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BUCHBESPRECHUNG

(Der Globusfreund 45)

Modelle der Welt. Erd- und Himmelsgloben. Kulturerbe aus österreichischen Sammlungen. Edited by Peter E. Allmayer-Beck. Wien: Christian Brandstätter Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 1997. 384 pp., more than 300 ill., most of them in colour. ISBN 3-85447-733-3. ATS 990.-.

In eleven chapters and two extensive tables six authors present us in this handsomely produced book an extensive review (in the German language) of ancient and modern terrestrial and celestial globes and armillary spheres. Although the emphasis of the treatment lies on the globes in Austrian collections, the book covers much material of interest on the history of globe making in the whole (western) world. It reflects the tireless efforts of the Viennese industrialist and collector Rudolf Schmidt on behalf of the promotion and propagation of knowledge about that fascinating product of human civilization, the globe. He and his friends and collaborators may be rightly proud of the present testimony of his success. There is one marginal comment on its design. The use of columns of different width, of subscripts instead of the usual superscripts for notes and of small red dots under each page number makes the book look ‘unquiet’ and the type page ‘restless’. But this is a minor and moreover a very personal opinion.

The first four chapters of the book contain surveys of the cartographic, constructional, historic and symbolic aspects of globes and globe making.These are easy and stimulating reading. In chapter I Schmidt summarizes the main scientific developments since antiquity. He was probably a bit carried away by his romantic feelings when referring to the Tower of Babel as a huge measuring instrument (p. 12) and equally so, when considering the theory of the gyroscope as a possible factor in explaining the enigma of the Southern Continent (p. 23). More serious is the omission of at least an indication of the effects of the Copernican revolution on the construction and mounting of the terrestrial globe - as this is prominent in the designs of globes of George Adams and Cornelis Covens. Chapter II gives a fair review of the construction and use of globe making. There is a scaling error in the model mentioned on p. 28: the Moon should be 9 m away and the solar diameter 34 m instead of 3 m, and on p. 43 equatorial coordinates - with respect to the equator - are mixed up with azimuthal coordinates - with respect to the horizon. The next chapter (III) is devoted to the most famous globe makers. Allowing that the makers selected by Franz Wawrik to be included in this chapter necessarily represent a subjective view of what constitutes the cream of the crop in globe making, this reviewer nevertheless wonders why of makers working later than 1700 only two are included as ‘most famous’: Guillaume Delisle and the Verlag Dietrich Reimer. Neither George Adams nor anyone else of the prominent English makers are mentioned. This makes this chapter, well started as it is, essentially incomplete. In Chapter IV Jan Mokre describes the significance of the globe as a symbol. Its evolution through the ages from a symbol of worldly and religious power to an emblem of learning and eruditon is well treated, as is its use as an object of display and vanity for the rich. The ultimate uselessness of the enormous Coronelli-globes as instructive objects is a point well made.

Chapter V to X together deal with Austrian globes. Helga Hühnel contributes an authoritative review on the most important Austrian globe makers between 1750 and 1950. Elisabeth Zeilinger describes in Chapter VI extensively and in sometimes rather overenthusiastic terms (the universal genius Coronelli had his limitations!) the main items of the over 200 possessions of the Globenmuseum of the Austrian National Library. In Chapter VII Franz Wawrik discusses the most important objects that can be found in a dozen other Austrian globe collections that are open to the public, such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Rudolf Schmidt and Franz Wawrik together discuss in Chapter VIII extensively the globes and armillary spheres present in a number of private collections in Austria - of which Schmidt’s own collection is by far the most important one. After some introductory remarks about various aspects of collecting such intriguing objects as globes, and pointing out the pioneering activities of Robert Haardt, founder of the present Globenmuseum, in this respect in Austria, the main objects from half a dozen private collections are mentioned (and some of them depicted in illustrations). Chapter IX, equally by Schmidt, gives a particularly interesting and well-illustrated review of a number of important globes in the possession of Austrian cloisters and other religious institutions. Many particulars about the objects are mentioned that are not easily found elsewhere. Finally, in Chapter X Heide Wohlschläger, herself a collector and a close collaborator of Rudolf Schmidt, discusses her own speciality: globes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The gradual transition from classical globe making to modern mass production techniques and the birth of specialized (thematic) globes are clearly explained and the various national traditions in commercial globe making that originated in the nineteenth century are well described. A very brief review of past research on globes in Austria by Rudolf Schmidt rounds off this part of the book.

The final part of the book, of about 150 pages, is devoted - apart from to the usual literature references, technical glossary, indexes and source lists - to three very extensive tables, all prepared by Heide Wohlschläger, in cooperation with Rudolf Schmidt. The first table lists the names, particulars and principal activities of more than 800 globe makers. The other two tables are based on data of all historic globes and armillary spheres conserved in Austrian public and private collections. This concerns more than 1500 globes. Much of its contents have been published over the years in the volumes of Der Globusfreund, and it is most welcome to have all this information updated and gathered in one place. The data are ordered according to the name of the maker (Autorenverzeichnis), and again, according to their present whereabouts: public, private or cloister property (Standortverzeichnis). These tables are indeed invaluable and will serve for a long future all researchers in the field of old globes.

As no intellectual product is without its blemishes, we pointed out a few as encountered in reading. They do not detract from our general judgement that this publication is not only a valuable tool for research but at the same time a highly interesting and exciting history that merits reading by everybody who is interested in globes.

Elly Dekker


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