A Macassar Ebony Book Shaped Bible Box Fitted With Silver Mounts For The Dutch Market, Galle District, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), 18TH-19TH Century.

Identification Number: 578



Dutch Colonial, 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.

Lavish and good looking bible boxes or containers which were mainly made in the Dutch colonies such as in Ceylon and Indonesia were usually commissioned by the European inhabitants and mainly by the Dutch community who had lived and worked at those occupied Eastern territories and in southeastern Asia.

Lavish looking Bible boxes were usually commissioned by the wealthy Europeans and noble ladies used to take them to church.

Lavish bible Boxes were made in different expensive materials such as in carved ivory with mounted gold or silver, others were made in exotic woods such as in ebony and tortoiseshell etc.

Our current rare Bible box is been made out of carved Makassar (Maccassar) or striped ebony wood.

Commissioned Bible boxes, which were made in Asia, are usually considered as a Dutch colonial bible boxes.

Generally, the ebony wood is native to South India, Sri Lanka and other parts of East-Africa and Southeast Asia.

Elegant boxes such as these were commissioned to keep the holy bible safe also to protect small bibles from humid weather conditions and other environmental factors.

Many similar examples were exported to Batavia or further to other Dutch-occupied areas and to Europe and mainland to the Netherlands.

These pieces are relatively rare and not many have survived.

Our current lot is of a rectangular form, the box edges are carved in a combination of both scalloped and wavy or ribbed 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 also carved floral motif is used to decorate the front and both sides of the lid.

The Bible box is mounted with typical Sri-Lankan repoussed silver work and is been beautifully decorated with typical Ceylonese motives including the Goddess Lakshmi at the middle section in the front side of the box, other silver pieces are used to cover the edges and the rounded embossed fittings to cover any iron nails.

Surprisingly the box still maintains its original key.


21.5 cm is the width.
7 cm is the height.
14.5 cm is the depth.


Very good, some later repair to the underneath base.


The European Art Market.


Batavian Silver, By Titus M. Eliens, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2012, ISBN: 978 90 400 0361 5, W books, For related ebony bible box please see illustrations and text in pages 21-26 Also lot inventory No. 0811493.

Related Antiques

  • Dutch Colonial, A Fine Batavian Tortoiseshell Betel Box Or (Sirih) Casket With Silver Mounts, Batavia (Jakarta), (Dutch East Indies) Indonesia, Circa -1759-1800 AD.