Scrimshaw Bibliography


Books, monographs, and articles recommended by the Scrimshaw Forensics® Laboratory at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

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Flayderman, E. Norman. Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen.New Milford, Conn.: N. Flayderman & Co., 1972.

Pioneering comprehensive guide to scrimshaw that places the genre in historical context as occupational art, nicely peppered with quotations from the whalemen’s own shipboard journals and diaries, profusely illustrated in black and white. Also includes such non-scrimshaw analogues as powder horns and French prisoner-of-war carvings. Unfortunately, the book is long out of print and can be obtained only from antiquarian booksellers and at auction.

Frank, Stuart M. Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved: Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Boston: David R. Godine, 2012.

Monumental, authoritative, and award-winning survey of the world’s largest and most comprehensive scrimshaw collection, encompassing the enormous collection of the former Kendall Whaling Museum, profusely illustrated with 800 color photographs by Richard Donnelly, Foreword by Norman Flayderman, and extensive historical and interpretive text by Dr. Stuart M. Frank, Senior Curator Emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Director of the Scrimshaw Forensics® Laboratory, and Executive Director Emeritus of the Kendall Whaling Museum.

Frank, Stuart M. Scrimshaw in the Collection of the Nantucket Historical Association. Nantucket: Nantucket Historical Association, 2019.

Authoritative, profusely illustrated survey of the large and uniquely appealing scrimshaw collection at the whaling museum on Nantucket, the nation’s iconic original preeminent whaling port, with yyy color photographs, exten- sive historical and interpretive text by Dr. Stuart M. Frank, and a Foreword by renowned collector Max N. Berry,.

Frank, Stuart M. Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists. Mystic, Conn: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1991.

500 biographical sketches of the men and women in the whale fishery, naval, and merchant services of America, Great Britain, Australia, the Azores, and Continental Europe who produced scrimshaw at sea and ashore in the great Age of Sail, circa 1630-1930, based on over 75 institutional and private collections worldwide. Twnty-nine plates illustrate dozens of examples; glossary of terms, many defined in the whalemen’s own words from ship- board journals; Foreword by Norman Flayderman; introductory essay tracing the evolution of scrimshaw since Medieval times; three appendices, bibliography, three indexes. Contributions by Joshua Basseches (USA), Joost Schokkenbroek (Netherlands), and Dr. Janet West (UK). Selected by the North Atlantic Society for Oceanic History to the receive the Lyman Book Award as “Best Maritime Reference Work.”

Frank, Stuart M. More Scrimshaw Artists. Mystic, Conn: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1998.

This stand-alone volume is also a sequel and supplement to the Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists (see above). It has biographical sketches of dozens of newly discovered scrimshaw artists, additional information on many of the artists noted in the Dictionary, articles about the origins of Native Alaskan souvenir scrimshaw and about the influence of the Navy and the China Trade in the genesis of scrimshaw in the Pacific, gleanings from Charles W. Agard’s oral history interviews conducted at the turn of the century, and the complete journal of an Arctic whaling voyage by a dedicated, articulate scrimshaw artist.

Frank, Stuart M. Scrimshaw and Provenance. Mystic, Conn: Mystic Seaport Museum, 2013.

More than 400 biographical sketches of scrimshaw  artists, including  supplementary  materials  on  artists  noted  in  the previous two volumes, Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists and More Scrimshaw Artists; with seven appendices concerning scrimshaw methods and practices on shipboard, aspects of marine ivory  and  baleen, prices of marine  ivory in the Age of Sail, bartering for whale teeth in Polynesia, Azorean scrimshaw artists, and a  cumulative list     of scrimshaw biographies in the three volumes.

Hellman, Nina; and Norman Brouwer. A Mariner’s Fancy: The Whaleman’s Art of Scrimshaw.New York: South Street Seaport and Balsam Press, 1992.

Highlights the collection of South Street Seaport Museum and the history of whaling from the Port of New York: a reasonably strong collection with many outstanding pieces, well photographed and nicely described.

Hellman, Nina. Through the Eyes of a Collector: The Scrimshaw Collection of Thomas Mittler. N.c.: Charlotte Mittler, Publisher, 2015.

Catalogue of one of the great private collections of scrimshaw by a renowned authority, nicely photographed.

Lawrence, Martha.  Scrimshaw: The Whaler’s Legacy.  Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing Ltd. 1993.

Not the best historical text but nevertheless quite worthwhile, with lots of great pictures from private collections not accessible elsewhere.

Malley, Richard C. ‘Graven by the Fishermen Themselves’: Scrimshaw in Mystic Seaport Museum. Mystic, Conn: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1983.

