One of the World’s Only Globe-Making Studios Celebrates the Ancient Art of Handcrafted Globes

A globe is the only “true” representation of the world that doesn't distort the shape or the size of the earth's features. Terrestrial (showing a map of the world) and celestial (showing the apparent positions of the stars in the sky) globes are known to have been made since the mid-2nd century BC, but the earliest surviving terrestrial globe was made in 1492 by Martin Behaim, a German mapmaker, navigator, and merchant. Globe making developed rapidly during the Renaissance as a result of technological developments like the mechanical printing press, as well as the increasing availability of Latin translations of Ptolemy's treatise Geographica. By the end of the 15th century, globe making had become a well-established craft in Europe, further motivating voyagers such as Christopher Columbus to go forth and explore new lands.

In the modern age, with the advent of GPS in addition to the abundance of mass-produced globes and maps, the art of globe making has fallen by the wayside. Only two workshops in the world still make handcrafted globes; one of them is Bellerby & Co. Globemakers, a studio based in Stoke Newington, London. Founded by Peter Bellerby in 2008, the artisan shop was born when Bellerby struggled to find a quality globe for his father's 80th birthday present. Faced with a choice between a cheaply made modern globe or a fragile, expensive antique model, Bellerby decided to spend a few months and a few thousand pounds making his own, instead. The process turned out to be more complicated, costly, and time-intensive than he thought, eventually leading to the creation of his own globe-making studio.

Now, Bellerby and a small team of dedicated globemakers construct high-quality, handmade, artisan globes that are as much works of art as they are scientific instruments. From the stand, to the painting, to the mapmaking, each piece is expertly crafted in-house using traditional and modern globe-making techniques. Globe making is a difficult art to learn, with the act of applying the strips of map to the sphere (known as “goring”) alone usually taking a year to master, but the stunning results speak for themselves. In a day and age when digital reigns supreme and cheap products fall apart quickly, Bellerby & Co.'s classically beautiful, handcrafted globes are a testament to the wonderful quality and aesthetic of goods made by true artisans.

Bellerby & Co. has gained international acclaim for its globes, which range in size from mini 23-cm desk versions to massive 127-cm spheres. The globes have been used for BBC productions, in Hollywood films like Martin Scorsese's Hugo, and by artists in installations. Other customers have commissioned customized globes that highlight their favorite places, fanciful illustrations, or the locations they wish to visit someday. Timeless in appearance and built to last over a century, Bellerby & Co.'s globes memorialize the ancient art of globe making while looking forward to a future of possibilities in craftsmanship, science, and art.

Man Making a Globe

Photo: Stuart Freedman via Bellerby & Co. Globemakers

Handmade Globe

Photo: Alun Callender via Bellerby & Co. Globemakers

Photo source: Bellerby & Co. Globemakers

Globe Making Process

Photo: Alun Callender via Bellerby & Co. Globemakers

Handmade Globes

Photo: Alun Callender via Bellerby & Co. Globemakers

Bellerby & Co. Globemakers: Website | Blog | Facebook | Instagram

This article has been edited and updated.

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