Gores for the terrestrial globe.

Venice, Vincenzo Coronelli, [1692-1707].


Printed 3 ½ foot terrestrial globe, comprising 24 half-gores (12 for each hemisphere, c.45 x 9cm each, excluding border), and 2 round polar calottes (diameter: c.38cm, excluding border). Each half-gore divided into two quarters of varying length, glued on verso. A handful slightly toned, two expertly remargined, few, small, scattered worm holes, a handful repaired to blank verso, very occasional light staining, three with text from Coronelli’s Isolario on verso. Very rare, fresh, clean and in strong impression. Loose, in modern folder.

Rare, beautifully-preserved, complete terrestrial globe by Vincenzo Coronelli—‘the greatest globe-maker of all times’ (Wallis, ‘Libro dei globi’, xviii). Large, complete, mounted globes of this date are seldom offered for sale; unassembled sets of gores are even scarcer.

Vincenzo Coronelli (1650-1718) trained as a xylographer in Ravenna before entering the Franciscan Order in the 1660s. Very keen on astronomy and geometry, he began to work as a geographer c.1678, receiving a commission for a terrestrial and a celestial globe, c.175cm in diameter, for Ranuccio II Farnese, Duke of Parma. Louis XIV’s advisers impressed the King with reports on these magnificent globes and Coronelli was invited to Paris to produce two more—twice as big—which brought him definitive fame.

 In 1684, in Venice, he started a business producing maps, plans, illustrations and printed terrestrial and celestial globes, intended to be sold in pairs. The present terrestrial globe is the largest produced in print, with a diameter of 3 ½ feet, a total of c.109cm. The gores were engraved at the Convento dei Frari in Venice; the same plates continued to be used, in different states with minimal changes, to at least 1707. The gores were meant to be glued onto a sphere made of wood or papier-mâché, covered with a thick layer of plaster; they could however be bought unassembled, a more convenient and cheaper option.  

The present copy was produced with material printed from 1692 possibly up to 1707, the use of gores produced at different times was a common occurrence in Coronelli’s works. In the cartouche, his name is followed by ‘Lettor pubblico’ (an appointment he received in 1689); it also includes references to his ‘Atlante Veneto’, first published in 1691-96 (Milanesi, ‘Coronelli’, 135). Most gores were taken either from the ‘Isolario’, part of Coronelli’s ‘Atlante Veneto’, or from the ‘Libro dei globi’, first published in 1697. ‘The difficulty of transporting large, fully assembled globes and the high cost of mounting them, which not all customers were willing to sustain, were probably the reasons that prompted Coronelli to publish the gores in […] the “Libro dei globi”’ (Milanesi, ‘Coronelli’, 157). The 3 ½ foot terrestrial globe was the more problematic to transfer onto a folio atlas due to the amount of text featured in its gores, in relation to their size. These had to be big enough and bound in vertically, for easy reading. Coronelli thus opted to print only part of each gore by masking part of the copperplate with paper; for later issues, identical copperplates were made anew, cut at the tropics to fit the page. This decision was dictated also by the worry that buyers might acquire an atlas, trim the maps and use them to construct their own globe. The most frequent watermark bore three moon crescents, a design adopted by Venetian papermakers to sell their paper in Arabic countries more easily (Scianna, ‘Libro dei globi’, 24). Another, present also on this copy, was the fleur-de-lis with a P. However, this copy also bears watermarks hitherto unrecorded in earlier issues: a heraldic escutcheon with the initials MA, a third with a crescent and another with three stars. This last is similar to Heawood 813, unidentified but probably later. A possibility is that some of the plates came from the third and fourth issues of the ‘Libro’, published in 1699 and 1707, now remarkably scarce, with minimal or no alterations (Scianna, ‘Libro dei globi’, XVIII). They are too rare to be available for comparison.

Coronelli’s maps were based on Blaeu’s ‘Atlas maior’ as well as later cartographic models and sources, up to the early 1680s. From an aesthetic point of view, they featured superbly-engraved decorations including vessels, geographical allegorical figures, elephants and fighting natives, as well as explanatory cartouches. Australia has a definite outline, partly resembling Melchisédech Thévenot’s map of ‘New Holland’ (1663), including Tasman’s explorations in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) and the western coast of New Zealand (‘Australia’, 32-33). As in most contemporary maps, Tasmania is portrayed without the north coast, whilst the eastern part of Australia remains indistinct (‘Mapping Our World’, 176-77). For South America, Coronelli summarised the discoveries along Magellan’s route, highlighting the early C17 expeditions of Le Maire and Schouten, which revealed the true outline of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. He also added the more recent expeditions of Brouwer and John Narborough along the coast of Chile in the 1670s, and Sharp’s along the coast of Peru in the 1680s (‘Cartografia Magallanica’, 77-88). The North American outline featured major innovations including the Jesuit missionary Cavelier de la Salle’s exploration of Louisiana and his descent along the Mississippi in the 1680s, and Nicolosi’s discovery that the Rio Grande flows into the Gulf of Mexico. California is nevertheless still shown as an island.

A very rare item, beautifully preserved.

 Gyözö Török, ‘Réduire des géants. Le grand globe imprimé de « trois pieds et demi » de diamètre’, in Les Globes de Louis XIV, ed. D. Hofmann and H. Richard (Paris, 2007), 337-50; M. Pelletier, ‘I globi di Coronelli’, in Vincenzo Coronelli e l’imago mundi, ed. D. Domini and M. Milanesi (Ravenna, 1998), 90-110; M. Milanesi, Vincenzo Coronelli, Cosmographer (1650-1718) (Turnhout, 2016); Mapping Our World (Nat. Lib. of Australia, 2013); Australia in Maps (Nat. Lib. of Australia, 2007); Cartografia Magallanica, 1523-1945 (1999); N. Scianna, Il Libro dei Globi di Vincenzo Coronelli (1999).


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