Vincenzo Coronelli (1650-1718) was born in Venice, apprenticed in the art of wood-cutting, joined the Franciscan order of Conventional Friars Minor in 1665, and in 1671 entered the convent of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Friari in Venice. Around 1680 he made his first pair of 390cm. diameter manuscript globes for the library of Duke Ranuccio Farnese de Palma. These were noticed by the ambassador to the French King in the Cardinal Csar d'Estres, through whose offices Coronelli was commissioned to make a similar pair of globes for Louis XIV. He remained in Paris from 1681 until 1683 to complete the pair - the famous 'Marly' globes, named for the place in which they now reside - which were an enormous 385cm. in diameter and garnered him a reputation of international renown, not only as a globe-maker of no small skill and elegance, but also as the first major manufacturer outside the Netherlands to achieve any sort of success.
It was this experience which persuaded Coronelli to set up as a manufacturer and publisher of globes and maps in a serious way. However, it took him some years to raise the necessary capital and to establish a workshop: in 1684 he founded the first geographical society in the form of the Accademia Cosmographica degli Argonauti, which was funded by subscriptions from the nobility and ecclesiastical, political and scientific elite all over Europe. These patrons were expected to subscribe to all the works Coronelli produced via the Accademia, and the organisation was managed by several offices for collection and distribution scattered throughout the continent. Coronelli then set up his workshop in the convent in 1686, and started work on his first pair of printed globes, the 110cm. diameter pair of which the pair offered here are a scaled down facsimile. A further problem which beset Coronelli, aside from the initial lack of funds and means, was the scarcity of qualified engravers in Venice. In response to this problem, Coronelli enlisted the aid of Jean-Baptiste Nolin (1657-1725), engraver to the French King, whose work on the celestial gores was at that time, and for many years subsequently, unparalleled. Italian engravers worked on the terrestrial gores in Venice, while the celestial gores were fashioned in Paris after drawings produced by Arnold Deuvez. These globes proved extremely popular and inspired Leiden professor Isaac Vossius to write to a friend in 1688: "There is a Venetian monk in Paris who makes very handsome globes out of wood, measuring three feet in diameter and this at a reasonable price, the pair for sixteen pistols. However the proportions of the lands and the seas do not correspond at all to the true size" (van der Krogt, 1993, p.301). It is certainly true that the outlines and proportions of the continents at times veer widely from our modern-day cartography, but it seems as though, in a late seventeenth-century context, that Vossius' judgement is a little harsh; in comparison with this, Helen Wallis writes of the terrestrial sphere in her introduction to the British Museum's facsimile edition of Coronelli's Libro dei Globi: "As a record of knowledge in 1688 it was remarkably authoritative. By 1707 it could hardly claim to be still the most perfect of its day" (Wallis, 1969, p.XIII). This catalogue was a further innovation of Coronelli's for the purpose of raising revenue for his globe production. First published in 1697, with subsequent revisions and further editions, it contained engraved gores, calottes and horizons for all the globe pairs - aside form the enormous 'Marly' pair - that Coronelli produced, of diameters 5, 8.5, 15, 47 and 110 cm.