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Whalebone ink well stand

Date: 19th century
Overall: 5 x 174 x 121 mm, 0.15 kg
Medium: Whalebone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw
Object No: 00006609

User Terms

    This inkwell stand is made from whalebone. It features two Union Jack flags and two unidentified naval flags. Whalebone was a popular medium used to make decorative and functional items as it was both strong and yet able to be polished and carved. Designs were etched into them and ink was used to highlight the pattern. Such craft became generally known as "scrimshaw" and served to pass whalers time in between hunts.

    SignificanceItems as this inkwell holder are reminders of a long established tradition and industry where great nerves, skill and fortitude were required to be a whaler, especially as the life on board a whaling ship could be brutally difficult. Examples of artistic efforts illustrate both the industrious side of the sailors on board but also a different range of their skills.
    HistoryScrimshaw was originally a whalers' folk art and involves carving and engraving animal material, including whale bone, teeth, baleen, shell, ivory and tusks. Jackknives and metal tools were used to make incisions which would then have pigment rubbed into them to enhance the drawings. Engravings on teeth are the most widely recognised form of scrimshaw, however sailors made many small simplistic items of everyday use.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Tilbrook collection

    Assigned title: Whalebone ink well stand

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