Classic comprehensive guide to the fine collection of a leading maritime museum, articulately explaining the genre in historical and social contexts as occupational art, with many sidelights on sources and other genres related to scrimshaw, profusely illustrated in black and white and with a few color plates, index, and bibliography.

Malley, Richard C. ‘In their hours of ocean leisure:’ Scrimshaw in the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum. Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: Whaling Museum Society, 1993.

Interesting guide to a modest collection, with Malley’s characteristic attention to historical and social context.

Martin, Kenneth R. ‘Some Very Handsome Work’: Scrimshaw at the Cape Cod National Seashore. Eastham, Mass.: Eastham National Park and Monument Association, 1991.

Good catalogue of a modest National Park Service institutional collection by a renowned whaling historian, con- taining many worthwhile insights into the context of scrimshaw in the American whale fishery.

McManus, Michael. A Treasury of American Scrimshaw: A Collection of the Useful and Decorative. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Emphasis upon utilitarian scrimshaw by an adjunct professor of art at the University of Miami and Florida Inter- national College and former Curator at the Museum of American Folk Art. A wealth of examples, drawn from museums and private collections, photographed by Mark Sexton.

Penniman, T.K. Pictures of Ivory and other Animal Teeth, Bone and Antler; with a brief commentary on their use in identification. University of Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum Occasional Paper on Technology Nº 5, [1952] 1984.

Definitive technical explanations useful in understanding the taxonomy and identification of species and types of ivory, illustrated with black-and-white photographs. Very highly recommended.

West, Janet; and Arthur G. Credland. Scrimshaw: The Art of the Whalers. Hull (UK): Hull City Museums; Beverley, East Yorkshire (UK): Hutton Press, 1995.

Interesting treatise with British and zoological emphases by Dr. West of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, and whaling historian A.G. Credland, Keeper of Maritime History at the Hull Maritime Museum (Town Docks Museum). Illustrated primarily with holdings in the UK; glossary; bibliography.


Scrimshaw Observer a triannual magazine published by the Antique Scrimshaw Collectors Association, publishes in-print and online articles and bulletins about scrimshaw history, research, and the market- place.

Carpenter, Charles H., Jr.; and Mary Grace Carpenter. The Decorative Arts and Crafts of Nantucket. New York: Dodd Mead, 1987. Well developed topical overview of nautical and domestic decorative arts, based on institutional and private collections on Nantucket. Scrimshaw chapter provides a social context and a hypothesis regarding its evolution in America and precursors in Europe. Illustrated, some color plates, bibliography, index. Out of print but widely available from antiquarian booksellers.

Chang, Jack H.T.; and James S. Brust. “Ladies Fashion Plates and Other Illustrations Used for Scrimshaw.” Imprint: Journal of the American Historical Print Collectors Society, Vol. 36, Nº 2 (Autumn 2011), pp. 2-13. Describes some of the sources from which scrimshaw pictures were copied, with methodological explanations.

Espinoza, Edgard O’Neill; and Mary-Jacque Mann. “The History and Significance of the Schreger Pattern in Proboscidean Ivory Characterization.” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Vol. 32, No 3 (Fall/Winter 1993), pp. 241-247.

Frank, Stuart M. “Curiously Carved: Pictorial Sources of American Whalemen’s Scrimshaw.” The Magazine Antiques, January-February 2013, pp. 194-203. Explores the copywork and adoptive images often found on whalemen’s scrimshaw. Sumptuously illustrated with photographs by Richard Donnelly.

Frank, Stuart M. “‘Curiously carved’: Scrimshaw and the South Sea whale fishery.” London and the Whaling Trade, ed. by Chris Ellmers and Charles Payton. London: Docklands History Group / Museum of London Docklands, 2019. Best comprehensive treatment of British scrimshaw.

Frank, Stuart M. “L’art du scrimshaw / Les scrimshaws.” Le Chasse-Marée (Douarnenez, France),  67 (10 Sept. 1992), pp. 46-61. Text in French, 18pp, 55 pieces illustrated in full color.

Frank, Stuart M. “The Origins of Engraved Pictorial Scrimshaw.” The Magazine Antiques, October 1992. 38 pieces illustrated in color. Examines the early precursors of whalemen’s scrimshaw and traces the development of classic pictorial scrimshaw from its origins in the post-Napoleonic era and influence of the American China trade. Sumptuously illustrated with examples photographed by Mark Sexton.

Frank, Stuart M. “Scrimshaw.” Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, edited by William E. Perrin, Brend Würsig, and J.G.M. Thewissen (San Diego: Academic Press / Harcourt, Inc., 2002), pp 1060-1066.

