Globes

Chinese Terrestrial Globe
Chinese Terrestrial Globe, drawn and painted in 1623. By Manuel Dias and Nicolo Longobardi, S.J., probably in Beijing. Maps G.35. Copyright © The British Library Board

We have a collection of terrestrial and celestial globes dating back to 1600 and gores dating to 1544.

About the collection

We have about 100 globes dating from 1600 to the present day. We also have a large number of globe gores (printed or manuscript segments created to be attached to the globe ball), the earliest of which date from 1544.

Using globes for research

Globes are used in a wide range of research fields, including geography, science, astronomy, mathematics and art. They also offer the researcher the opportunity to examine the history of the map and antiques trade, as well as the history of instrument-making and craftsmanship. Globes provide the clearest link between maps and scientific instruments.

We continue to purchase globes and other three-dimensional material.

What is available online?

The Chinese manuscript globe of 1623 features in our Learning pages.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The globe collection is restricted due to their fragile nature and special handling requirements. Please peak to a reference assistant or email maps@bl.uk if you wish to examine a globe from the collection. You will be offered digital images of globes in the first instance.

What is available in other organisations?

The national globe collection is held by the National Maritime Museum. The Globenmuseum of the Austrian National Library has a particularly important collection, and includes globes from the private collection of Rudolph Schmidt.

Further information

An extensive collection of references works about globes is available on open access in the Reading Room. The art and history of globes by Sylvia Sumira (British Library, 2014) features a large number of globes from the British Library collection.

How to guides

Get a Reader Pass

A guide to how to obtain a British Library Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms