Charles Darwin Scrimshawed Whale Tooth for Bonhams Auction

. March 25, 2009

A rare carved whale’s tooth from H M Sloop “Beagle” depicting Charles Darwin’s 1834 voyage will come on sale at Bonhams in London on 16 September in one of the highlights of the Travel and Exploration thematic sales planned for this year.

This extraordinary item was decorated by James Bute (b.1799) who joined the Royal Navy as a Marine Private circa 1819 and was documented as one of the marines on board the Beagle’s voyage to the Galapagos. The detailed engraving depicts H M Beagle in rough seas off a mountainous shoreline on one side and on the reverse a scene of the Beagle laid on shore to repair her Forefoot, each signed J A Bute. There are only four other known examples of Bute’s scrimshaw work.

The whale’s tooth is 7in (18cm) in length and is expected to fetch £30,000-50,000 at auction at Bonhams New Bond Street.

Jon Baddeley, Head of Collectors at Bonhams world-wide comments on the sale: “This is without doubt the most important British scrimshaw to come on to the market in my 30-year career especially as 2009 is the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and 150 years since the publication The Origin of the Species. Having sold an American scrimshaw for a world-record price of $182,250 three years ago in Boston, it would fantastic to also beat the record for a British scrimshaw this year when we celebrate Darwin’s historic voyage to the Galapagos”

The sale will encompass travel books and manuscripts, atlases and globes, photographs, artefacts and paintings relating to travel and historical voyages and expeditions of famous navigators and explorers from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

In addition to paintings relating to early travel, the auction will include topographical pictures by itinerant artists in the Americas, Africa, Australasia, Pacific and the Far East together with East India Company Trade paintings.

Category: Auction News

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