The Handmade Globes of Peter Bellerby
Monday, April 17, 2017
When Peter Bellerby couldn’t find the perfect handmade globe for his father’s 80th birthday, he took matters into his own hands. He decided he would create two globes from scratch—one for his father and one for himself.
“After all how difficult can it be to make a ball and put a map on it?”, he wondered.
But making a globe is extremely difficult, as Bellerby found out. Correctly applying the little strips of the map, called gores, onto the spheres itself took eighteen months to perfect. Some of the poorly constructed models Bellerby found had overlapping gores that wiped out entire countries, or had latitude lines that were drawn straight across the map with a ruler. Bellerby wasn’t prepared to settle on such poor quality finish. Today he runs Bellerby & Co Globemakers out of a London Studio. They are one of only two workshops in the world that still make modern hand-painted artisanal globes.
When Bellerby first started making globes, he had to license a map from a reputable source. But Bellerby found out that the maps were not reliable.
“It had incorrect capitals, most of the names in the Middle East were either rubbish or incorrectly spelled or positioned. Don't let me start on the Aral Sea,” he said.
Over the course of a year, Bellerby and his assistants spent at least six hours per day redesigning the map using Adobe Illustrator, a piece of software that he describes as “not so difficult” and compares it to how intuitive basic internet and the email are to his parents.
“In the end we changed everything.”
Once the map was made, he found a friend who created a program to morph the rectangular map into gores so that it fit onto a sphere.
The sphere itself proved to be another source of trouble.
I found several companies prepared to make a 50cm sphere mould, but the moulds were neither round, often had plateaus on and were far from accurate. Now the actual globe is not exactly round, but thats not really the point. In the end we have relied on Formula 1 fabricators to make our moulds. The reason being that when you have a tolerance (error) on a sphere, you might as well multiply this by Pi (3.14159 etc etc) ...if you can imagine sticking 24 pieces of map on a sphere and each one is 0.1mm too small you have a 2.4 mm gap to contend with.
Now Bellerby and his small team of trained globemakers create high quality globes each expertly hand crafted using traditional and modern globemaking techniques.
“Our globes are not a throw-away item,” Bellerby said. “Part of the problem with many of the globes made in the past was the materials they used—meaning any antique globe now is more like a museum exhibit and each touch and spin will likely degrade the item. We hope our globes will be future heirlooms and something that customers want to pass down within their families.”
Some of Bellerby’s clients are high-profile. In 2011, he was commissioned to make two globes for the film Hugo. Recently, the Louvre Museum of Paris asked them to make a copy of Coronelli's original celestial globe, first made for Louis XIV in 1683. The Louvre will display the piece on the grand staircase at the museum.
All photographs courtesy of Bellerby & Co Globemakers.
Sources: www.bellerbyandco.com / FT.com / Slate / Solid Smack / Wikipedia