[BEHAIM, MARTIN, NUREMBURG, 1492/1992]
GREAVES & THOMAS FACSIMILE GLOBE OF Martin Behaim's 1492 'ERDAPFEL' LONDON
A fine 50cm. diameter reproduction terrestrial globe made up of twelve colour printed paper gores and two polar calottes, the equatorial and prime meridian graduated but unlabelled, the ecliptic ungraduated but with small pictures for the houses of the Zodiac, the oceans coloured a dark green/blue with a profusion of notes in hand-written style with pictures of ships and sea creatures, many islands somewhat impressionistically rendered, the Antarctic with an impressive crest in its place showing a crowned, winged and bare-chested woman above five different shields with foliate decoration, the continents coloured in yellow and showing mountains, rivers, numerous areas of settlement and many notes, certain locations with red and blue flags marking their location, the general cartography bearing only a passing resemblence to modern cartography, with stamped brass meridian half circle raised on a cast iron column and plinth base with foliate decoration
This is an example of the most recent and faithfull reproduction of Martin Behaim's "Erdapfel" (earth apple), the oldest extant terrestrial globe, made in 1492, and currently residing in the German National Museum in Nuremburg. Martin Behaim (1459-1507) was the son of a Nuremburg general merchant. Apprenticed in the family business, in 1476 he was sent to work with a cloth merchant in Mechlin, and later in the cloth-dying trade in Antwerp. In 1484 he was living in Portugal where he gained extensive knowledge of the world's geography as it was known at that time, largely through the reports of the many exploratory expeditions which had their base in Portugal in this period. He was also a member of a mathematical commission for King John and in 1488 he married the daughter of the wealthy Captain Donatory of Fayal and Pico, on whose estates he went to work. On returning to Nuremburg in 1490, in order to manage the family estates following the death of his mother, he was approached by a member of the town council, Georg Holzschuher, with regard to constructing a globe with the knowledge he had gleaned in Portugal. A further motivation would appear to have been to show the interested townspeople the importance of the sea routes to other countries, with regard to the funding of a projected trip to explore westwards towards China. Ironically, the globe was finished in 1492, just before possibly the greatest expedition of the era, that of Columbus to America, and as such offers a fascinating view of the pre-Columbian world.
The cartography in general is drawn from a number of sources from the ancient Ptolemaic charts through medievel European maps up to the most recent discoveries, although many of this later category which are known to have been publicised at the time are not shown. Behaim left Nuremburg in 1493 for Flanders, before returning to Portugal where he died of poverty in 1507.
The construction of the globe itself is still recorded in Holzschuher's accounts: Behaim first drew up a world map before the sphere itself was constructed from a mixture of wood, textile, leather and paper, and finally the map was translated carefully onto the curved surface by the famous manuscript illuminator Georg Glockendon, a process supposed to have taken fifteen weeks. The original stand was made of wood, but not long after replaced with a tall elegant iron tripod stand. The original globe still survives to this day in Nuremburg, which city it has never left for any length of time for over five centuries.