Since the beginning of time, humans have been fascinated with documenting the Earth’s terrain. Mapmaking became a popular profession as it allowed geographers to document new discoveries.
However, as more information was learned about the planet, it became necessary to be more accurate with the details by creating a model that properly documented the Earth’s shape and geographic locations. To do so, globes were constructed.
Below you’ll discover more information about this unique tool and how it once took the world by storm.
History of the Globe
In 1492, the first terrestrial globe debuted. While small models were made before this in Greece, they often lacked details or were destroyed. Many ancient models were also celestial globes rather than terrestrial ones.
The 1492 globe, now referred to as Erdapfel, was designed by Martin Behaim, a German cartographer. To ensure accuracy, Behaim took extensive travels and used his knowledge to create a globe that reflected the discoveries of this time.
Over the years, more globes were created and new details were added as islands and countries were explored. They became an important tool for various industries, including the marine trade, as they helped sailors easily track their journey.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Europe was the prime spot for globemaking. It wasn’t until the 1800s that America soon took over the trade.
While globes are still used today, they are mainly utilized for educational purposes or as art pieces. Unlike some antique globes that were flat, modern ones contain textures to indicate different terrains.
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Types of Globes
There are two main types of globes – terrestrial and celestial. A terrestrial globe highlights the different topographies on Earth. A celestial globe showcases astronomical wonders and where they are located in the sky.
How Globes Were Made
How vintage globes were designed depended on the globemaker’s materials, but they all followed a basic process.
To begin, they would make a base. This would usually be of plaster, linen, or curved metal. When this was done, the base would be covered with paper-mache. After it dried, the map could be placed on the globe.
To prevent the map from bubbling or not sticking correctly, it would be cut into gores. These curved segments allowed the globemaker to accurately place the map on the shell.
Examples of Vintage Globes
As mentioned above, Erdapfel was one of the first globes to be designed. It featured a linen ball base that was wrapped with wood and then a hand-painted map. Because of its early design, it doesn’t include North and South America. It’s also known for its slight quirks, such as the addition of St. Brendan’s Island (a mythical island in the Atlantic Ocean) and placing Japan in an incorrect geographical location.
The Hunt-Lenox Globe was built in the early 1500s and is believed to be Erdapfel’s successor. Unlike Erdapfel, it has a copper base that was split into two parts. To attach them, they were strung together with a wire. Besides its details, the globe is famous for a small inscription beneath it – HC SVNT DRACONES – which is Latin for “Here be Dragons”. This was a common phrase to describe unexplored areas.
Ostrich Egg Globe
Constructed during the Italian Renaissance, and also known as the da Vinci Globe, this globe was made out of a large ostrich egg. To keep it upright, the egg was carefully split in half and a counterweight was put into the lower part. The two pieces were then glued together. It’s thought that the Ostrich Egg Globe is the first to display the New World.
Coronelli’s Celestial Globe
This iconic celestial globe was built in the late 1600s by Vincenzo Coronelli. The Italian globemaker was a favorite in Europe and had a bustling business in Venice.
When it first entered the market, it was considered to be one of the most accurate celestial globes available. Throughout the years, hundreds of reprints were created due to its popularity.
The Trippensee Planetarium was sought-after during the early 20th-century. Designed by the Laing Company, it depicted the solar system. A large brass ball resembled Earth and attached to it at different lengths were the planets. A user could pull a small string to move the planets to see their natural rotation.
C.S. Hammond & Company New Terrestrial Globe
The C.S. Hammond & Company New Terrestrial Globe was printed during the 1920s and features a plaster base. It’s built into a Gothic Revival stand which allows users to twirl the globe. The terrestrial globe is extremely detailed and features not only countries, but trade winds, ocean currents, and isothermal lines.
Newton, Son, & Berry Pocket Globe
During the 18th-century, globes were in vogue, particularly in England. Rich people would carry small replicas (usually no more than three inches wide) in their pockets. When they wanted to talk about something that related to geography or astronomy, they could pull it out and discuss the topic.
This pocket globe model was small but very detailed. It contained not only the seven continents, but meridians and constellations. To protect it, the globe usually came with a wooden dome it could be placed in.
Where to Learn More
There are plenty of ways you can learn more about antique globes. If you’d like to collect some, you can search online where you’ll find a vast selection.
There are a few sites that focus on making and/or collecting vintage globes, including:
You can also stop by your local antique shops to browse through their inventory. Many times, you’ll find a few models you can purchase.
For those who want to learn more about the history and uses of globes, you can contact a historian or stop by a history or science museum. They can often give you some interesting tips and guide you to helpful websites and books.
Globes may no longer be heavily relied upon, but they still serve as an object of fascination. They not only allow us to track when and where new destinations were discovered in history but can help us better understand our world and the beautiful landscapes it contains.