Renaissance Project: Make a model globe

Renaissance Project: Make a model globe

Globes in early Renaissance Europe

Globe making developed rapidly during the European Renaissance as a result of technological developments such as printing, and the availability of Latin translations of Ptolemy’s treatise Geographica in the early 15th-century. The earlier Islamic tradition of globe-making focused mainly on the celestial globe, but Ptolemy’s work and new discoveries made by European voyagers provided the stimulus to develop the terrestrial globe as a scientific instrument. By the end of the 15th-century, globe-making had become a well established craft in Europe.

Printed globes

Earlier celestial globes were usually made of metal and were the work of silversmiths and engravers. But with the invention of the mechanical printing press in the 15th-century, it became possible to print paper gores which could be cut and pasted onto a sphere. The craft of globe-making therefore became the province of printers and publishers.

Globe construction

The construction of the printed globe began with creating a hollow sphere out of pasteboard glued together in layers similar to papier-mâché. Two hemispheres were created which would then be mounted on a wooden frame and axle and sewn together. The sphere would then be covered in plaster and turned against a former to create a smooth surface. Inevitably the weight would not be distributed evenly and the globe would be imbalanced. The process of balancing the globe involved gluing small packages of lead shot in cloth on the inside of the globe to prevent it from slumping into one position. Printed gores would then be cut from paper and pasted onto the plaster sphere.

The photos below illustrating the process are provided courtesy of Paul Cook, Paper Conservator at the National Maritime Museum.

NMM globe conservation photo: pasteboard construction

pasteboard construction

NMM globe conservation photo: creating two hemispheres

creating two hemispheres

NMM globe conservation photo: wooden axle and frame

wooden axle and frame

NMM globe conservation photo: balancing with lead shot

balancing with lead shot

NMM globe conservation photo: turning the sphere

turning the sphere

NMM globe conservation photo: creating a plaster sphere

creating a plaster sphere


Make a model globe

The downloadable PDFs and video demonstration below provide a guide for making a small model globe and give some idea of the processes and challenges involved in the craft of globe-making.

FF globe ws 12-05-26 021

Instructions for making a model globe

Gores for terrestrial globe

Gores for Newton celestial globe

Gores for world outline globe

Supporting rings_pattern

Video Demonstration: Make a Model Globe