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A More Extended History of the Globe

Globes in the 16th Century

hunt lenoxIn our last blog post, we outlined a general history of the globe, from before people knew that the world was round to the present day. However, globe making itself was a preoccupation that really hit its stride in the 16th century. The Americas were still a very recent discovery at the beginning of the century, and much of world remained undiscovered and mysterious. The first globe that still exists from this era is the previously mentioned Erdapfel model from 1492. However, the Hunt-Lenox Globe, from 1510 (pictured left), is thought to be the second oldest remaining globe to contain the recently discovered New World. The globe is also one of the few historical maps to feature the phrase "HC SVNT DRACONES," which is Latin for "Here are dragons." Recently, a globe made from an ostrich egg and dating from around 1504 may be an even older globe than Hunt-Lenox, which also contains the New World. Other notable globes from the century include one by the famous cartographer Gerard Mercator from 1541, which features rhumb lines, enabling them to have a navigational appeal. However, it was also common around this time for globes to be given as gifts among world leaders, symbolizing power.


Pocket Globes in the 17th Century

pocket globeGlobes remained mostly decorative in this century. Small, pocket sized globes, which were introduced in 1673, became symbols of wealth among gentleman in England around this time, and continued throughout the 1700's (pictured right). Still, as the world's geography came more and more into focus, it became a priority amongst globe makers to keep them accurate. They were not yet used for purely navigational purposes, but there was a sense, amongst cartographers, that accuracy must be the highest priority in these spherical wonders. A person of this era who owned a globe would show to his peers that he is keeping abreast of cutting edge discoveries around the world with a pocket globe. As new information came flooding in about the planet's geography during this time, the true gentleman, with the more recent globe, would contain the most up-to-date view of the world as possible. This is why the attractive pocket globes came into fashion amongst the upper class. As such, globe makers strove to bring their curious objects to new markets.



The 18th & 19th Century Globes

3d globeThe 18th century saw a rebirth in sea exploration. In 1707, four English Royal Navy Ships sunk off of the coast of the Isles of Scilly as a result of navigational mistakes. The British Government then created the Commissioners for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea, offering monetary rewards for anybody who could invent the most precise way to find longitude. As a result, a second era of exploration commenced, leading to many groundbreaking discoveries. New insights, including the Pacific Islands and New Caledonia, began to appear on globes during this time, along with the peninsula of California, which was often shown as an island in many maps and globes in the beginning of the 18th century. However, by the 19th century, globes started to be used for more general educational purposes. Rather than simply being a household curiosity of the wealthy or a pocket sized status symbol for the gentleman, globes started to be used by parents and educators to teach children geography. While globes were previously used by aspiring navigators and astronomers, kids now took an interest in these objects, which helped them learn the general makeup of the earth's landmasses. One way that globes tried to engage students is in the "dissected globe" (pictured on the left), which was an interactive way for children to engage with geography. Stay tuned for our next entry on the history of globes in the 20th century!

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