A Very Fine Pair of Ivory Finger Scorers / Playing Counters


Origin: English
Period: Mid Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1850
Base Diameter: 1.75 inches
Height: 0.75 inches

Of circular form with carved hand swivel pointer on ebonised circular bases, the finely carved pointed hand turns on a beautifully numbered support. Probably once part of a games set, perhaps housed in a coromandel or rosewood fitted box, these counters would have been an integral part of a luxury compendium including such games as backgammon, cribbage, draughts, cards and chess.

Attractively designed and wonderfully tactile these pointers are intricately detailed; the realistically crafted hands with cuffs are extremely well executed in terms of the planning in initial design and the actual hand carving right down to the nails. The condition is good with some little rub to the ebonised detailing, though importantly the individual fingers all remain in tact.

Also known as a fist, hand or index, the printer's symbol or pointing hand has a long history, the printed outline of a hand being used as a paragraph mark by, among other early printers, Huss at Lyons in 1484. This was taken from scribal practice, carefully drawn hands pointing to a new paragraph being found in early 12th century Spanish manuscripts. When three fingers are doubled under the thumb, the finger is extended. Thus, this finger is important in reproach and in pointing things out which is why it has its name (indice in Latin, index in English). Turned slightly downwards, as we see here, with the whole hand raised, it expresses strong statement; it insists on a point or indeed indicates a number.

Arguably worth more as artefacts than as functional counters, this excellent pair exudes not only high levels of craftsmanship but also the wonderfully evocative tang of the gentleman’s library or smoking room.