West Sea Company

4. Scrimshaw & Whaling

Prices in U.S. Dollars are in GREEN


NOTE: A recent California statute makes it illegal in that state to "posess with the intent to sell" many forms of srimshaw, elephant ivory and other endangered species products, without regard to the age of the object. The exception to this is walrus. Accordingly, the items listed below are not available to California residents. However West Sea Company still maintains its long-time affiliate in the state of Massachusetts where these antique items are currently stored and sold legally.



4.51  SCRIMSHAW CANDLE HOLDER with provenance.   Lovely mid-1800’s or earlier candle stick turned from a solid  sperm whale ivory tooth.  This functional example of domestic scrimshaw was made by the whaleman to be used by his wife or sweetheart.  It consists of an urn-like pedestal with broad base and a recess inside to accommodate a candle.  It is embellished with decorative parallel scribes enhanced with colorful wax inlays.  Aside from its classic profile this candle holder has the added value of coming from the prestigious Barbara Johnson collection as certified by the original label affixed to the underside of  its base.  This holder measures 1 ½ inches in diameter and 1 5/8 inches high.  It is in perfect original condition, showing good age with careful actual use.  A rarity in scrimshaw, especially authenticated as coming from such a world-renown collection.  295

In December 1981 Sotheby’s New York conducted the first in a series of 4 auctions offering the prestigious Barbara Johnson whaling collection. Ms. Johnson, who married into the wealth of the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, proved to be a prolific and savvy collector. From the late 1960’s until the beginning of the 1980’s she amassed what was arguably the finest and most comprehensive collection of whaling - related art and artifacts held privately or publicly. Sotheby’s went on to hold 3 more auctions in September 1982, April 1983 and December 1983. The printed catalogs for those sales have become collector’s items in their own right, now deemed precedent-setting references of major scope. A set of 4 of the catalogs is currently listed for sale on eBay with a “Buy It Now” price of $950!

 

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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2.30

2.30  AMERICAN SCRIMSHAW MODEL.   Rare!  Genuine 3rd quarter of the 19th century sailor-made scrimshaw model of a 3-masted packet ship.  This well-rigged, highly detailed model is scrimshaw.  It is NOT a beef bone P.O.W. model!  Constructed of whalebone, whale ivory, baleen and rich tropical hardwood, the keel and bottom of the ship are dark brown wood.  The boot topping is a narrow strip of black baleen attached with tiny pins.  Above it, from the bulwark to the rail is planked whalebone attached with brass pins.  Deck fittings are carved of bone and whale ivory including the bowsprit, figurehead, catheads, foc’sle capstan, bilge pump, main deckhouse, cargo holds, ladders, aft deckhouse with bench, skylight, binnacle and steering gear box with brass helm. The detail is really quite amazing given the material from which it is made.  The masts and tops are all of carved whalebone as are the meticulously-fashioned bone blocks in the running rigging.  The spars are all of dark hardwood which provide a very pleasing contrasty effect.   The ratlines and stays on each mast are hand-tied and terminate in “bead” dead eyes along the bone-braced bulwarks.  This model is in superb original condition mounted on its original African mahogany stand.  It measures14 inches long overall by 10 inches tall and is 4 ¾ inches wide on the mainmast spar.  A superlative, museum-quality example of American whaleman scrimshaw art at its finest, proudly exhibiting its 140+ year age.   Request Price Special Packaging

A nearly identical model was sold from the very prestigious collection of Alice and Murray Braunfeld at Sotheby’s American Furniture and Folk Art sale conducted January 17, 2004 during “Americana Week” in New York.

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.


