Decorated sperm whale tooth. One side of the tooth shows a 'Mr Pickwick' Dickensian figure, with his hat on the ground beneath him

KINCM:2005.2311, Hull Maritime Museum

As we saw with the case of Don Juan and the scenes from Walter Scott, scrimshaw frequently drew inspiration from literary sources. This tooth features a figure identified as Mr Pickwick from Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers (1837), who stands with his legs and arms spread expressing a sense of shock, his hat lying on the floor below him. Such illustrations suggest, perhaps, whalers who were more like mainstream readers than we might have supposed

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum