Circa Early 1830s


Believed to be engraved aboard the H.M.S. Beagle during Charles Darwin's second voyage, the 1831-1836 expedition. Obverse depicts "Natives of Tierra del Fuego.", a scene of two figures on a mountainous coastline, one holding a spear and the other paddling a canoe. Signed lower right "J.A. Bute". Reverse depicts a bust portrait of a "New Zealander" with barbed spears and a hatchet. Edge with "Britons United" in a banner below a floral motif. Wide feathery fan-like borders at tip and base.
Length 6.25". Includes a glass and wood case with mirrored base. Case height 5.5". Width 8.75".
Condition: Inking faint in some places. Typically uneven base. Slight fracture at tip.
**Not available for international shipping.**

The absence of a condition report does not imply an object is free of defects. All items may have normal signs of age and wear commensurate with their age; these issues will likely not be mentioned in the condition report. Please contact Eldred's before the auction with any condition questions. Questions about condition will not be answered after purchase. Condition reports are provided as a courtesy, and we are not responsible for any errors or omissions. Important note on frames: Frames are not guaranteed to be in the same condition as they are in the item photograph. Due to handling and shipping, many frames, especially antique ones, are prone to losses. If you have questions about the condition of a frame, please contact us prior to the auction. 

  • Provenance: Notes:
    Accompanied by copies of correspondence between William J. Boylhart and Dr. Stuart M. Frank, Senior Curator Emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and founder of the Scrimshaw Forensics Laboratory, discussing the tooth's authenticity and attribution to Bute, in which Frank writes "I do believe that it's authentic ...".

    The signature, lettering and style of workmanship on this tooth are identical to a tooth by James Adolphus Bute that is part of the collection of the Western Australia Museum in Perth and two Bute examples sold at Eldred's, The Marine Sale, July 19, 2018, Lots #76 and #109.

    According to the Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists by Stuart M. Frank (Mystic, Ct.: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1991), p. 24, Englishman James Adolphus Bute was born around 1799 and joined the Royal Navy around 1819. There was great crossover of personnel between whaling and naval service in England, much more so than in the United States, and Bute may have been introduced to scrimshaw during a whaling voyage in between stints on naval vessels. "The Journal of Syms Covington", assistant to Darwin on his second voyage aboard the "Beagle", December 1831-September 1836, lists James Bute as a crew member, one of six crew members listed as a Royal Marine. Given the similarities between images on this and other Bute teeth and drawings by Conrad Martens, the official artist onboard the "Beagle", it is possible Bute was influenced by or collaborated with the artist in creating his pieces of scrimshaw.

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August 4, 2022 9:30 AM EDT
East Dennis, MA, US


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