Globes were all the rage in the 18th century

Today we’re so used to using the internet to plot routes for us wherever we’re travelling, or if you have no internet available, then there’s always the ‘old-fashioned’ paper maps – perish the thought! In the 18th century, there were pocket-sized maps but globes were so ‘in vogue’ that many affluent homes would own a pair – one terrestrial and one celestial.

Reynolds, Joshua; Sir Joseph Banks, Bt; National Portrait Gallery, London;
Reynolds, Joshua; Sir Joseph Banks, Bt; National Portrait Gallery, London

The Georgians, as well as their love of all things pleasurable, were also fascinated by new developments in the field of science.

unknown artist; Reynolds Family Group; Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust;
unknown artist; Reynolds Family Group; Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

To depict their interest in science, many of the paintings of the day would include a globe, usually with the subject in question pointing at a globe or with one strategically placed close by.

British School; Francis Williams (1702-1770), the Scholar of Jamaica; Paintings Collection;
British School; Francis Williams (1702-1770), the Scholar of Jamaica; Paintings Collection

Globes came in a variety of sizes, but the most useful ones were those of nine, twelve, eighteen and twenty-one inches in diameter and reputedly, the best makers of the day were Barding and Carey.

POCKET GLOBE; NEWTON, SON & BERRY. Newton’s New and Improved Terrestrial Globe. London: Newton Son & Berry, 66 Chancery Lane, c.1830. A 3 inch (7 cm) diameter pocket globe in original fishskin covered wood case with two brass hook-and-eye clasps. 12 hand-coloured engraved gores, signed in northern portion of Pacific Ocean, inside of case with 12 engraved hand-coloured celestial gores depicting the northern and southern hemispheres signed Newton’s Improved Pocket Celestial Globe. Provenance: Christie’s South Kensington, lot 79, October 26, 2006. Globe with Meridian of London and graduated equatorial and ecliptic, the oceans showing various explorers tracks with notes and dates. Case with graduated equatorial, ecliptic and colures, as well as the constellations depicted as mythical beast and scientific instruments. “The Newton family were one of the most important globe making firms in England in the early 19th century. The founder, John Newton (1759-1844), was apprenticed to Thomas Bateman (fl. 1754-1781), who in turn, had been a pupil of Nathaniel Hill … The firm changed to Newton, Son & Berry when they were joined by Miles Berry, a civil engineer and patent agent…” (Globes and the Mechanical Universe p 56). Courtesy of Bonhams

We came across a fascinating book online, A Companion to the Globes, by R.T Linnington, a Private Teacher, written at the end of the Georgian era, 1829, which provides the most fascinating information about globes and their uses. It was described as invaluable to both teachers and pupils. For those with an interest in the subject, we would recommend having a read through it.



In another book on the subject, A Treatise on astronomy,  we came across a description of a globe being constructed by a Dr Long, Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, eighteen feet in diameter, and large enough to contain conveniently forty persons, who entered it over the south pole.

Roger Long’s Great Sphere. Courtesy of Pembroke College, Cambridge

When visiting this globe in 1801, the author of the book, Olinthus Gregory says:

I cannot conclude this note without expressing the grief and disappointment I felt, on seeing this sphere in the beginning of the present year 1801. Instead of beholding the new constellation painted thereon, and tracing out many improvement since the time of Dr. Long, as I naturally expected to do; I could hardly find anything but strong tokens of long neglect, and change in the atmosphere, by reason of a large window being constantly left open, and the glass in the other windows being broken in several places : some of the constellations could scarcely be discerned, for dust and cobwebs, the planetarium had but few vestiges remaining, by which one might ascertain whether it ever existed or not; and the wires about the zodiac were, in many places corroded through with rust!!

MINIATURE GLOBE; BAUER, CARL. [Terrestrial Globe.] [Nuremberg: Carl Bauer, c.1825]. 1.5 inch (4.3 cm) diameter miniature terrestrial globe in card box, with accordion book attached to inside of box, consisting of 28 hand colored engraved figures of people from around the world. A few small dents, and chips, some brown spots and wear to varnish, box wanting lid. Provenance: Contemporary manuscript note to bottom of box, possibly in a child’s hand, noting the name change of New Holland to Australia. “Various globes from Nuremberg were engraved by members of the Bauer family … This tiny terrestrial globe … is signed ‘C.B.’ and is almost certainly by Carl Bauer. The globe sits in a small box made of board, containing a great number of coloured engravings of costumes of human races” (Dekker Globes of the Western World p 98). Courtesy of Bonhams
 * One of our lovely readers very kindly sent us a link to a YouTube clip about globe making – it’s well worth a look.

Featured image – Family Group by Reynolds

16 thoughts on “Globes were all the rage in the 18th century

  1. Our globe (modern but large and on a stand) isi the thing most commented on by visitors to the house and they all say “I love globes” . They have a curious fascination. One of our cleaners spins it every time she comes and picks a place to go on a fantasy holiday but shutting her eyes and pointing.


    1. All Things Georgian

      It seems unlikely that we will ever lose our fascination in these beautiful objects to be honest and we completely agree with your remark about your cleaner spinning it – we’d do exactly the same 🙂


    1. All Things Georgian

      Thank you so much, delighted that you enjoyed it. We’re always thrilled when people take the time to comment on our posts 🙂


  2. I’m researching the travels of Lady Mary Wortley Montegue who traveled to Constantinople in 1717. Do you know whether globes were in popular use that early?
    thanks for this interesting blog.


    1. All Things Georgian

      Yes they were in popular use by that time, the earliest one was made just before 1500. Someone like Lady Mary may well have had a pocket one and access to a full size one too. Maps however were also available for travellers and were probably kept more up to date than globes. Hope that helps 🙂


  3. caeciliadance

    This reminds me of how 19th-century governesses were supposed to be able to teach “Use of the Globes”. Also, I recalled the following incident from Persuasion, thinking that Mrs Musgrove could have done with being taught something of the Globes herself:

    [Captain Wentworth]: “…We do not call Bermuda or Bahama, you know, the West Indies.”
    – “Mrs Musgrove had not a word to say in dissent; she could not accuse herself of having ever called them anything in the whole course of her life”

    By the way, should you ever find yourself in Oxford, the Museum of the History of Science has a number of interesting old globes, some dating from at least the 17th century.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All Things Georgian

      Thank you so much for the additional information and yes, a trip to the Museum of the History of Science sounds fascinating – we must add that to our list of places to visit 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Globes were all the rage in 18th century | Ella Quinn ~ Author

  5. Pingback: History A'la Carte March 2017 - Random Bits of Fascination

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