Can you Believe these Gorgeous Globes are Painstakingly Hand-made and Illustrated?
If you had a globe at home when you were a child, you may have played the game of spinning the globe, placing your finger on it lightly, and wherever the globe stops under your finger is where you will visit. “Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows.”
If you spun a globe and it landed on North London, and spun it again and it landed on the Isle of Wight, you would be in the vicinity of two companies that make custom, terrestrial globes by hand and to order. One is Bellerby & Co. Globemakers in London. The other is Lander & May, in the city of Cowes on the Isle of Wight in Britain.
The list of handmade globe companies is small, but there are still companies that manufacture globes in a more automated way and many others who did so in the past but have since went out of business. This list, at the Globe Collectors’ Blog, has more than 70 terrestrial and celestial globe makers going back many years.
Even globes manufactured in a more automated can be very expensive. The Replogle company produces a 32-inch (81.3 cm) floor globe with a mahogany wood stand and a “Hand Cut & Applied Map With 20,000 Political Map Points of Interest” that goes for $14,450. That is the sale price.
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Bellerby & Co.’s largest globe, the 127 cm (50-inch) Churchill, next to its smallest, a 23 cm (9-inch) mini desk globe. (Photo by Bellerby & Co.)
Bellerby’s most expensive globe is the Churchill, which goes for 59,000 British pounds ($74,200 as of January 2017). The company’s least expensive is the mini desk globe that sells for 1,099 pounds or $1,383.
Bellerby & Co.’s owner, Peter Bellerby, intended to buy a globe for his father’s 80th birthday several years ago. When he looked at the globes available on the market, they were either expensive antiques and fragile or they were shoddy modern map globes.
He decided to make one globe for himself and one for his father. He taught himself the art of globe-making by trial and error. Bellerby thought he would spend about three or four months making the globes. “After all how difficult can it be to make a ball and put a map on it?” he asks in a posting on his company’s website:
He ran into problems right from the start. From his website:
“So firstly I had to license a map. From a reputable source. It had incorrect capitals, most of the names in the Middle East were either rubbish or incorrectly spelled or positioned. Don't let me start on the Aral Sea. That took at least 6 hours a day for about a year. In the end we changed everything. At the start I had to learn Adobe illustrator, which is not so difficult. It's about as intuitive as the interweb and the email web are to my parents.
Then, find a friend to write the programme to morph a rectangular map into 'gores'- the triangular shapes that fit onto a sphere. Offer him a globe as a bribe. Easy. Even better his job was far from taxing so a month, two at most. Three days later he was re-assigned to Lahore (with a bodyguard and ouzi as company). Over a year to complete.”
The article on Mr. Bellerby’s website tells about all the many problems he solved to produce a globe that is round, factually correct in place names and other data, is weighted so it spins correctly, and is so well-made that the gores or strips of map fit to a T. If they don’t fit, “you’re multiplying every error by Pi,” Peter Bellerby says in a video at this site. It is so difficult to make a globe correctly that in the process of learning, which he began doing in 2008, he threw away about 100 globes.
Jade Fenster, who works for Bellerby & Co. responded to some questions in e-mail. She said it takes up to a few months to make a globe because of drying and resting time. So the employees, who have backgrounds in art and design, work on multiple globes at the same time. “Each globe passes through many hands from start to finish,” she said. “Starting with our cartographer, moving to our makers and then painters.”
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An artist painting details onto a globe. (Photo by Bellerby & Co.)
“It is extremely satisfying to make something that [is] not only aesthetically beautiful but is geographically correct. We have a full-time cartographer to ensure we can always update the map before we make each one. This means every globe is not only made specially for each customer but represents the world at the time they have commissioned it.”
The other company that produces custom hand-made globes, Chris Adams’ Lander & May, says on its website that “A globe is many things: a recorder of travel and exploration; a snapshot of world history at a particular time; a navigational and geographical aid; an ornamental piece of decorative art or a family heirloom of the future.”
This Lander & May globe was produced in the same way British globes were made years ago: plaster is applied to a papier mache sphere and sanded so it’s smooth. Then the workers apply the map applied in triangular pieces, then finish it with shellac and lacquer. (Photo by Lander & May)
Like Bellerby & Co., Mr. Adams makes historical or celestial globes, too. But his prices are lower, in part presumably because he doesn’t produce such large globes. Prices for Lander & May globes are around 400 to 500 British pounds ($503 to $629).
Both companies’ websites say they have had their globes featured in television shows and films.
The Nicholas Bion Black Celestial Globe. (Photo by Lander & May)
If you balk at spending so much money on an object that will be obsolete in short order, think of it as investing in a beautifully made snapshot of history and geography.
Featured image: Some test globes that are finished or nearly finished. (Photo by Ana Santl)
By Mark Miller