Frank, Stuart M. “Scrimshaw: An Introduction and Overview, A.D. 800-1960.” Whaling & History: Perspectives on the Evolution of the Industry, edited by Bjørn L. Basberg, Jan Erik Ringstad, and Einar Wexelsen: Proceedings of a symposium at the Kdr. Chr. Christensens Whaling Museum at Sandefjord, Norway, in 1992.

Frank, Stuart M. “Scrimshaw: Ingenious contrivances … in the hours of ocean leisure.’” New England Antiques Journal, XX:8 (Ware, Mas., Feb. 2002), pp 68f. Popular introduction to the genre.

Frank, Stuart M. “Scrimshaw: Occupational Art of the Whale-Hunters.Maritime Life and Tradi- tions, Nº 7 (London, March 2000), pp 42-57. Illustrated with examples photographed by Mark Sexton.

Frank, Stuart M. “Scrimshaw: The Whalemen’s Art.” Early American Life, XXXVII:3 (June 2006), 8-19. A short and efficient introduction and overview; illustrations photographed by Mark Sexton.


American Neptune Special Issue: Proceedings of the Frederick Myrick Symposium,1998. Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Fall 2000. Biographical, contextual, and technical articles by Daniel R. Fina- more (Peabody Essex Museum), Stuart M. Frank and Donald E. Ridley (Kendall Whaling Museum), Michael A. Jehle (New Bedford Whaling Museum), and Janet West (Scott Polar Research Institute).

Basseches, Joshua. Scrimshaw of Manuel Cunha: Late Work from Madeira Revealed. Kendall Monograph Nº 2, 1988. 107 illustrations. Many pieces in private and institutional collections previously thought to be genuine sailors’ scrimshaw from the Age of Sail are actually creations of the late Manuel Cunha of Madeira, who “comes clean” here for the first time.

Basseches, Joshua; and Stuart M. Frank. Edward Burdett, 1805-1833: America’s First Master Scrim- shaw Artist. Kendall Nº 5. 1991. Softbound. Now largely outdated but still a useful biographical study and preliminary catalogue of pioneer whaleman-artist Edward Burdett of Nantucket, America’s earliest known scrimshaw artist and one of the finest. 20 illustrations.

Burrows, Fredrika Alexander. The Yankee Scrimshanders. Taunton, Mass.: Wm. S. Sullwood, [1973] 1976. Softbound. Adequate introduction for neophytes and young people. 28 illustrations.

Frank, Stuart M. Fakeshaw: A Checklist of Plastic “Scrimshaw.” Machine-Manufactured Polymer Scrimshaw Fakes. Kendall Monograph No 1 [1988]; 3rd ed., 2001. Comprehensive annotated guide to bogus, polymer resin scrimshaw lookalikes machine-manufactured in England. Arranged alphabetically, with 3 indexes and bibliography. Also posted free online at the website

Gilkerson, William. The Scrimshander: The Nautical Ivory Worker and His Art of Scrimshaw, His- torical and Contemporary. San Francisco: Troubadour, 1975. Illustrated, index. There’s more about contemporary than historical work here, from the artist’s point of view: the author is a celebrated marine painter who is also one of the most accomplished modern practitioners of the scrimshanders’ art.

Espinoza, Edgard O’Neill; and Mary-Jacque Mann. Identification Guide for Ivory and Ivory Sub- stitutes. Washington, D.C.: World Wildlife Fund and the Conservation Foundation, 1991. Extremely useful technical guide to the identification of types of ivory, illustrated with diagrams and photos.

Mann, William R. (Bobby); and Charles M. Marts. Ivory Identification. A Photographic Reference Guide. Ivorymann Publishing <>. Helpful for its color photographs.

Ridley, Donald E.; and Stuart M. Frank. Frederick Myrick of Nantucket: Scrimshaw Catalogue Rai- sonné. Kendall Monograph Nº 13. 2000. 150 illustrations, chronology, indexes, and lists. Inventory of vetted “Susan’s Teeth” masterworks by Myrick with biographical sketch and extensive technical details.

Ridley, Donald E.; Janet West; Desmond T. Liddy; and Judith N. Lund. Frederick Myrick of Nantucket: Physical Characteristics of the Scrimshaw. Kendall Monograph No 14, 2000. 26 illus., 3 tables. Definitive compendium of identifying points, technical characteristics, naval architectural features and iconography of Myrick’s scrimshaw, including calligraphy and the Template Hypothesis.


Much of what is posted on the internet about scrimshaw is guesswork, speculation, ignorant repetition of misconceptions (some of ’em deeply entrenched), hucksterism, fraud, and other kinds of baloney: people can post whatever they want, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. So: Exercise caution! There’s also a lot of nonsense in many of the books not mentioned in this Bibliography, so we recommend that you rely upon the recommended books for information and corroboration — and when it comes to the internet, maybe start with the websites of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum.