Last Thursday, a carved wood and paper globe dating to the 1550s or 1560s sold at Hansons Auctioneers for £116,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000, a huge sum considering the owner had purchased it recently for just £150.
The owner of the globe bought it in to a free valuation event at Hansons Auctioneers earlier this year, and she was “unsure if the globe was anything of great significance.” The auction house quickly realised that it was. Featuring sea monsters, ships and a depiction of Triton, the Greek God of the sea, the globe measures just under 9 cm in diameter. The mapped sides are made up of engravings, and a few clues point to the age of the item. Australia is entirely missing, suggesting Europeans were unaware of its existence at the time of the globe’s creation. Similarly, over North America it reads: “Devicta ann 1530”, Latin for ‘Conquered in 1530’. This indicates that the globe was made after 1530, but before the first explorations of Australia, which was in 1606 (it was not, however, until 1770 that a European – James Cook – chartered the east coast of Australia). Specialists have determined that the globe was likely made during the 1550s or 1560s, possibly by François DeMongenet, a French physicist and geographer.
Hansons’ specialist, Jim Spencer, spoke excitedly about the globe prior to its sale, suggesting that sixteenth-century globes “are nigh on impossible to come across”. Before it went under the hammer for an estimate of £20,000-30,000, Spencer had a hunch it would make much more. “The sky’s the limit” he said, and that “the globe feels priceless. It’s just so early and fragile to have survived the centuries.” It has been identified that it was previously in the collection of Major Edward ‘Teddy’ Croft-Murray, former keeper of the Prints and Drawings department at the British Museum. Croft-Murray was part of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives programme, a group established in 1943 to protect cultural property in war areas during and after World War Two. They worked to safeguard the most important artistic and cultural treasures from armed conflict.
The owner, who has chosen to remain anonymous, was extremely happy with the outcome of the sale. She watched the auction live with her husband and friend, and said, “my friend was crying, I was in shock, and my husband was totally and utterly dumbstruck […] It goes without saying that I’m delighted.”
This is possibly the earliest globe to ever be sold at auction, and one of the oldest in existence. The oldest known globe in the world is the Erdapfel, which dates to 1492. The Ostrich Egg Globe dating to 1504 also exists, which was sold at the London Map Fair in 2012.