A Fine c.1860 Collection of Carved Bone Alphabet Letters Within a Turned Ivory Box


Origin: English
Period: Mid Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1850-70
Base Diameter of Box: 2.25 inches
The Letters: 0.5 inches high (average)

The small turned ivory box with pull off cover revealing numerous carved bone lettering survives from the middle of the nineteenth century.

The alphabet, including an ampersand, is missing five letters, D, J, K, L and Y and the lid of the turned box has become unstuck at one stage and re-applied. Otherwise the collection and the box are in as good as condition as you could wish, with a beautiful mellow patination to both ivory and bone.

Alphabet tiles or carved cut outs like these were used, along with hornbooks, to give children the first educational building blocks of the English language in the early Victorian period. It is difficult, however, to draw a clear line of differentiation between tuition and amusement, as many early games and puzzles had an underlying educational motive. Either way, the letters, and box for that matter, are clearly defined and beautifully crafted.

Wonderfully tactile, wonderfully collectable, and if used imaginatively, wonderfully decorative.