History of Globes

May 13, 2015

Written evidence suggests that people have used globes to model the world around them since antiquity; Strabo (63/64BCE-24CE) reported that Crates of Mallos had a globe of the equivalent of 10 feet in diameter. Globes are delicate, though, and the surviving evidence for early globe use is sparse. The earliest globe that survives today was made in 1492 by Martin Behaim, a German navigator and geographer in the employ of King João II of Portugal. Behaim’s globe recorded not only the lie of the lands being discovered by seabourne explorers, but also details of overseas commodities, market places and local trading protocols. Thus, the earliest surviving globe, which probably reflects many others produced around the same time, features information on more than cartography.

Data Source: http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/whipple/explore/globes/abriefhistoryofglobes/

English globe by Joseph Moxon

Image 1 The English Globe by Joseph Moxon, 1679. The globe’s sphere was stationary above a planisphere drawn up for the latitude of London.Image © the Whipple Museum (Wh.1466).

Globes retained their decorative function in the 17th century, and some innovative designs were produced that promoted the gentlemanly use of globes as accessories or furniture items. Pocket globes were first produced in England by Joseph Moxon XR  (1627-1691) in 1673, and gentlemen might well have used these miniature instruments as status symbols. Moxon also collaborated with Roger Palmer XR  to make the ‘English Globe’ in 1679 (Image 1), which was best used in the garden. Indeed, the fact that the ‘English globe’ could not be rotated on its stand meant that it could only be used for latitudes matching that of the south of England and would have been useless on sea voyages. Pocket globes and instruments such as the ‘English globe’ meant that makers could promote globes among new audiences.


(Above) The early sixteenth-century engraved ostrich egg globe among other ostrich eggs. Photo: Washington Map Society.  Asia on the ostrich egg globe, showing the large peninsula jutting southward at the right which is evidence of the influence of Henricus Martellus. Photo: Washington Map Society.

Image Source: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/26763

The Lenox Globe (above) is often referred to as the oldest extant post-Columbian globe.  The globe itself, measuring only 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter, is an engraved copper ball of excellent workmanship.  It was found in Paris in 1850 by the architect, Richard M. Hunt, and was presented by him to James Lenox the founder of the Lenox Library. It is now a prized possession of the New York Public Library, of which the Lenox Library now forms a part. The small globe is composed of two copper-engraved hemispheric sections closely fitted along the equator, as in the case of the Ulpius Globe (#367), and pierced for an axis. Whatever mountings it may have had are lost. It may once have even formed a part of an astronomical clock. A very similar globe, belonging to an astronomical clock and apparently of about the same age as theLenox Globe, is in the library of the Jagiellon University at Cracow in Poland.

Data Source: http://cartographic-images.net/Cartographic_Images/314_Lenox_Globe.html


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