What is the oldest globe

When was the oldest still existing globe created?

Between about 1491 and 1493!

From antiquity to the Abbasids to Martin Behaim

Although the "old" Greeks and Romans, the Abbasids (-> a Muslim ruling dynasty ruling from about 750 to 1258) in the early and high Middle Ages as well as mathematicians, astrologers and others more with the beginning of the Renaissance and the age of voyages of discovery the earth than recognized a sphere and is said to have represented it as a scaled-down model of the earth, one can find the oldest surviving terrestrial globe, the so-called "Behaim globe", in the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg.

The initiator and source of ideas for this first terrestrial globe was the trained Nuremberg cloth merchant Martin Behaim (* 1459 / ° 1507), who - in agreement with the Nuremberg Council (-> "City Government") - managed to create a team between 1491 and 1492/93 Attracting craftsmen, cosmographers and artists to create a globe.

Who was this Martin Behaim?

Well, really not much is known about him.
It is said that he was an unsteady spirit, a traveler and changed his place of residence on various occasions.

He has his education

  • completed from 1476 to 1478 in and around Antwerp (-> Flanders / Belgium),
  • then commuted between Nuremberg and Antwerp in the early 1480s,
  • to then pitch his tents in Lisbon for a long time.

There he is said to have undertaken sea voyages, was an advisor to the Portuguese King Joáo II / John II (* 1455 / ° 1495) and was knighted by him.
He married a governor's daughter, became the father of a son and reappeared in Nuremberg around 1491, where he vehemently advocated the production of the “Behaimschen Erdapfel”.

Presumably sometime in 1493 he returned to Portugal, where he died - allegedly impoverished - in 1507.

The "Behaim Globe"

Despite all the inconsistency in the choice of his whereabouts, Martin Behaim apparently still managed to get a globe made.

His model of the earth, completed in Nuremberg in 1492/1493, is primarily based on the worldview of antiquity and the Middle Ages known at the time, i.e. - as far as an exact geographic assignment was given - Europe, Asia and Africa.
The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 was not taken into account for reasons of temporal overlap.
Naturally, Australia and the Pacific are also missing.
The remaining "white spots" were therefore decorated with depictions from the world of fairy tales and legends.

Behaim's "Erdapfel" is not the same -> potato

The term "Erdapfel" coined by Martin Behaim for the globe he initiated (-> Latin: "sphere") can probably be traced back to the fact that the apple has been a frequently used symbol since the Middle Ages (-> eg "Reichsapfel") was also used for the earth.
In addition, the church was even allowed to use the apple as an object of comparison to the earth.

So why, Martin B. may have asked himself, shouldn't there also be a “Erdapfel”?
The triumphant advance of the globes in offices, schools and households could no longer be stopped ...

Author: Manfred Zorn