. He started off in business
selling sheet music and instruments : the Erard archives show him
buying square pianos and harps from 1809 onwards. After opening a
showroom in Marseille in 1820, he moved there definitively in 1823, his
main line of business appearing to be selling squares made by Erard,
Lemme, Pape or Pleyel (he bought two grands from this maker in 1830).
In 1830-31, Boisselot started making his own pianos, in association with
his son Louis Constantin (1809-1850), under the name « Boisselot et fils
». They first of all built squares (first sale : 4 February 1832), then
grands (1834) and finally uprights (1836).
The speed at which production and sales took off (according to some
sources, 100 pianos were made by 75 workers as soon as 1834) goes to
prove that Boisselot and his son must have thought things through very
carefully before launching into production. An example of this is the fact
that Louis Constantin went to Paris in 1826-27 as a piano apprentice,
and then to Nîmes. In 1834 he was sent to England to study it’s piano
industry, at that time one of the foremost in the world.
It is also of interest that Boisselot chose a man of experience to
supervise production, Frederic Schultz (replaced by Timmermans when
he set up his own factory in 1839), and took on specialised English and
Over the next few years, Boisselot went from success to success : the
piano production increased steadily, making the firm one of the four
biggest in France (150 pianos per year in 1840, 400 per year in 1848),
they received a number of prizes, the most important being the gold
medal at the Paris national Expo of 1844, and they opened a Boisselot
concert hall in Marseille on the model of the Parisian Salle Erard or
Marseille turned out to be a good choice for setting up a piano factory :
salaries were lower than those of the Parisian rivals, cheap exotic wood
was to hand thanks to the importance of the town as a port, and there
was easy access to important export markets : Italy, Spain, and the
colonies via the Mediterranean.
At his death in 1847, Jean-Louis Boisselot bequeathed to his sons Xavier
(1811-1893) and Louis-Constantin a highly successful business, selling
to prestigious clients and patronized by Franz Liszt. His two other
children were given a share in the profits : « I have no intention of
favouring my two elder children, and I am not influenced by pride or
vanity towards the firm I created. I would just like the firm to stay in my
family, as an honourable and useful thing »
He probably didn’t see through what was his last project with Louis-
Constantin : the opening of a Spanish branch, established in 1847 or
1848 in Barcelona.
Louis-Constantin, now on his own at the head of the business, didn’t get
a chance to develop the business any further : his untimely death three
years later left Xavier in charge, thus putting an end to his career as a
successful Parisian composer (Grand Prix de Rome). Probably more
interested in music than in business, Xavier gave the business over to
his nephew Franz (Louis-Constantin’s son, named after his godfather
Liszt) in 1865.
In 1893, at the death of Xavier, the firm became the « Manufacture
Marseillaise de Pianos », directed by Franz until his death in 1908, after
which Boisselot pianos were made for a few more years.