9687 A RARE AND IMPOSING PAIR OF WILLIAM IV CARVED WALNUT TWENTY-THREE INCH CELESTIAL AND TERRESTRIAL GLOBES BY NEWTON & SON English. Circa 1830. Measurements: Height: 43 1/3″ (110 cm) Diameter: 26 3/4″ (67.7 cm)
Of walnut, burr walnut, and gilt brass. Each globe enclosed by an engraved brass meridian ring within a horizontal circle. The finely carved walnut stands with four carved and reeded supports hold a burr walnut veneered carrying ring. The carved stem in the form of a stylized lotus from which issue three foliate carved downswept legs terminating in boldly carved zoomorphic feet. The legs united by turned tapering stretchers supporting a circular compass within a glazed circular turned case. Each globe raised on original brass castors. The celestial globe inscribed ‘Newton’s new and improved Celestial Globe on which all the Stars, Nebulas and Clusters contained in the extensive catalogue of the late F. Wollaston F.R.S. are accurately laid down their Right Ascensions & Declinations having been recalculated for the year 1830 by W. Newton. Manufactured by Newton & Son, 66 Clarency Lane, London.” The terrestrial globe inscribed ‘Newton’s new and improved terrestrial globe accurately delineated from the observations of the most estamed (esteemed) Navigators and travellers to the Present Time. Manufactured by Newton & Son, 66 Clarency Lane, London. Published 1st. January, 1868.” Therefore repapered in that year.
The present pair of celestial and terrestrial globes were designed and constructed around 1830 by Newton and Son, one of the leading manufacturers of globes throughout the nineteenth century. The firm, founded by John Newton in 1780, won the prize at the Great Exhibition of 1851 for a manuscript globe six feet in diameter.
Large floor-standing globes were an item of great luxury that adorned the libraries of some of England’s finest homes, such as Binfield, Leigh Park, and Broomwell House (figure 1).1 Library globes were produced in a number of sizes measured by diameter. At twenty-three inches, it is thought that, aside from special commissions, this is the largest size made by the company.
Furthermore, the wooden bases on which the spheres rest are also an indication of the quality and costliness of the pieces. In the case of the present globes, the bases were clearly an important commission, being boldly carved from solid walnut with acanthine splayed legs ending in massive paw feet and stems carved as stylized lotus flowers.
The origins of celestial and terrestrial globes extend to antiquity, when philosophers and astronomers first began to conceive of the earth and heavens as spherical in form. The idea of a sphere-shaped universe developed first, possibly as early as in Biblical times, and had been widely accepted by the time the Pythagorean philosophers in Greece first suggested that the earth was also a sphere. According to cartographer and historian Edward Luther Stevenson, the Pythagoreans’ reasoning was “that the earth is a sphere because that is the most perfect form, that it is located in the center of the universe because that is the place of honor, and that it is at rest because rest is more dignified than motion”.2 Aristotle later defended their position using perhaps more substantive arguments: the theory of gravitation (that particles of matter have a tendency to congregate in the middle, making a sphere) and his observation of the earth’s round shadow cast onto the moon during an eclipse.
The first recorded celestial globe was made by Eudoxus of Cnidus (409-356 B.C.), a student of Plato who spent years studying astronomy in Egypt. Eudoxus’ globe depicted several of the constellations he had observed in Egypt, which were later described in the well-known astronomical poem Phaenomena by Aratus (ca. 315-240 B.C.). Following Eudoxus, many ancient astronomers constructed celestial globes: Archimedes is reported to have constructed at least two. The oldest surviving celestial globe is the Farnese Atlas, a Roman marble sculpture from around the second century A.D., now located in the National Archeological Museum in Naples. This globe, which shows the Titan Atlas kneeling under the weight of the celestial sphere on his back, was copied from an original Hellenistic sculpture, and shows only carved representations of the constellations, without the placement of the stars themselves.
While celestial globes were common in antiquity, terrestrial globes were not introduced until the second century B.C., when Crates of Mallus created one that was mentioned in the writings of the geographer Strabo (ca. 63 B.C. to A.D. 24).
The making of both celestial and terrestrial globes fell mostly out of practice in Europe during the Middle Ages. They began to reappear in the 15th century: terrestrial globes in particular became popular as exploration revived the interest in accurate maps of the world. Over the next hundred years, global maps were drawn with increasing scientific accuracy, and the makers of globes began using composition spheres covered in paper maps, allowing them to be easily updated. Soon, global gores were being designed for production on the printing press, which allowed the makers to publish a series of globes with nearly identical maps, the only variances occurring during the difficult process of positioning the gores on the sphere by hand.
These methods, perfected by the end of the 16th century, remained largely unchanged for the next three hundred years. The present pair of globes were constructed of composition spheres and printed gores around 1830, which is when the map of the celestial globe is dated. The terrestrial globe was re-papered in 1868, its map updated to show the new boundaries of the nations of the world, which had changed due to the colonization, wars and revolutions of the previous few decades.
1. Morley, John. Regency Design: 1790-1840. London: A. Zwemmer Ltd. 1993. pp. 282, 309, 329.
2. Stevenson, Edward. Terrestrial & Celestial Globes. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2001. p. 6.