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Scrimshaw Mystery: Double-sided Bookends

In the world of scrimshaw, it is not unusual to find matched sets, with two sperm-whale teeth having the same design. These were usually intended as bookends. CCMM’s Elizabeth H. and William Graham Scrimshaw Collection includes several such pairs. This pair shows two buildings. The building on top looks much like the Boston State House, and the building below bears resemblance to the New York City Town Hall. It was not unusual for sailors to make scrimshaw images of famous ports or landmarks they passed in their travels.

This pair also happens to be double-sided, with each tooth having an image on the reverse. Here, our staff is, frankly, stumped. This design may depict a structure, although rendered without the use of 3-point perspective. One staffer thought it might be a fanciful structure erected for one of the 19th century World’s Fairs. Another wondered whether the imagery might be masonic in nature. If you have an idea, please let us know!

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