From my own lifelong collections, some will call this a letter opener, but it is not that. This stunning and rare c.1820-50 Dieppe, France hand carved ivory paper knife, probably shortened from a longer length - perhaps the blade was chipped or damaged when longer. It is 9.5” long, 1 3/8” wide, 5/8” deepest at handle now. A heavy solid carving, the intricacies of all that fruit and flowers comprising the handle is amazing. Our photos show it enlarged for your review, as there is not a single chip anywhere on it, and the tiny carving is truly a Master's work. Remember, that handle iOS just 4" long and 1 3/8" wide. Paper knives used to be a luxurious necessity for those who could read and who were able to buy books and build a library of their own. A newly printed book, likely leather bound, would have a long panel of pages printed in intaglio, flipped and the odd-numbered type on the backsides, then it was folded to book-size, each page having a fold either at the spine or the other side. The sections of the print then were sewn at the spine to create a book. Paper or leather bound at the sewn spine, an unused book would then have to have the outer edge of the folds 'cut' in order to turn 1 page at a time. The paper was also hand made in sheets, using pulp of 100% cotton rag, and it was preferable to 'pull' the fold apart rather than sharply cut it, so this is the tool used to slip between the pages, gently 'cut/tear' the remaining folds. Does it sound complicated? Imagine the reverence of using a paper knife to finish and open the pages of a newly crafted book, and the anticipation and joy of each volume added to one's collection. Very different world, and most people were illiterate. A book was truly a treasure, a luxury, and a combination of numerous arts. Not least of those would be the hand carved paper knives such as this one.
Very good to excellent condition as you see it, no chips nor cracks, no flaws notable. That said, these were usually several inches longer and it might be that this old one was, long ago, damaged on the end of the long thin blade, crafted down to a shorter one yet fine enough to do the job, its owner not wanting to lose the elegant work of Dieppe carver's artistry. Dieppe, France was a center of trade, freight shipments arriving from all over the world and bound for Paris, primarily. Sailors spent long sea journeys learning to carve and a fine colony built up around the art of carving ivory there in that coastal harbor town. Museum-worthy, the Dieppe carvings are most highly sought after.
IMPORTANT NOTE regarding antique tortoise shell or ivory: We are great supporters of protection for endangered species in our modern world. We never buy or sell anything 100 years or newer; we donate to anti-poaching organizations; we don't hunt; we conserve in ways that impact global warming (we're totally solar at home), knowing those measures also protect the animals in the wild today. We also recognize the vast cultural history we preserve with our care and reverence for these antique objects, and agree with CITES that objects over 100 years of age have nothing whatsoever to do with species depletion in our current world.
Our offering exceeds the age limitation of "more than 100 years of age", and is well within the exemption for CITES regulation. If imported, met the CITES regulation. This item will be handled and shipped from our Utah business, and is not available for shipment internationally, nor within the USA to California, NY, Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington if it contains ivory, sorry. Please see our small print for more details.
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