Dutch Colonial Bible Box, A Rare Ceylonese Carved Ebony Bible Box With Silver Mounts for the Dutch Market, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Probably The Galle District, Circa 18TH-19TH Century.

Identification Number: 350


This item is an exceptional Dutch colonial bible box carved out of ebony wood, native to South India and Sri Lanka and other parts of South East Asia. Elegant boxes such as these were used to store small bibles that were taken by wealthy or noble ladies to church, and to protect the paper from the humid weather of the area. Many would have been exported to Batavia or further Dutch-occupied areas. These pieces are relatively rare and not many are known around the world, except from a couple of publications listed below.

The rectangular carved box has scalloped and bevelled sides, following a rather conventional form having a hinged lid and being conceived as thicker at the front than at its back; a nice touch which seems to emulate the natural thickness of bound books. The hinged lid of the box is carved with a central arrangement of grooves and a pair of scrolls in the shape of a lyre. The spine is gadrooned. Surprisingly the box maintains its original key.
Overall, this is one of the finest examples of boxes of this type to recently make its way into the market.

Condition: Very good, a stable crack to the front base.


23 cm width.
7.5 cm height.
13.3 cm depth.


Jan Veenendaal, Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India During the Dutch Period, Foundation Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara, 1985, p. 86.

S. M. Voskuil-Groenewegen, S.M. et al, Zilver uit de tijd van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, Waanders Uitgevers, 1998, p. 92.

Batavian Silver, By Titus M. Eliens, Gemeentemuseum Den Hag, 2012, ISBN: 978 90 400 0361 5, W books, For related ebony bible box please see illustrations and text in pages 21-26.