How to Build a Globe From Scratch

Time, patience, time, dedication, and time are just a few of the things Peter Bellerby needed to found and subsequently operate Bellerby & Co. Globemakers, one of the only companies on Earth that still makes globes by hand.


Here’s Jenny Zhang via My Modern Met:

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.

Emphasis added, because I think goring is one of the more interesting parts of the globe-making process. It’s a necessary step, because the surface of a sphere possesses what’s known in geometry as a positive Gaussian curvature. This curvature is what prevents you from wrapping a flat map of Earth, which has a surface of zero Gaussian curvature, smoothly around a spherical object. Another way to visualize this problem: Imagine trying to wrap a basketball in one big square of wrapping paper without leaving any wrinkles. You can’t do it! For the same reason a 2-D map can never perfectly preserve the relative size and shape of Earth’s assorted land masses, Bellerby and his crew have to gore their globes with precisely shaped cartographic segments, which you can see throughout this short documentary about Bellerby & Co.:

[Bellerby & Co. Globemakers via My Modern Met]

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All the while softly singing the “Nations of the World” song from Animaniacs, skipping over the parts that are no longer accurate.