Auction News

Oldest English globes worth at least £100,000


A pair of historic globes from the 17th century.
Image courtesy of Christie's.

The oldest pair of English globes still in private hands will be sold next week with a low estimate of £100,000.

The pair were made in around 1689 in London.

One is a map of the Earth. The other of the celestial world.

Each uses 12 tapered paper strips called gores and a pair of top-and-tailing circular calottes to transfer flat maps to a globe.

They are mounted on six-legged oak stands with a brass ring and signed by Richard Morden, William Berry, and Philip Lea.

Morden owned The Atlas shop and Berry Ye Globe. Philip Lea was a talented map maker who partnered with the pair to produce the globes.

When they were made, these beautiful pieces were at the cutting edge of scientific knowledge.

Together, the globes could be used to calculate the location of constellations of stars and even day length around the world.

The globes are beautifully made and extensively annotated.

They would have been a substantial investment for a gentleman in the 17th century. Samuel Pepys was a customer of the globes makers.

They contain a lot of new information. A note stuck on the Indian Ocean warns the globe’s owner: “Think it not strange that the Description of this Globe differs so much from all other Globes extant, for indeed there is not any part of ye Earth wherein we have not made a considerable alteration.”

And a lot of missing information. California, for example, is an island. Canada has no limit to its landmass.

“Surviving globes by Berry, Morden and Lea are extremely rare,” according to James Hyslop, head of Science and Natural History at Christie’s in London. “The Whipple Museum at the University of Cambridge has one terrestrial example, while the collection of Royal Museums Greenwich includes one terrestrial and two celestial — but all four are missing equipment such as compasses and hour circles, and their maps are badly smudged and torn.”

These globes are in wonderful condition.

They are not the most valuable item in the sale though, that distinction belongs to an atlas by Willem and Jan Blaeu.

The Grooten Atlas was printed in Amsterdam in 1664 and contains around 200 maps.

Both items are illuminating and beautiful relics of an age of discovery. They will be sold on July 10 at Christie’s in London.

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