A 19th Century Scrimshaw Engraved Whale's Tooth

Heading : A Scrimshaw Whale's Tooth
Date : mid 19th century
Period : Victoria
Origin : The carver was English beyond reasonable doubt

Decoration : Engraved with a engaging rural cartoon or cameo, featuring a farmer in the typically English clothing of the trade - smock and felt hat - hefting a young gallant in to the air in a hay field with his pitchfork; a young lady - clearly the object of the heftee's affections - lays hidden at the base of a hayrick; the following legend is written above the scene: 'Why, stroike me lucky if I arnt found a nest, and here's the Cock bird, the Hen can't be far off'.
If the farmer's garb is not enough to identify this scrimshaw as being almost certainly of English origin, then the dialect in which this is written adds considerable weight to such conjecture !
Dirt filled cracks, uneven brown patina, soft sheen; small chipping towards the 'root' end - probably original dating to the tooth's removal from it's one-time host
Dimensions : 12.7 cm long - 13.4 cm diameter at widest point 
Restoration : None
Weight :  231 grams

The activity of whaling has largely and quite rightly been consigned to the history books. However, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was a huge industry with men pitting their wits against the leviathans of the deep, risking their lives in the process. Thousands of sailors spent months away from home in search of what at the time were essential commodities - whale oil and meat.  These extended trips entailed much down-time and boredom for the men on ship and one way of occupying themselves was to utilise the otherwise redundant products, bone and teeth.

The name 'scrimshaw' for such artefacts is derived from an occupational appellation -  in the same manner that Miller, Potter, Baker and the like have endured. It's meaning is derived from the medieval French 'escremisseur' - and the Anglicised version, 'eskiremere'. These, and similar words, were names or titles for those deemed to be 'master skirmen' - skilled in the art of fencing and swordplay, who often taught others. It's a simple leap to appreciate how the term became used for these beguiling relics of maritime enterprise, made - as they were - by men clearly skilled in the use of a sharp implement in order to make their mark, as was the case for those who were renowned for their martial skills in the distant past.

Please note - with export restrictions on marine ivory being in place, be mindful of the regulations in your domain.












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  • Product Code: 22082306
  • Availability: 1
  • £575.00

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