A rare scimshawed sperm whale's tooth, attributed to Edward Burdett,  circa 1828, 5in (12.8cm) long
Lot 1251Y
A rare scrimshawed sperm whale's tooth, attributed to Edward Burdett, circa 1825 Lenth 5in (12.8cm)
Sold for US$ 47,800 inc. premium
Lot Details
A rare scrimshawed sperm whale's tooth, attributed to Edward Burdett, American, circa 1825
Monochrome engraved on both sides, recto: portrait of the fully rigged brig inscribed 'H M Brig Ringdove', flying a British ensign, verso: portrait of the fully-rigged three masted ship inscribed 'H M S Tartar', flying the British ensign, ivory with good yellow/cream patina. Lenth 5in (12.8cm)


  • This scrimshaw displays many of Edward Burdett's artistic characteristics including the four diminishing lines and spot border, the deeply incised ships hull with spotting, and the distinctive rigging, pronounced bowsprit with dolphin striker and sails with prominent reefing points.

    For comparable Edward Burdett scrimshaw, see:
    Lot 5073, Bonhams & Butterfields Marine Sale 1st May 2005 for very similar border decoration.
    Lot 6072, Bonhams & Butterfields Marine Sale 16th March 2004.

    The New Bedford Whaling Museum (www.whalingmuseum.org), catalog number, 2001.100.1082 "Daniel IV of London", also catalog number 2001.100.2048 "William Tell of New York. In Pursuit of a Wounded Whale".

    Edward Burdett (1805-1833) was the first known American scrimshaw artist who began scrimshandering in about 1824 when on his first maiden voyage in the Nantucket ship 'Foster' (1822-24). The first American scrimshaw to bear a date is a recently-discovered tooth engraved by Edward Burdett aboard the ship Oregon of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, in 1827. Burdett served as a deck officer on the 'William Tell' and met an untimely and early death in 1833 when serving aboard the ship 'Montano' commanded by Captain David Edwards. Whilst chasing a whale he became entangled in a harpoon line and was dragged overboard by the whale and drowned.

    Stuart M Frank "Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists", Mystic 1991

    The Navy List records HMS 'Tartar' 42, as being in Plymouth from 1821 until early in 1823, and then to South America later in the year. She remains on the South American Station until early in 1826 and then does not leave home waters again before 1830. HMS 'Ringdove' 18, is listed at Portsmouth until early in 1823 and then sails for the West Indies Station, where she remains until early 1826. She was sold out of the service in 1829. It is possible that both vessels were in the way of the 'Foste'" during her voyage to the South Sea whaling grounds.
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