At the Bell

The Waldseemüller Globe Gores

The Bell Library's globe gores map is printed from a single woodblock on watermarked paper and measures 34 x 24 centimeters (15.35 x 9.44 inches). When cut out and pasted on a sphere, it would form a globe approximately 4.5 inches in diameter.

European mapmakers, as far back as Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century A.D.) and earlier, knew that a globe was the most accurate way to portray the round earth. One obvious drawback to the globe is its size. Waldseemüller's globe is a good example, few details could be given on such a petite globe.

A small globe is easy to carry, but a detailed globe would be far too large to be portable. Another practical problem: larger globes are awkward to view from the top and bottom. For these reasons globes are best for a simple view of the world, and that is what Waldseemüller provided on his globe of 1507.

Globes have still another drawback: they are difficult to store and to protect from damage. Waldseemüller probably printed his globe in an edition of over 1,000 copies. Of that entire printing, only three copies have survived. None of them was ever shaped into a globe, they are flat, in gores just as they were printed. Copies that were made into globes were no doubt chewed by dogs, cats, or mice; played with by children or dropped in mud or destroyed by fire and lost to history.

Aquisition and Provenance of the Waldseemüller Gores

The 1507 globe gores map at the James Ford Bell Library is one of only four known to exist, and the only one in the Americas. Another copy, also probably published in April 1507, was purchased at a London auction in 2005. Two other copies of unknown date are held in Germany at the Bavarian State Library in Munich and the Museum und Stadtbibliothek in Offenburg. The only know copy of the wall map is held at the Library of Congress, and is believed to be a later edition of ca. 1515.

The Bell Library acquired its copy of the 1507 globe gores in 1954, when Mr. Bell purchased it from Prince Johann II von und zu Liechtenstein and then donated to the Bell collection at the University of Minnesota. The House of Liechtenstein had owned the map since 1883, when it purchased it as part of the estate of Franz Ritter von Hauslab, a former Field-Marshall-Lieutenant in the Austrian army and, later, a member of the household of the Austrian crown. The map's provenance before this point is unknown at this time.

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