TITLE: Laon Globe
DESCRIPTION: It was Martin Behaim of Nuremberg (1459-1507), who, in
so far as we have knowledge, constructed one of the first modern terrestrial
globes, and it may, indeed, be said of his "Erdapfel," as he called
it, that it is the oldest terrestrial globe extant (Slide
#258). Globes in his age, and even earlier, were by no means unknown.
Giovanni Campano (fl. 1261-64), a distinguished mathematician of Novara,
wrote a Tractus de Sphera solida, in which he describes the manufacture
of globes of wood or metal. Toscanelli, when writing his famous letter in
1474 (Slide #252), refers to a globe as being the
best adapted for demonstrating the erroneous hypothesis as to the small
distance which he supposed to separate the west of Europe from eastern Asia.
Columbus, too, had a globe on board his vessel upon which was depicted Cipangu
[Japan], and which may have been the work of his brother Bartholomew,
who, according to Las Casas, produced charts as well as globes. But only
two globes of a date anterior to the discovery of the New World have survived,
namely the Behaim globe in Nürnberg, and a smaller one at the
Depôt des planches et cartes de la marine, Paris, i.e., the Laon
The Laon globe, apparently following closely in time the Behaim's
famous globe, is an engraved and gilded copper ball, having a diameter of
17 cm. There is evidence that at one time it was part of an astronomical
clock. It is known as the "Laon Globe" because M. Léon
Léroux picked it up, in 1860, in a curiosity shop in that town. The
engraved surface, on which appear the outlines of continents and islands,
is well preserved. It has two meridian circles, which intersect at right
angles and which can be moved about a common axis, likewise a horizon circle
which is movable. Numerous circles appear engraved on the surface of the
ball, including meridians and parallels. The prime meridian passes through
the Madeira Islands, a fact which suggests a Portuguese origin, since these
islands are generally thought to have been discovered by Lusitanian seamen.
One hundred and eighty degrees east of this prime meridian, a second meridian
is engraved, equally prominent, passing through the middle of the continent
of Asia, and go degrees still farther to eastward is a third. Each of these
meridians is divided into degrees, which are grouped in fifths and are numbered
by tens, starting at the equator. The meridians are intersected by a number
of parallels, lightly engraved in the northern hemisphere, less distinct
in the southern, and represent the seven climates employed by the cosmographers
of the Greek and Roman period, as well as by those of the middle ages, in
their division of the earth's surface.
As to its geographical representations and design, this terrestrial globe
appears to be older than that of Martin Behaim, yet at the southern extremity
of Africa we find the names Mons Niger and S. Thomas, inscribed
with the legend Huc usque Portugalenses navigio pervenere 1493 ,
Cão's "furthest" in 1485. Therefore, notwithstanding its
antiquated geographical features, it is estimated to originate approximately
in the year 1493; although Ravenstein believes that the above legend could
have been added quite easily long after the completion of the globe itself,
a procedure by no means unknown among map publishers to bring items up-to-date.
LOCATION: Depôt des planches et cartes de la marine, Paris
*Nordenskiöld, A.E., Facsimile Atlas, pp. 73-74, Figure 41.
*Ravenstein, E.G., Martin Behaim, p. 57.
Stevenson, E.L., Terrestrial and Celestrial Globes, pp. 51-52.
*Winsor, J., Narrative and Critical History of America, pp. 56, 101