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Globes, globes, globes

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  February 18, 2014 11:53 AM

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There's something magical about a globe: the way it takes the whole vast world and situates it neatly on your desk; the transporting feeling you get when you trace your finger from one ocean into the next. A new book, "Globes: 400 years of exploration, navigation, and power" by Sylvia Sumira, offers a beautifully photographed tour of the British Library's collection of globes, most of which date from the early 16th century to the 19th century. There are terrestrial globes, celestial globes, pocket globes, globes of the moon, and a decadent blue globe made in China in the early 1600s. Most of the globes were made with a scientific purpose, to aid navigation, or to demonstrate the parallax of the moon. But together, they suggest something beyond precision: a reverent effort to make sense of the mysterious place we plant our feet.

A pocket globe from 1793
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A celestial globe from the early 1600s
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Selenographia, a lunar globe from 1797 by John Russell, painter to George III. It is affixed with a small globe of the earth which could be positioned to show the moon's parallax.
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The earliest extant terrestrial globe made in China
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Images courtesy of the University of Chicago Press.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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