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SCRIMSHAW WHALE'S TOOTH BY EDWARD BURDETT Circa 1830-1833

Inscribed on edge "William.Tell.", the name of Burdett's whaleship, and signed on base "Engraved by Edward Burdett", both in the same script lettering. Obverse depicts a whaling scene with the American whaleship William Tell flying a large American flag off her stern, three whaleboats in the water and another whaleship in the distance. The flag shows some remnants of red coloring. Reverse depicts a whaling scene with a large whaleship cutting in and two whaleboats in pursuit of a surfaced sperm whale. As typical of Burdett's work, a berry vine wraps around the circumference of the base. The tooth exhibits exceptional details, particularly in the rigging of the whaleships, and the ships' hulls and the whale are deeply carved. Length 8".
We presume this tooth was created while Edward Burdett was onboard the ship William Tell , which left New York in November 1829 and returned to port in February 1833.
Edward Burdett was a pioneer of American scrimshaw, and in his short but prolific career he produced what are widely considered masterpieces of the genre. He was born on Nantucket in October 1805, the son of a merchant sea captain. His first whaling voyage was aboard the
Foster from 1822 to 1824. In successive voyages he sailed aboard the William Tell and the Montano . In November 1833, while serving as first mate onboard the Montano , Burdett was entangled in line, dragged by a whale overboard, and drowned.

This tooth bears a number of similarities to a signed Edward Burdett tooth sold at Eldred's Marine Sale, July 20, 2017, Lot #1, for the world-record price of $456,000. Both teeth mention the
William Tell and the depiction and placement of the ships on the teeth is nearly identical.
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  • Condition: Deep patina. Age line/crack on both sides.


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