~ ~ Celestial Globes ~ ~

Bellerby & Co Celestial Desk Globe Hand-paintedLong before there were planetariums or advanced technologies available for studying the sky, people devised ways of depicting the sun, moon, planets, and stars in relation to the Earth. There was a desire to learn about astronomical history and events; people wanted to figure out how Earth fit into the grand scheme of the universe. Globes helped to put objects into perspective, and served as scientific instruments, ornamental showpieces, and physical illustrations of the astronomy beliefs of the day.

Globes have been visual representations of the physical characteristics of Earth and Sky for thousands of years. Generally, there are three types of globes. Terrestrial globes detail geographical features of the Earth. There are also globes that illustrate the physical features of celestial bodies, such as the moon or Mars. Celestial globes, like the one pictured here, are spherical maps of the sky—models of the visible heavens.


Celestial Globe, Isfahan, Iran 1144.

Shown at the Louvre Museum, this globe is the 3rd oldest surviving in the world

Source : Wikipedia






FarneseBack The Farnese Atlas is a 2nd-century Roman marble copy of a Hellenistic sculpture of Atlas kneeling with the celestial spheres, not a globe, weighing heavily on his shoulders. It is the oldest extant statue of the Titan of Greek mythology, who is represented in earlier vase-painting, and more important, the oldest known representation of the celestial sphere. The sculpture is at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy. It stands seven feet (2.1 meters) tall, and the globe is 65 cm in diameter.


Atlas labors under the weight because he had been sentenced by Zeus to hold up the sky.

The globe shows a depiction of the night sky as seen from outside the outermost celestial sphere, with low reliefs depicting 41 (some sources say 42) of the 48 classical Greek constellations distinguished by Ptolemy, including; Aries the ram, Cygnus the swan and Hercules the hero. The Farnese Atlas is the oldest surviving pictorial record of Western constellations. It dates to Roman times, around AD 150, but has long been presumed to represent constellations mapped in earlier Green work.

Source : Wikipedia



globe_lBrass celestial globe, made by Muhammad ibn Hilal

Possibly from Maragha, north-west Iran, AD 1275-76 (AH 674)

‘The astronomer from Mosul’

Celestial globes were produced first by Greek astronomers, and later also in the Islamic world, where the earliest known globes date from the late eleventh century. Islamic astronomers built upon many of the achievements of classical Greek science, further refining concepts and the design of astronomical instruments, such as the celestial globe and the astrolabe. This is why an Islamic globe depicts the classical constellations, such as the Great Bear, Pegasus, Orion and the twelve signs of the zodiac.

At the South Pole of this globe, the craftsman has inscribed his signature: ‘Made by the most humble in the supreme God, Muhammad ibn Hilal, the astronomer from Mosul, in the year 674’ (AD 1275-76). Mosul is an important city in northern Iraq, famous in the first half of the thirteenth century for its skilled metalworkers. However, this globe may not have been manufactured in Mosul. In 1262, the city was sacked by the Mongols. The invading force was led by Hulagu Il-Khan (died 1265), who had recently founded an important observatory at his new capital of Maragha, in north-western Iran. The Mongols were known to deport skilled citizens from conquered lands, and Hulagu may have decided to send Muhammad ibn Hilal to the new observatory straight away. The globe, constructed some twelve years later, may therefore have been constructed at Maragha.

R. Pinder-Wilson, ‘The Malcolm celestial globe’, British Museum Yearbook-2, 1 (1976), pp. 297-321 (reprinted in Studies in Islamic Art, Pindar Press, London, 1985) Source : The Trustees of the British Museum

D5295Celestial globe showing Argo Navis

Argo Navis (which means ‘the ship Argo’) is a Southern constellation created by the Ancient Greeks, who pictured it as the ship in which Jason and the Argonauts sailed in search of the Golden Fleece.

Astronomers in the 18th century decided that it was too big to be just one constellation, so it was divided into 4 smaller ones: Puppis, (the Stern), Vela (the Sails), Pyxis (the Compass), and Carina (the Keel). These names are still in use today.

via Royal Museums Greenwich



shoner_globe_full_sizeCelestial globe by Johann Schöner, c.1534

This is one of only two known examples of the earliest surviving printed celestial globe. It was made by Johann Schöner, one of the leading astronomers of Europe in the early decades of the 16th century. He edited treatises left unpublished by Regiomontanus and his printing press produced maps as well as the gores for his globes, printed from woodcuts. He made his first pair of globes – terrestrial and celestial – in 1515, and Schöner was the first person to issue globes of the same size as pairs.Larger than the pair of 1515, there is also a terrestrial companion to this celestial globe. The woodcuts for both the larger globes had been completed by 1533, when Schöner published a tract on each of them. The stand for this example is dated 1535.A celestial globe by Schöner is included in the famous painting ‘The Ambassadors’, 1533, by Hans Holbein the Younger in the National Gallery.

Watch :: George Glazer & Martha Stewart on Celestial Globes.

Top photo :: by @mrkevindavies ‪for Jocks & Nerds Pop Up Series at the Shinola store, London.
READ ►www.jocksandnerds.com/shinola

Bellerby & Co Globemakers

Bellerby & Co Globemakers; Creators of high quality, beautiful handmade world globes. Combining traditional techniques with pioneering design. Handcrafted terrestrial and celestial globes in London. We create models of many sizes and styles, and offer a bespoke service.


  1. I have an old celestial globe which has a short wooden stand. I’ve never seen anything like it. I would love to have someone look at it to see who may have made it.

    • Hi Herbie, have a look at any markings you see and punch it into google to find other similar globes to compare it to. Or if you know the country of manufacture and it has a date then you can search the internet for clues from that. Otherwise i suggest contacting a company or gallery that sells antique and vintage globes as they will be experts. We are makers of modern and up to date globes of our own design so are not experts on antiques. Best of luck finding out more!

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