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Lenox Globe, 1503-1507

Ulugh Beg II 1507–1526
Stacked Wooden Logs


The Lenox Globe is often referred to as the oldest extant post-Columbian globe. The globe itself, measuring 12.7 cm in diameter, is an engraved copper ball of excellent workmanship. It was found in Paris in 1850 by the architect, Richard M. Hunt, and was presented by him to James Lenox the founder of the Lenox Library. It is now a prized possession of the New York Public Library, of which the Lenox Library now forms a part. The small globe is composed of two engraved hemispheric sections closely fitted along the equator, as in the case of the Ulpius Globe (Slide #340), and pierced for an axis. Whatever mountings it may have had are lost. It may once have even formed a part of an astronomical clock. A very similar globe, belonging to an astronomical clock and apparently of about the same age as the Lenox Globe, is in the library of the Jagellon University at Cracow in Poland.

The globe bears neither the date nor the name of the maker. Neither parallels nor meridians are indicated, and though a striking error appears in giving to the eastern hemisphere, or the Old World from Europe to Asia, too great an extension in longitude, leaving little space for the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; the principle latitudes, however, are well given. Europe is rather summarily delineated as is evidenced by the shape of Portugal, France and the British Isles. The proportions of Africa are not very accurate either, but it does display a "modern" (i.e., as oppossed to Ptolemaic) southern tip of Africa being clearly identified and separated from Asia.

It is evident that the Lenox Globe must have been constructed subsequent to the discovery of the coast of South America, in 1500, by Cabral, who gave it the name Vera Cruz, which was soon changed to Terra Sanctæ Crucis, as on this globe. It seems probable that it was made after the publication, in 1503, of Vespucius's letter to Lorenzo de Medici, in which he gave an account of his third voyage, when he followed the Brazilian coast 34° south latitude. On the other hand, the almost complete lack of information betrayed by the maker of the globe concerning the east coast of North America, and the absence of the name America on South America would indicate that it antedates the map of Waldseemüller of I 507 (Slide #312 ).

The historians De Costa and Winsor, neither of whom had seen the Waldseemüller map, which was only discovered in 1901, fixed the date at 1511 and 1510-12, respectively. The most probable date is 1503 to 1507 . The southern coast line of Asia is copied from Ptolemy. The numerous islands in the Indian Ocean are difficult to identify. De Costa suggests that the large unnamed island was meant for Australia, and Madagascar and Cirtena for Sumatra and Java misplaced. As Madagascar was not explored until 1508, it might be argued that its appearance here would inditate that the globe was made after that date, were it not for the nameless island off the coast of Africa more nearly on the site of Madagascar. Moreover, a comparison with the Ruysch map of I508 (Slide #313) shows at a glance the ignorance of the maker of this globe in regard to the Indian Ocean and furnishes additional evidence that it must have been made prior to 1507.

The Simarum Situs east of the Ganges River corresponds to the Sinarum Situs of Ruysch. Sinarum, says De Costa, like Serica, was a name for China. The Loac Provincia is the Locac of Marco Polo. In northern Asia is Sacharuum Regno or Sugar Country. On the eastern coast, Hc sunt Dracones must refer to the Dagroians of Marco Polo. A few of the many islands in the eastern seas are designated by name: Taprobaba, Madagascar and Seilan.

In the New World representation, South America appears as a large island having three regional names: Mundus Novus, Terra Sanctæ Crucis, and Terra de Brazil. Isabel [Cuba], Spagnolla [Haiti] and a few unnamed islands belonging to the West Indies have been outlined. According to Harrisse, the American configurations seem to be derived from the same prototype as the gores "erroneously" attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (Slide # 328). The legend: bone speranza may indicate a French cartographer copying an Italian model. The size of South America also attracts attention. Waldseemüller extends the coast of that continent southward to about 50° south latitude, Ruysch to about 40° south latitude or slightly farther south than the Cape of Good Hope but, in an inscription, states that the coast had been explored to 50° south latitude. The Lenox Globe, though giving no lines of latitude, represents the coast as far south as about 55° south latitude, the correct latitude of Cape Horn. Moreover, it places open water to the south of this new continent and thus suggests that the water-route around South America was known before Magellan set out in1519. The Schöner globes of 1515 and 1520 (Slide #323 ), on which South America is separated from an antarctic continent by a strait connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, give further evidence of this fact.

In the place of North America there are scattered islands, one of which, located near the northwest extremity of Terra de Brazil, bears the name Zipangri [Japan], and one in the far north, but unnamed, clearly resembles the Cortereal region, as it appears on the Cantino and Caveri maps (Slides #309, 310). According to Harrisse, in the "alleged" da Vinci map, the large island west of the Terra de Brazil may have been originally Zipangri, while Zinpangri on the Lenox Globe may have become the Terra Frlorida of the da Vinci map.

Most of the inscriptions on the globe reference back to the medieval picture of Asia, combining antique sources, travel accounts, and fabulous legends. The anonymous engraver filled the ocean with ships and sea monsters and stressed the dangers of navidation by illustrating a shipwreck off the coast of China. The enormous size of the grotesque monsters on the map undoubtedly added to the terrors of the deep. "It sometimes falleth out," wrote Sebastian Munster in his Cosmography, "that Mariners thinking the Whales to be Islands, and casting out ankers upon their backs, are often in danger of drowning."

LOCATION: New York Public Library

*Circa 1492, p. 235, #134 (color)
*DeCosta, B.F., "The Lenox Globe", Magazine of American History, 1879, III, pp. 529-540.
Fisk, J., The Discovery of America
*Fite, E. & Freeman, A., A Book of Old Maps, p. 23
Harrisse, H., The Discovery of North America, pp. 470-471, #87
*Nordenskiöld, A.E., Facsimile Atlas, p. 75a, Figure 43
*Stevenson, E.L., Terrestrial and Celestrial Globes, pp. 73-74, Figures 34, 35
*Winsor, J., Narrative and Critical History of America, Vol. III, pp. 123, 212

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