We’ve been going through the Jill Grey Collection, looking for new, yet-to-be discovered stories. Little did we know that the act of curating would become the story with this object!
From the 1950s, Jill Grey (1919-1987) collected anything on early education and the social history of childhood. 1970s radio recordings have her speaking in the ‘proper’ accent of those times, and her hair was always tied up in a bun.
In a box full of marbles, clay balls, spinning tops and other children’s toys was this weird-looking item. Jill Grey describes this as “Toy. Made from bone. Holes all over with spikes that protrude, but keep changing position as it is rolled along.” A fun toy, indeed…
We were intrigued by this unusual object and did a Google Images search, only to find that actually it is part of a 19th century Chinese ivory ball for use by adult females, for their personal pleasure.
Jill visited antique dealers up and down the country. We can imagine her asking the proprietor what the item was, to be told it was ‘a toy’ (with little further details, saving her blushes).
Or perhaps she’s looking down on us, having a bit of chuckle.