Sources: The Artists' Inspiration
The great majority of whalemen were not artistically trained and used published prints for engraving on sperm whale teeth. The sources include magazines, newspapers, gift books, etc. The transfers were made by blackening the backs of the prints and tracing the major lines or pin pricking through the major lines and then applying pigment to the pin pricks. The tracings or pin pricks might be completed by engraving with a sharp edge or by stippling followed by the application of pigment.
Whaling scenes were generally done free-hand because the whalemen were so familiar with the details of their ships and trade.
The matching of source images to scrimshaw provides a means of dating scrimshaw, the significance of iconography, evidence that scrimshaw was performed on-board, and insight into the reading interest of the whalemen.
Research on Sources
Jack Chang researched scrimshaw sources for many years, and he organized his findings by category for the benefit of all members of the Antique Scrimshaw Collectors Association. Please read Jack’s introduction and his explanation of identifying prototypes before visiting the pages presenting the sources. We are indebted to Jack for his research and his willingness to share it with the community of antique scrimshaw collectors.
Matched source images or derivative images are available on this site for all ASCA members by clicking on the following links:
More than three hundred source matches are available for viewing by registered members of the Antiques Scrimshaw Collectors Association. Click on the button below to learn more about becoming a member.