A Brief History of Globes
Globes generally fall into two broad categories: terrestrial and celestial. A terrestrial globe depicts a spherical map of the earth, and celestial globes map the stars spherically using the earth as an imaginary center of the universe.
During the European Renaissance, technological developments, such as printing, led to the rapid development of globe making. The German geographer, Martin Behaim, made the oldest surviving globe, in around 1492. Behaim’s globe, known as the Erdapfel, German for earth apple, is a terrestrial globe that does not include the Americas. The globe also shows an enlarged Eurasian continent with an empty ocean between Europe and Asia. The reason for the Erdapfel not showing the Americas is because of Christopher Columbus returning to Spain in March 1493, after Behaim made his terrestrial map.
Modern terrestrial globes can trace their roots back to the Flemish cartographer, mathematician, astronomer, and engraver, Gerardus Mercator during the mid-1500’s. The Mercator projection, for which all meridian and longitude lines run parallel, and the latitude lines intersect at right angles and run parallel to one another, is what Mercator is most famous for. Mercator’s projection simplified map reading because of explorers’ ability to plot a ship’s course between any two points in a straight line and follow that course without changing compass direction.
The Materials Used to Make the Terrestrial and Celestial Globes
Antique globes were made from a variety of materials. A laminated linen ball is divided into two halves to form the Erdapfel. The globe is reinforced with wood and overlaid with a map painted in sections. The map is drawn on paper, then pasted on a layer of parchment around the globe.
Some terrestrial globes, earlier than the Erdapfel, were made from solid material that included glass, marble, wood, and metal. Earlier celestial globes were made typically form metal and often the globes were the work of silversmiths and engravers.
Modern globes are almost always hollow and made of materials that are durable and lightweight, which may include cardboard, plaster of paris, plastics, or metals. Unlike vintage globes, modern globes can be more accurately balanced to have a smooth rotation.
The Cassini Antique Terrestrial Globe
In 1790, prolific engraver and mapmaker Giovanni Maria Cassini created a new terrestrial globe based on the latest geographic discoveries. Unlike many other globes of the time, Cassini’s terrestrial globe design included routes from the daring voyages of the late Captain James Cook. These voyages, beginning in 1768 and concluding with Cook’s death in 1779, were still recent and of great interest to Europeans when the globe was produced.
Design and Geographical Contents
Three differently colored lines meandered around the globe and depicted the routes and dates of Cook’s adventures until his tragic end off the coast of Hawaii. Although Cassini’s design was not the first to include Hawaii, the islands were still a recent discovery and would have been an exciting addition. Cook and his crew first arrived at Hawaii, labeled as Owyhee on the globe, in 1778 during their last expedition.
Similarly, New Zealand was a recent discovery and was depicted on the globe as a hub of activity during each of Cook’s voyages. During his first voyage, Cook discovered the islands and spent months painstakingly charting the area. Not included on the map is the continent of Antarctica, which was not fully discovered until thirty years after the globe was created. On his second voyage, Cook ventured into the icy waters of the Antarctic Circle but could not find the great southern continent.
The globe also included the United States as a small country on the east coast. An ecliptic line also extends around the globe to show the sun’s position as the earth rotates on its axis.
Cassini gathered most of his geographic information for the globe from other maps and atlases. He cited work published by the Academie des Sciences and a well-known French cartographer, Robert de Vaugondy.
Cassini’s Terrestrial Globe Publication
Cassini’s terrestrial globe was published in 1792 as a series of twelve large segments in his most popular work, an atlas titled Nuovo Atlante Geografico Universale. This atlas, which was the first of three volumes, also contained a set of twelve segments for a celestial globe. Globemakers at that time frequently created pairs of terrestrial and celestial globes, which illustrated the layout of known constellations. Cassini included extensive instructions for assembling both globes. Each completed globe measured 34cm in diameter. In addition to the two sets of globe gores, the atlas contained large maps of the known continents, hand-colored borders, and over thirty maps of Italy and surrounding areas.
Giovanni Maria Cassini, The Man Behind the Terrestrial Globe
Cassini was born in 1745 in Rome, Italy. He is considered one of the last great Italian globe makers of the 18th century. He left behind an extensive body of over 780 works, ranging from globe segments to maps, charts, and urban illustrations. Cassini was immensely talented and was involved in every stage of the production of his projects before they were printed. He drew and engraved his own designs and learned from some of the best engravers and artists, such as Giovan Battista Piranesi. He has been called the engraver of perspectives and architecture.
Cassini greatly admired the British Explorer, James Cook, and several European astronomers. Cassini produced some influential maps and globes during a time of upheaval in Europe. At the time, borders were re-drawn because of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s conquest. His globes also contributed hugely to the emergence of Italian nationalism. Cassini’s globes also provide interesting insights into the politics of Rome and the military occupations of the Papel States. Today, Cassini’s globes can be seen in museums around the world.
Are Antique Globes Worth Collecting?
There are many collectors of antique globes. The value of antique globes varies based on age and condition. For example, a 30-inch globe from the 1930s can be valued over several thousands of dollars. Antique globe collectors base the value of a terrestrial or celestial globe on several factors, including the year it was produced, the material used to make the globe, who made the globe, how it is mounted, and the condition of the globes stand. Antique globes are also valued based on the information found on a globe. For example, does the globe show borders and countries that no longer exist in the world? These globes may be worth more money than more modern, politically correct borders and country names.
To determine if your antique globe is worth anything, first understand everything there is to know about your globe. Then, search for antique globe collectors and appraisers to learn if the antique terrestrial or celestial globe you won has any monetary value.
The MOVA Antique Terrestrial Globe
You can now own a piece of history with the MOVA White or Green Antique Terrestrial Globe. Our eye-catching antique globes feature two designs in crisp white or cool seafoam green oceans showcasing the vintage 1790 map created by Giovanni Maria Cassini.