Global Delight

Bellerby 36cm globe, Gagarin model

Recently I decided to fulfil a lifelong love and get me a globe.

Seeing the Earth from space should have revived our fascination with globes – but maybe all those images captured from satellites have made us blasé. Perhaps the idea of our planet as a fragile orb of life and colour floating in the great darkness is now so familiar that we have lost our sense of wonder. Grotesquely, as some of us voyage outwards into space, others are going backwards, into the belief that the Earth is flat.

Well, not me.

As a geographer, I’ve always loved maps. My walls are covered with them and if I was only allowed three books I’d choose an atlas, a dictionary and (despite being an atheist) a bible.

The ultimate map is a globe. My global epiphany happened years ago on holiday in Venice, when I visited the maritime museum. They have a couple of gigantic Renaissance globes, which are so amazing that I still can’t really figure out how they achieved that perfect fusion of Art, Craft and Science.

In contrast, I dislike the way that flat projection maps make my home island of New Guinea appear small against the oversized representation of Greenland. Size matters. Africans find it equally galling to see their continent misrepresented as smaller than Europe.

Then there’s proximity. Humanity’s future may well be determined in the Arctic; and yet the distortions and omissions of most atlases have led to a dangerous ignorance about the Arctic region and the closeness of the countries around it.

So, I woke up one day and decided to tick another one off the bucket list. The problem was that antique globes are unaffordable and most modern ones are too small or poor in quality. An internet search revealed just one company that could deliver what I wanted. Bellerby & Co were set up to fill exactly the gap in the market that had kept me from sating my lifelong desire.

Bellerby’s hand-crafted masterpieces come with prices ranging from the minor-gulp-inducing to the eye-watering. From a geographer’s perspective, they are the real deal, with a level of detail that takes good eyesight to fully appreciate. My 36cm diameter globe (obviously I chose their Gagarin model) is customised with images painted next to places that are special to me, including a bird of paradise in New Guinea, Magellan’s nemesis off Mactan Island and a camel caravan on the Silk Route in Uzbekistan.

If you want to see something superb, take a look at:

Of course, no ambition is ever totally fulfilled. What I’d really like is one of their 75cm diameter globes, standing in the courtyard of that castle I’ve always been meaning to buy…

I wonder, if everyone was given their own personal globe on their seventh birthday, could we ignite the Overview Effect that so strikes astronauts when they first see the Earth from space? Ironically, maybe then we’d wake up to the reality that there is only one, which is easily damaged, hard to repair and can’t be replaced.