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I could need some help here!

Found this piece today. It looks feels and sounds like bone (no plastic) and is signed W L Roderick who appears to have been a surgeon on a whale ship in the mid 19 th century.

So I am wundering if it is genuine; any help appreciated here!

measurement is 16.3/12.8 cm.


handtekening 001.JPG

scrimshaw 002.JPG

scrimshaw 009.JPG

scrimshaw 005.JPG

Edited by Stuka f
Had to add measurements
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  • 2 months later...

My only contribution is to say that when I lived in West Africa we were told that bone will scorch in flame and ivory will not.  tested that theory with a match and a piece of 'ivory' and it's true!  I raised a nice blister on my finger touching the very hot but unmarked ivory.  You probably don't want to risk scorching what looks like bone to me too but there may be other methods to distinguish - I haven't needed to check in 30 years now.

I'm glad its genuine, as its a lovely piece!  A friend of mine has a number of faux scrimshaws - made of high grade acrylic in the form of sperm whale teeth - which he acquired in Hawaii years ago, and which I've always been fascinated by.  I believe they're copied from originals and the detail on some is exquisite.

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Hey Peter,

genuine scrimshaw is rather rare to find over here.

The faux however flood the market all over the world. And like you said they generaly copy ivory. Never saw copied bone scrimshaw.

I was pretty sure it was allright, my maine concern being the signature. But I am no authority in that field (or any other field ;-) ), so I went, two weeks, ago to the shooting of the antiques road show in London and it was approved by a expert from Bonhams.


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I saw the photo of my old line manager at Sotheby's, John Baddely. He hasn't aged a jot in 15 years. He was always good on scrimshaw. I remember once a group of somewhat pornographic scrimshaw came into Sotheby's, alas it was all fake


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John Baddeley is at Bonhams now.

It was quiet exiting, taking part of the show for once.

At a certain stage when I past the first selection, they put you with other people who were selected in a separate space.

My neighbours had some quiet nice militaria with them, I wanted to propose a swap, but then again tought it might be "not done"! (lol!!)

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  • 6 months later...

Part one of what was retained during the session at the Senate house for the Antique Road show, was broadcast last sunday evening. 

I was on for a fraction of a second, at the begining. Don't know, if they will show it in part 2, or part 3 (if there is one(lol!)).




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The surface texture in the 3rd photo of your July 22, 2016 post certainly looks like bone. I did a moderate amount of scrimshaw as a kid, visited collections, and have done lot of work with bone in my adult archaeological work. Some whalebone was used to manufacture a range of everyday items (clothespins, swifts for winding wool, knife handles, etc) by scrimshandering whalers, but the density is quite different from the bone of terrestrial animals. Whale ivory (this would be too broad for walrus ivory) would be much denser and smooth, while the subcortical bone of land animals will exhibit the kinds of textures seen in that 3rd image. Plaque shapes such as this example would be quite unusual to cut from whale ivory. The thinness of the bone in the 4th image and the display image of October 6 also suggests it also from a terrestrial animal. My suspicion is beef bone, probably the humerus (upper forelimb) that has a broad area at the proximal (near the body) end. 

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Always interested in learning!  But no worry's here, it passed different experts since then and finally sold by one of the finest auction houses in the US, during a sale of a well know collection of scrimshaw. The signature was genuine, so was the work and the bone.

I can also add that it came from the same auction house I got my Egyptian artifact from, today.

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