The only known copy of the first pocket globe. Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) is regarded as the father of modern western globe-making. Not only did his firm start globe production as a viable commercial enterprise, the globes from his forty-year career are amongst the very finest and most beautiful ever published.
Blaeu was the son a of a herring merchant, born in the small provincial town of Alkmaar in what is now the Netherlands. It was a prominent citizen Adriaan Anthonisz, a mathematician, whose son Adriaan Metius would later create a celestial globe for Hondius, who first encouraged Blaeu to take up astronomy. Over the winter of 1595/6 Blaeu stayed with the renowned Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) at his observatory in Uranienborg . In 1598/9 Blaeu settled in Amsterdam. It was here that he established his hugely successful publishing company which, throughout the course of the seventeenth century, would issue not only globes but maps, books, atlases and planetaria. His first publication was a terrestrial globe to match the celestial he had already made. This was dated 1599. Interestingly it is signed Guilielmo Ianßonio Alcmariano, meaning “Willem Jansz of Alkmaar”. This is the name that would appear on all of his initial five pairs of globes: he made a run of the 34cm. celestial globe dated 1603 to be sold with the terrestrial of 1599; by this time he had already produced pairs of 23cm. diameter, dated 1601; and he would go on to produce pairs of 13.5cm. (1606), 10cm. (1616) and his largest pair at 68cm. diameter in 1617. Keuning has shown that the name of Blaeu did not appear on a globe until at least 1621, adopted to avoid confusion with his nearest rival, the firm of Johannes Janssonius, and taken from his grandfather’s nickname, “Blue “ William; updated versions of all the pairs apart from the largest have been recorded, bearing the name of Blaeu. As well as these globes, Blaeu made a tellurian to illustrate Copernican theory.
The 2-inch pocket globe was perhaps originally designed for the tellurian, but survives here in a contemporary leather case, half a century before Joseph Moxon would create his 3-inch pocket globe in a similar case lined with celestial gores.