SBA’s ‘Tales from the East’ exhibition honours globe-making traditions of a bygone era
Collection features terrestrial and celestial globes from 17th and 18th centuries
Sharjah, April 30, 2021
An extremely rare early 19th century globe showing “Debai” (Dubai) on the Arabian Gulf coast, has been capturing the interests of visitors at the ongoing ‘Tales from the East’ exhibition organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) at its headquarters in Sharjah.
The only recorded copy of the 1848 edition of UK-based renowned globemaker, Malby, this 18-inch terrestrial globe is the largest he has engraved and was intended especially for navigational use.
Once the preserve of princes and seafaring merchants or navigators, globes have been used to model the world around them since centuries. Retaining its appeal both as decorative art objects as well as for their depiction of useful information of geographically important lands, globes played a signiﬁcant role in the distribution of new knowledge throughout the ages.
‘Tales from the East’ exhibition, which runs until May 3, features unique relics of 17th and 18th century European science history as well as a collection of modern globes which together represent a comprehensive history of changes in cartographic and cosmographic knowledge, and which continue to hold both educational and scientific relevance even today.
On exhibit are an exceptional and very rare pair of 17th century terrestrial and celestial globes of 49 cm in diameter by Matthaeus Greuter, the first important globemaker in Italy. These papier-mâché spheres are copper engraved and coloured by a contemporary hand and showcases the excellence of its maker’s engraving skills.
The terrestrial globe (1632) features oceans that are highly ornate, covered with waves and embellished with several ships, sea-monsters, compass cards, and decorative scenes. The celestial globe, produced four years later, is based on the observations of a Danish astronomer, and features finely drawn and hand-coloured constellations with their names in Latin.
Cartographers of this period often intended their terrestrial and celestial globes to be viewed together to obtain a complete image of the known world.
A late 18th century 46-cm celestial globe by Dudley Adams has Arabic, English, and Greek translations of Latin names of constellations while Amicino Ravizza’s terrestrial globe dated 1799, mounted on its original stand with turned columns and entirely painted in oil, was made according to the most recent discoveries of the time. This globe is 100 cm in height and 90 cm in diameter.
Also on display is an exceptionally large armillary sphere with rich calligraphical and ornamental decoration representing an image of the universe. This rotating celestial globe is surrounded in the centre by four concentric rings with signs of the zodiac and various planet symbols. The names of the zodiac signs and months are engraved in Arabic.
The collection of modern globes from early 20th century is of different sizes, scales and materials, some of which allow for brilliant illumination and clarity on the detailed maps.