Scrimshaw: An Annotated Bibliography

Books, Monographs, and Articles
Recommended by the Kendall Institute

of the New Bedford Whaling Museum



Carpenter, Charles H., Jr.; and Mary Grace Carpenter.

The Decorative Arts and Crafts of Nantucket.

New York: Dodd Mead & Co. and the Nantucket Historical Association, 1987.

Well developed overview of nautical and domestic decorative arts, largely based on institutional and private collections on Nantucket and elsewhere. The chapter on scrimshaw provides a social context for the genre and an hypothesis concerning its evolution in America and precursors in Europe. Illustrated, some color plates, bibliography, index.


Flayderman, E. Norman.

Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen.

New Milford, Conn.: N. Flayderman & Co., 1972.

Pioneering comprehensive guide to scrimshaw places the genre in historical context as occupational art, nicely peppered with quotations from the whalemen’s own shipboard journals and diaries, all profusely illustrated. 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.

Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists.

Mystic, Conn: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1991.

Winner of the North Atlantic Society for Oceanic History’s

Lyman Book Award for "Best Maritime Reference Work."

500 biographical sketches of the men and women in the whale fishery, naval, and merchant services of America, Britain, Australia, the Azores, and Continental Europe who produced scrimshaw at sea and ashore in the great age of sail, circa 1625-1930, based on more than 75 institutional and private collections worldwide. 29 plates illustrate dozens of examples; glossary of terms, many defined in the whalemen’s own words from shipboard journals; Foreword by Norman Flayderman; introductory essay tracing the evolution of scrimshaw since Medieval times; 3 appendices, bibliography, 3 indexes. Contributions by Joshua Basseches, Joost Schokkenbroek, and Dr. Janet West.

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.


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 of South Street Seaport collection and the history of whaling from New York.


Malley, Richard C.

‘Graven by the fishermen themselves’: Scrimshaw in Mystic Seaport Museum.

Mystic, Conn: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1983.

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 other genres related to scrimshaw, profusely illustrated in black and white and with many color plates, index, bibliography.


Malley, Richard C.

‘In their hours of ocean leisure:’ Scrimshaw in the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum.

Cold Spring Hbr., N.Y.: Whaling Museum Society, 1993.

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


Martin, Kenneth R.

‘Some Very Handsome Work’: Scrimshaw at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Eastham, Mass.: Eastham National Park and Monument Association, Inc., 1991.

Good catalogue of a modest National Park Service institutional collection contains 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.

Groundbreaking view of utilitarian scrimshaw by an Adjunct Professor of Art at the University of Miami and Florida International College, and former Curator at the Museum of American Folk Art. Examples are drawn from major museums and private collections, brilliantly photographed by Mark Sexton.


West, Janet; and Arthur G. Credland.

Scrimshaw: The Art of the Whalers.

Hull (UK):Hull City Museums; Beverley, East Yorks. (UK): Hutton Press, 1995.

Interesting treatise with British and zoological emphases, by Kendall Whaling Museum Advisory Curator Dr. Janet West (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge) and whaling historian A.G. Credland (Keeper of Maritime History, Town Docks Museum, Hull). Profusely illustrated primarily with holdings in the United Kingdom; glossary; bibliography.


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.

"L’art du scrimshaw / Les scrimshaws."

Le Chasse-Marée (Douarnenez, France), 67 (10 Sept 1992), pp. 46-61

Text in French.

Frank, Stuart M.

"The Origins of Engraved Pictorial Scrimshaw."

\The Magazine Antiques (October 1992)

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. Illustrated with examples from the Kendall Collection, photographed by Mark Sexton.

Frank, Stuart M.


Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, William E. Perrin, Brend Würsig, and J.G.M. Thewissen, eds. (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. Sandefjord (Norway): Kdr. Chr. Christensens Hvalfangstmuseum, 1993.

Proceedings of a Whaling History Symposium at the Christensens Whaling Museum in Norway in 1992, containing articles by an eclectic array of scholars from Europe and North America, on topics spanning ten centuries of whaling history.

Frank, Stuart M.

"Scrimshaw: ‘Ingenious contrivances… in the hours of ocean leisure.’" (Boston, July 2000); reprinted in New England Antiques Journal, XX:8 (Ware, Massachusetts, Feb. 2002), pp 68f.

 with website version

Frank, Stuart M.

"Scrimshaw: Occupational Art of the Whale-Hunters."

Maritime Life and Traditions, #7 (London, March 2000), pp 42-57.



American Neptune: Special Issue

[Proceedings of the Frederick Myrick Symposium, 1998]

(Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Massachusetts), Fall 2000.

Contains biographical, contextual, and technical articles by Daniel R. Finamore (Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Mass.), Stuart M. Frank (Kendall Institute, New Bedford Whaling Museum), Michael A. Jehle (New Bedford Whaling Museum), Donald E. Ridley (Kendall Institute), and Janet West (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge.

Basseches, Joshua.

Scrimshaw of Manuel Cunha: Late Work from Madeira Revealed.

Kendall Monograph Nº2, 1988.

Many pieces in private and institutional collections previously thought to be genuine sailors’ scrimshaw are actually creations of the late Manuel Cunha of Madeira, who "comes clean" here for the first time. Much of his work is still on the market.

Basseches, Joshua; and Stuart M. Frank.

Edward Burdett, 1805-1833: America's First Master Scrimshaw Artist.

Kendall Monograph Nº 5. 1991.

Biographical study and catalogue of whaleman Edward Burdett of Nantucket, America’s earliest known maker of pictorial scrimshaw and one of the finest; 20 illustrations from the Kendall Whaling Museum and other great collections.

Burrows, Fredrika Alexander.

The Yankee Scrimshanders.

Taunton, Mass.: William S. Sullwood Publishing, [1973] 1976.

Adequate introduction for neophytes and young people.

Frank, Stuart M.

Biographical Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists in the Kendall Whaling Museum.

Kendall Monograph Nº4, 1989.

First-ever biographical companion to scrimshaw, based on the world’s greatest collection: much information about major and minor scrimshaw artists; glossary largely based on the whalemen’s own words from shipboard journals and diaries.

Frank, Stuart M.

Fakeshaw: A Checklist of Plastic "Scrimshaw": Machine-Manufactured Polymer Scrimshaw Fakes. Kendall Whaling Museum Monograph Nº 1B [1988]; Third Edition, revised and expanded 2001. 3 indexes. Softbound. $10.0.0

The only comprehensive annotated guide to the bogus, polymer-plastic "scrimshaw" lookalikes machine-manufactured in England that are the bane of fleamarket shoppers. Arranged alphabetically, with indexes and bibliography. A website version has searchable text and all of the explanatory essays.

 with website version


Gilkerson, William.

The Scrimshander: The Nautical Ivory Worker and His Art of Scrimshaw, Historical and Contemporary.

San Francisco: Troubadour, 1975.

More about contemporary than historical work, 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 Substitutes.

Washington, D.C.: World Wildlife Fund and the Conservation Foundation. 1991.

Extremely useful technical explanations of identification of types of ivory, helpfully illustrated with diagrams and photos.

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 Nº5, [1952] 1984.

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

Ridley, Donald E.; and Stuart M. Frank.

Frederick Myrick of Nantucket: Scrimshaw Catalogue Raisonné.

Kendall Monograph Nº 13. 2000.

Complete itinerary of "Susan’s Teeth" and related masterworks by Myrick, biographical sketch, 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.

Definitive compendium of identifying points, technical characteristics, naval architectural and iconographical features of Myrick’s scrimshaw, including calligraphy and the Template Hypothesis.