A Substantial 19th century Scrimshaw Engraved Whale's Tooth

Heading : A Scrimshaw Whales tooth
Date : mid 19th century
Period : Victoria
Origin : possibly 
Britain but most probably USA
Decoration : Engraved with a fully-rigged three-masted sailing ship, the Coat of Arms of the United States, a bird of paradise and an extravagant urn of some kind
Size :  20.5 cm in length
Dirt filled cracks, uneven brown patina, soft sheen; some cracks through the tooth towards the 'root' end
Restoration : None
Weight :  718 grams

As well as the US crest, the ship depicted is flying the stars and stripes at its stern

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: 22082307
  • Availability: 1
  • £650.00

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