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4.48  BOOK, “SPERM WHALING FROM NEW BEDFORD.”   The highly sought after classic which pictorially documents the waning days of the American whale fishery in remarkable clarity and detail.  This book affords the best overall graphic coverage of an authentic whaling voyage ever produced.  Written by Elton W. Hall and published for the New Bedford Whaling Museum by the Old Dartmouth Historical Society in 1982, this hard cover book of 221 pages inclusive of Appendices, is complete with its original dust jacket in mint, unused condition.  Artist and photographer Clifford W. Ashley was permitted to sail aboard the famous sailing bark SUNBEAM out of New Bedford in 1904.  On that voyage Ashley captured every minute aspect of the whale hunt in period black and white photography.  Enhanced with its revealing narrative, this book ranks as one of the best, if not THE best, ever published on the topic.  Not available on Amazon.  New.  SOLD



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4.26  “SEA HORSE” PIE CRIMPER.  Extra nice mid-1800’s scrimshaw pie crimper made entirely from the tooth of a sperm whale!  This simple but superbly elegant example consists of a solid whale ivory handle with a decoratively carved “tail” similar to those seen on the very desirable seahorse crimpers produced during that era.  Obviously designed for actual use, this jagging wheel fits comfortably in the hand with a ridged area just behind the wheel for the thumb.  The large crenelated wheel was meticulously carved from whale ivory and is pinned in place with sterling silver.  This lovely example of whaleman’s work measures just under 5 ½ inches long with the wheel itself 2 inches in diameter.  Outstanding original condition with no breaks, chips or cracks.  Lines seen in the handle are the grain of the ivory.  As is typical the wheel has warped somewhat with age.  A most desirable example of decorative “working scrimshaw.”   985

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.44  SCRIMSHAW FINGER RING.  A vey nice example of scrimshaw jewelry consisting of a hand-carved walrus ivory ring precisely inlaid with colorful segments of abalone and mother-of-pearl.  The circular finger opening is exactly 3/4 of an inch in diameter, while the face of the ring measures 1 ¼ by 1 ¼ inches and the body is ¼ inch thick.  Excellent original condition with no cracks or damage.  249



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Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.42  EARLY WHALING PRINT.  Rare, original wood block print from “Harper’s Weekly Journal of Civilization” published in New York, dated Saturday, June 23, 1877, titled “A WHALING STATION ON THE CALIFORNIA COAST.”  This historically accurate print from the actual period depicts several whalemen flensing their query in the sea while others nearer the shore haul blubber to the tryworks.  In the background the stone station looms with the two tryworks chimneys belching smoke as scores of seagulls hover above.  A circular inset in the upper left shows a lookout diligently scanning the horizon for whales with his telescope.  This very desirable print is in perfect original condition with no fading or yellowing.  It has been professionally French-matted under glass with a double non-acidic mat mounted in a handsome beaded frame.  The large format  image measures 15 by 10 3/4 inches and the frame is 21 ½ by 17 inches.  A most interesting historic whaling print with very scarce West Coast subject matter.  Ready to display.  495 Special PackagingBack to Top

An example of this print is held in the prestigious collection of the Kendall Whaling Museum (now New Bedford Whaling Museum), as shown in the book “Kendall Whaling Prints,” page 118.  It is also depicted in the Time-Life series books “The Whalers” on page 145.  The print offered here is the genuine article!



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4.41  SCRIMSHAW CRIBBAGE BOARD.  Exceptional early 1900’s carved and inlaid cribbage board fashioned from the large tusk of a bull walrus.  This superb example of early Alaskan Eskimo trade output far surpasses the quality of most of its genre which were simply decorated with incised pictographs.  This cribbage board is actually carved in relief, and then, if that were not enough, it is inlaid with baleen separators throughout its length!  The charming vignettes depict a fox chasing an arctic hare on the left and a stately reindeer on the right.  In the center is the cribbage board with 6 successive rows of holes for the pegs used in that game.  The rows are meticulously inlaid with insets of whale baleen.  The base of the tusk was drilled to house pegs.  It rests on two sculpted feet composed of pinned and pegged whale tooth ivory.  The tusk measures 18 inches long by 2 5/8ths inches wide at the widest.  Excellent untouched original condition showing 100 years of age.  1495


Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.22

4.22 SCRIMSHAW REFERENCE BOOK. Michael McManus, "A Treasury of American Scrimshaw," 1997, Penguin Studios, New York. 150 pages, hard cover with dust jacket. Without a doubt this is THE most colorful and detailed pictorial reference book ever written on the topic of scrimshaw! Mr. McManus has included over 200 full color plates of the finest scrimshaw in the world, from the collections of the then Kendall Whaling Museum, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum. The result is a stunning raisonné of every manner of scrimshaw ever produced. With each photograph the author has carefully documented size, composition and location of the object(s) and goes on to describe each fully, including maker (when known), history and function. Large format, 11 by 9 inches. As new condition and offered here at nearly the same price it sold for when originally published over 15 years ago! 39


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4.45

4.45  SCRIMSHAW LETTER OPENER.  Particularly fine 19th century whaleman-made letter opener fashioned entirely of whale tooth with inlays of silver and abalone!  This rarely found form of scrimshaw features a long, thin blade carved out of a large whale tooth affixed to a whale ivory handle with a silver pin.  The sculpted handle features multiple inlays of abalone shell in the form of diamonds, leaves and an acorn with silver stems, a rectangle and a square with triangles.  Workmanship is of the highest order and the effect is most pleasing.  8 ½ inches long overall.  The blade measures 5 inches long and the handle is 3/8ths inch thick.  Fabulous original condition in all respects with a very nice age patina to the ivory.   The blade is slightly warped with age -- quite typical of items fashioned from ivory when it was still “green.”  Actually this is a good sign, indicating it was made aboard a whaleship!  A real rarity in scrimshaw, very reasonably priced for the very exquisite work it embodies. SOLD  


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4.40  BONE BUSK.  Authentic mid-19th century or earlier whaleman scrimshawed busk from the golden age of American whaling.  This superb example exemplifies the remarkable melding of utility and decoration at which the scrimshanders were so adept.  It consists of a solid piece of sperm whale panbone carefully carved down to less than 1/8th inch thick by 13 ¾ inches long and 1 ½ inches wide.  Its surface is profusely engraved with numerous traditional sailor folk art forms.  Starting at the top is an unusual urn containing a leafy plant.  Below it is a large heart with compass scribed designs.  There follows a circular “shield” with sunburst patterns graced by floral garlands on either side.  That is followed by the very endearing scene of a mother bird tending to her chicks in the nest.  An elongated diamond is the center vignette.  On the lower half is a classic pinwheel star, then several leafy vines with flowers, followed by an indented diamond shape.  The bottommost symbol is a very complex design which obviously has a profound meaning.  It appears to be the circular face of a sun dial, with wings, perhaps  indicating the fleeting passage of time.   All of these are contained within a very ornate leafy border which entirely encompasses the periphery of the busk.  This must have taken the sailor untold hours, indeed days, to construct!  Together with urn at the top symbolizing life;  the heart, love;  the nest symbolizing family and fertility;  the pinwheel star symbolizing the revival of Spring;  and the sun dial denoting time – this iconography tells the whaleman’s story to his loved one.  Excellent original condition in all respects.  The engraving is very clear and precise.  This rare example represents an intimate, tangible example of a sailor’s love, beautifully composed over 160 years ago!  695

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

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4.15

4.15  SCRIMSHAW REFERENCE BOOK.  E. Norman Flayderman, “Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders Whales and Whalemen,” 1972, N. Flayderman & Co., New Milford, Connecticut.  297 pages exclusive of index, hard cloth cover with dust jacket.  Often referred to as The Bible of Scrimshaw.  Those desirous of adding this cornerstone reference to their library need no further elaboration.  The entire book is in as new condition, the dust cover only has slightly worn edges.  245



