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The Map Library has a good collection of terrestrial and celestial globes dating back to c.1600 and gores dating to c.1544. They include the Chinese terrestrial globe by Dias and Longobardi (1623), pocket globes and globes and gores by Coronelli.

The British Library contains approximately 100 globes dating from around 1600 to the present day. It also has 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. With the separation of the British Museum and British Library collections in 1973, it was felt that the cartographical content and paper construction of globes made the British Library their most appropriate home. However, a number of globes remain in the British Museum. 

The British Library continues to purchase mapping in the form of globes and other three-dimensional material. Globes are available to be viewed, and can be oerdered only to the Maps Reading Room. (Note that the national globe collection is held by the National Maritime Museum.) Prior notice should be given to the Maps Reference team, as the transportation of globes, many of which are extremely fragile, requires advance warning.


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


The majority of the British Library’s globe collection possesses the shelfmark prefix Maps G., and runs consecutively from Maps G.1. onwards.

Pairs of celestial and terrestrial globes often contain the same shelfmark, distinguishable from each other by the letters a or b.

Globes are also kept at the following shelfmarks:

Maps C.4.a.2.(1.)  – to - Maps C.4.a.2.(5.)

Maps C.4.a.3.(1.)  – to - Maps C.4.a.3.(8.)  

Maps C.4.a.4.(1.)  – to - Maps C.4.a.4.(9.)

Maps C.4.a.5.(1.)  -  to - Maps C.4.a.5.(12.)

Maps C.4.a.6.(1.)  -  ongoing, as new acquisitions are added to the collection.                                                                       

Globe gores are less easy to distinguish amongst the collection, as they exist as separate sheets in portfolios or bound in volumes. Nevertheless, some groupings of globe gores may be found at the following shelfmark locations:

Maps 189.a.18 – to -Maps 189.a.30

Maps 920

Maps *920 –

Maps 955 –

Maps *955 -

Using globes for research

Globes are used in a wide range of research fields, including geography, but also 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. 


Globes can be ordered to the Maps Reading Room only, via Explore the British Library

Globes are also listed in the Catalogue of Printed Maps, Charts and 1964. (1967), plus a Ten-year supplement to 1974. Maps Ref Z.1.(1.).

This consists of 16 volumes and arranged alphabetically by geographic heading and mapmaker. It can also be found in many major UK libraries. Globes can be found under the entry World – Globes.

A list of all the globes in the collection is available at the Issue Desk of the Maps Reading Room.

Further reading

Published literature on globes is numerous, and an extensive collection is available on open access in the Maps Reading Room under the shelfmark Maps Ref.D.1.b

In addition, collected leaflets, articles and pamphlets on globes are available in the Maps Reading Room under the shelfmark

Maps Pam.4.