Monday, September 30, 2013

Why Invest in a World Globe?

Commaner II Globe

Why Invest in a World Globe?
There are plenty of reasons to take a world globe home with you right now. For starters, you could get one to serve as a traditional reference tool for learning purposes, or you could simply get one because of its classic looks.
Whatever reasons you may have in your mind, there’s no denying that a world globe makes for a fine addition to any home, bringing out the best in its décor.
Interior Design
If your goal is to complement your home’s interior with a world globe, then the variety of choices you have might surprise you. Your selections can range from the kind of materials used, globe styles, features, sizes, to colors, base and mount types and more. A good rule of thumb is to buy a globe that will complement the existing space you’re going to place it in.
For instance, if you have a rustic looking room, or perhaps a library adorned with rich hardwood, a raised relief globe in cream-colored tones and made with a wood stand and mount, such as the one pictured to the right, will not look out of place in both these areas. The fact a raised relief globe actually allows you to feel differences between oceans and mountains on its surface only add to the aesthetic appeal of the room.
Besides raised relief globes, there are other options to consider that add just as much elegance to a room, if not more. Take gemstone globes for example. These globes, as their name suggests, are handcrafted and made from semi-precious gemstones—the same stones you see in many jewelry pieces. Each stone is placed carefully on the globe, which still shows an impressive amount of detail and accuracy despite being a decorative piece.
If you want a globe strictly for educational purposes, plenty of political globes out there bear elegant looks sure to make people do a double take on them.
Don’t Limit yourself to World Globes
You don’t even have to limit yourself to a world globe. Go out of this world with a moon globe, or see the positions of the stars and constellations in relation to our planet with a celestial globe. These globes are less common, and are sure to spark conversation with people who observe them.
When buying a world globe, it’s best to think of them as pieces that will last a lifetime, and maybe even more. World globes make for great heirlooms, and their value can increase as you hand them down from one generation to the next.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Refresher on How to Use World Globes

Most of us have been taught how to use globes at elementary school – but that was long ago, at least for me. For those who might have forgotten how to use globes, here's a refresher.

The Basics

First, you should know the limitations of globes.... these are pretty obvious:
  1. Globes cannot fit your pocket – Unlike maps, globes are bulky and so they cannot be easily taken on a trip. This limitation has now been somewhat overcome with the introduction of Google Earth and similar software for smartphones but good luck to you in a place where there's no data or GPS signal. The initial bulkiness and space constraints of globes lead to the second limitation:
  2. Globes are limited on what features they can include due to size. Even the most detailed globe in the world, the Diplomat, containing over 20,000 place names, might not include your home town – or places you might like to look up; and that brings us to the third limitation of globes (and maps), which is just an extension of the second:
  3. Undiscovered/secret places are not included in globes and maps. You might discover something new in a globe and map, but that would just be new to you, not necessarily to others. Even in our Age of Satellites (and Google Earth), there are still places on the globe that ordinary people are not allowed to see – for "security" purposes (for whose's security that refers to is open to different interpretations).

Reading a globe between the lines

To find a place on an educational globe you need the two kinds of 'lifelines' drawn on it: the Latitude and Longitude lines.

Latitude lines go alongside (parallel to) the equator, which circles the middle of the globe between poles (the poles mark the apparent 'axle' on which the earth turns). The equator itself is a line of latitude.

Lines that go from pole to pole (North to South, or up and down if you like) are lines of longitude. They are also called meridians. Unlike latitude lines, which have the equator as a starting point, there is no natural place to start as 'zero' longitude line. For centuries different countries used different longitude lines, sometimes going through their own places, as zero meridian to establish their own primacy – hence 'prime' meridian. Nowadays globes have the Greenwich Meridian as the prime meridian (France stuck to the Paris Meridian for decades after the International Meridian Conference).

Sometimes lines of latitude and longitude are confused with the area (or angle) bounded by either latitude or longitude lines. These areas are the real latitudes and longitudes. Here's how the concept works:
Latitude and longitude graticle by Peter Mercator (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image from Wikimedia Commons
The φ (phi) is a piece of real latitude and the λ (lambda) is a piece of real longitude.

Adding to the confusion is the assigning of latitude and longitude numbers (coordinates) to places, because the intersection of two lines is not an area like a real latitude or longitude, or a real place – it is a point. This doesn't bother people though.

To locate a place on a globe, all you have to do is to:
  1. Know its coordinates – These are either given in degrees, minutes and seconds, or degrees only, or numerical. The latitude is given first, followed by the longitude. Miami, for example, is located at 25°47′16″N 80°13′27″W (degrees minutes and seconds north of the equator and west of the prime meridian) or 25.78778°N 80.22417°W.  Christchurch, New Zealand (below the equator) is at 43°31′48″S 172°37′13″E or 43.53°S, 172.620278°E. Some would use negative numbers for locations south of the equator and west of the prime meridian, for example, Miami would be 25.774266° -80.193659° and Christchurch would be -43.53°S, 172.620278. Where do you find coordinates in the first place? For years this information was included in an encyclopedia entry for a place or country. Nowadays you have Wikipedia or sites like
  2. Look up the latitude coordinate – If your place falls between latitude lines you may have to estimate whether to go towards the higher or lower latitude line); and
  3. Look up the longitude coordinate – You may also have to estimate where the coordinate is, if it falls between two longitude lines.
And then look up the place name on the globe. Tough luck if your globe doesn't have it.

Most of the time people don't bother with the numbers. To find a known place on the globe you need coordinates. But to discover places on a globe, people just look at its surface and do their own exploring and then they find the place, remember the shape (or color if there is) and general location of the country (up or down, east or west of a big ocean or continent). In general, people won't have problems locating that country again in the globe, even without coordinates – unless they have trouble remembering things.

For those hankering for nostalgia (late 60s to 70s), how many of you remember the old booklet on How We Use Maps and Globes? Globes and maps were simpler then.

In the Digital Age, discovering places on a globe has been made more interesting with children's globes that talk and give out helpful information about a place:
GeoSafari Talking Globe for children
GeoSafari Talking Globe

Intelliglobe Deluxe Interactive Globe

You may be delighted to know that, nowadays, it is possible for a globe to know too much:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coronelli: Prince of Globe Makers

Probably one of the most famous map and globe makers in history is Vincenzo Coronelli (1650-1718), Franciscan monk, tailor's son.

Coronelli showed his talent early, publishing his first work at the age of sixteen. Vincenzo Coronelli's talent covered both the arts and sciences. He was a superb illustrator as evidenced by this portrait he did for Wignacourt, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta in 1707:

Wignacourt, Grand Master of Malta 1707

Aside from being a talented artist, Coronelli was also an astronomer and mathematician (cartography and globe-making demands precise calculations) – he excelled in astronomy and Euclid.

Art and science meld in the making of terrestrial and celestial globes. After all, places in a terrestrial globe are expected to conform to their observed coordinates. And the constellations in a celestial globe should be where they are expected at any given time (barring any major shakeup in the heavens).

Coronelli's Masterpiece

Coronelli is best remembered for the pair of huge (12.6 feet across) terrestrial and celestial globes he made for Louis XIV in 1681 to 1683. These weighed about two tons each and could fit 30 men inside at one time (there are doors built into the globes).

To give you a feel for the beauty and scale of these globes, here is a picture of the two of them, exhibited at the Grand Palais.

Here they are in another exhibition:

Louis XIV globes by Vincenzo Coronelli
photo by Alain Téoulé
Note the framed hatches where people can enter the globe (the first ones brought lighted candles, I imagine).

One must go closer to fully appreciate their beauty:

Another detail of Corinelli's celestial globe for Louis XIV
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by   

Louix XIV celestial globe by Coronelli (detail)

Both scientists and artists of the time must have turned green with envy.

If Coronelli made only these two globes, his fame would still have been assured (the International Coronelli Society for the Study of Globes, formed in 1952, is another tribute to his name). He was highly sought-after by the leading European princes of his time. But he made many more globes and maps alike (check out some of his maps at Swaen).

Here is a map of Africa, made around 1692:

And here's another celestial globe of his (at the Austrian National Library State Hall):

To give you an idea of the kind of work (excluding the illustration and coloring) that went into the making of these globes, here are two YouTube videos of a Coronelli globe (circa 1692) being rebuilt by Nicolangelo Scianna:

Of Coronelli himself, there are several portraits of him available on the web:

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 01

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 02

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 03

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 04

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 05

 In all the portraits available of him, a Puckish smile shines through. This must be a man of exuberant, even youthful, sense of humor. If they ever make a movie of him, I know just the right guy for the role:

Jack Black as a monk in Nacho Libre

Globes that raise your spirits

At Ultimate Globes, we also have globes worthy of the artistry and impish sense of humor evident in Coronelli: Bar Globes.
Tuscany Bar Globe (opened)
Tuscany Bar Globe
These are also Italian – classic terrestrial globe outside, celestial globe inside – holding a spirit surprise guaranteed to make you smile impishly like a Coronelli.

Cheers to the prince of globe makers!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Globes Should be Accompanied with a Heart

Globe for Kids by Stellanova 11-inch Illuminated

"Globes enhance children's understanding of the world they live in."

This is the 'mottovation' (motto + motivation) guiding us here at Ultimate Globes. In fact, that is the gist of the description of our Children's Globes page.

Simple-sounding really – "understanding the world they live in". Fit for children. One educational materials seller described the advantages of educational globes succinctly:

A Globe, being a model of the Earth, can be seen and comprehended very easily. The globe represents the shape of the earth fairly accurately and it shows oceans and continents. Educational Globes enables us to make comparisons of areas, the correct position of a point on the earth. Latest political boundaries, names of all Capitals and other important Towns, Seas, and Rivers ...

The world inherited by children

The first maps and globes weren't actually made for ordinary children – they were made by wise men for kings and princes, armies, global businessmen (and their children).

It is partly because of the actions of these people on the actual globe that the world, as evidenced by its writing systems, is the way it is today:

Wikimedia Commons (Via Washington Post)
Washington Post sees this map as the development of four major events in history:

  • European colonialism
  • Arab-speaking Islamic conquests of the 7th century
  • Russian expansions of the 19th and 20th centuries; and
  • Ongoing unifications of India and China

These historical events were bloody – and children need to understand why worldwide bloodshed is happening. Having maps and globes on hand is a good way for children to at least yearn to set the world to right. Because children can also be taught to covet lands not theirs – as the children of conquering nations were taught in their time. Understanding the world is one of the first steps to world peace – or, if children are conditioned that the world is theirs for the taking, world troubles.

This map of Colonial Africa and its description by Max Fisher at Washington Post, is particularly illustrative:

Those arbitrary borders are still with us today, in part because African leaders agreed not to dispute them when they won independence. The borders contribute significantly to conflict and unrest on the continent because there are so many diverse communities forced together.

I guess what I'm saying is this: there's nothing better than having globes and maps to teach children the different places on earth. But children should be taught (and shown) the right values – or else they're doomed to repeat the steps of their bloody ancestors.

Hopefully, with globes and the right values, our children will be taught to understand the world well. Here's hoping they would be able to wipe the slate clean and create a cleaner, safer world of peace.

Writable Globe (24-inch Inflatable)

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