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4.96  REFERENCE BOOK, "The WHALERS."  Certainly our favorite amongst all of the wonderful, awarding winning Time-Life series books The Seafarers, authored by noted maritime historian, A.B.C. Wipple, and published by Time, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia in 1979.  This book chronicles one of the most dangerous and exciting pursuits in American maritime history.  It opens with the primitive whale fishery begun when America was a struggling colony and ends in the waning days of whaling when America had advanced to preeminence as the world's leading industrial nation.  The intervening years were dominated by the remarkable struggle between man and the largest beast on earth, played out thousands of times.  It yielded oil for the nation's lamps and raw materials for its manufacturing.  Every aspect of that industry, both at sea and ashore is covered here.  The lives of the men, their ships, sweethearts, and their ports of call -- all make for fascinating reading.  Then there was that most amazing by-product of the whaling industry  SCRIMSHAW!  Beautifully illustrated in color and black white, with original paintings, drawings, diagrams, photographs and more!   Hard faux leather cover, 173 pages exclusive of index.  Unused condition.   Absolutely “must have” for the scrimshaw collector and/or whaling historian.
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4.06  WHALING PAMPHLET.  The “Whale Fishery of New England,” State Street Trust Company, Boston in cooperation with the Old Dartmouth Historical Society of New Bedford, first published in 1915.  This edition 1968.  68 pages, soft cover, profusely illustrated with old black and white images.  “An account, with illustrations and some interesting and amusing anecdotes  of the rise and fall of an industry which has made New England famous throughout the world.”   A classic.  Good condition.  15   


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4.99  HARPOON REFERENCE BOOK.   Thomas Lytle, “Harpoons and Other Whale Craft,” 1984, Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford, Massachusetts, second edition 2005.  Hard cloth cover, 250 pages exclusive of index.  Without question, Mr. Lytle has compiled the “bible of whaling implements” in this book, with a comprehensive study of the history of whalecraft and the many ingenious forms into which it finally evolved.  Included are detailed descriptions, photographs, line drawings, period advertisements and patent material about harpoons, harpoon guns, bombs, trying out utensils and the many variations thereof.  Appendix A contains biographical sketches of the noted makers of whalecraft in American.  Appendix B is a photographic catalog with descriptions of the extensive collection of whalecraft in the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  Soon after the first edition was published the Kendall Whaling museum merged with the New Bedford Museum.  The benefit of this 2005 edition is that it contains updated information on the collection as expanded by the Kendall additions.  As new condition.  149


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4.54

4.54  SCRIMSHAW LETTER OPENER.  Genuine mid-19th century American whaleman-made utilitarian scrimshaw in the form of a rarely found letter opener.  This unique example is constructed entirely of the dense panbone of a sperm whale’s jaw.  The long thin blade is slightly thicker down the middle, tapering to a fine edge on both sides.  It is attached to the handle with a perfect mortised fit using two silver rivets to hold it in place.  The joint is decoratively-rounded with a carved ridge at the base of the handle.  This letter opener measures 9 ¼ inches long overall.  The blade is 5 ¾ inches and the handle is 5 inches (accounting for the joint).  Outstanding original condition with a nice age patina indicative of its 150+ years.  329

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

 

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4.39

4.39  SCRIMSHAW PIE CRIMPER.  Fine, mid-19th century American jagging wheel made entirely out of whale tooth ivory.  The finely crenelated wheel is suspended on a silver axle running through two prongs on the front of the one-piece handle.  The slightly curving body of the handle is nicely reticulated with open work designs and a large heart.  The edges are decoratively carved with recurring scallops and ridges.  Outstanding original condition with no cracks, breaks or chips.  The handle has acquired a rich age patina and is slightly twisted – a good indicator of old whale tooth ivory.  5 ¾ inches long overall and 1 5/8ths inches wide at the widest.  The wheel is 1 7/8th inches in diameter. Request Price 

From the collection of a Fairhaven, Massachusetts whaling family.

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.

 

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Also see catalog pages 2, 11 and 20 for more sailor-made folk art items.

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