Celestial globes are a fascinating, and somewhat overlooked part of our hobby. A celestial globe is in my opinion an essential part of any globe collection. 200 years ago in 1815 if you were going to purchase a globe you were almost certainly in the market for a pair of globes a terrestrial, and it's counterpart a celestial globe. Of course if you were in the market back then you were wealthy, and you were probably furnishing a library and a pair of globes were de rigueur.
Sometime soon after James Wilson started globe production in America we see the decoupling of the terrestrial and celestial globe. Why? Well around this time we start to see two things happening simultaneously; more emphasis on educating children, and the application of industrial efficiencies on globe production. Both of these factors help set the celestial globe on a path of decline, you see as schools started buying lots of globes they gravitated ( ha ha pun intended ) towards the terrestrial sphere. Simply because a geographic knowledge was much more important to schools and parents. Don't fret not all is lost, celestial counterparts were still manufactured and offered for sale by the vast majority of globe makers but to encourage volume sales they were no longer sold as a set. Think about this if you wanted to have a globe in your household in 1860 or so you might look at an Andrews, Joslin, or Nimbs model for between $10 and $50 ( several hundred dollars today) depending on size. This was a daunting cost, doubling up to buy the celestial mate? A choice, unfortunately not often made.
Consequently there are not that many nice examples of celestial spheres out there, and the farther back in time you go the harder they are to come by. A nice Joslin, or Andrews globe is getting hard to find, I'd guess compounding that difficulty by 10 to find a nice celestial! In fact Murray Hudson states that American Celestial globes are scares by a factor of 100 to 1 compared to terrestrial spheres. With that in mind lets look a a few nice examples of exceptional celestial spheres.
|1831 James Wilson Celestial globe|
|1890 Merriam & Moore Celestial globe|
|1940's Rand McNally celestial globe|
|1930's celestial globe|
Now although these spheres span almost 120 years they have much more in common than you might think. All of these connect the sky together in familiar signs of the zodiac, 3 of 4 go further and outline the fanciful creatures these constellations are supposed to represent. Certainly this adds an artistic whimsy to their existence. Now the night sky does not change all that much over the years, certainly a lot slower than the political boundaries on a comparative selection of terrestrial globes spanning 120 years. It is because of this comparative little change that globe makers did not see it necessary to update celestial gores nearly as often as terrestrial gores. This makes it harder to judge the date of manufacture when looking at a celestial globe. You have to employ your knowledge of decorating styles, as well as construction materials to come up with an approximation.
So what to look for as you collect? The best would be a matched pair A matched pair are the ideal for any collection of anything, much value is added when you have a set, true for globes, windsor chairs, and baseball cards. OK matched pairs are few and far between, what else should I look for? Here is where I would say buy the one you like most. What I mean is realistically if you amass a dozen nice globes you will probably be able to find just one really nice celestial so buy one who's overall asthetic is pleasing to you. If you live in an old Victorian house and your budget allows, then buy a celestial from the 1860's to the 1890's ( if you can find one ) if your decorating style is mid century, or ultra contemporary, buy that 1940's Rand McNally beauty, you will have a "statement piece" that even your clueless friends will find mildly interesting.
|My personal favorite 1930 Rand McNally|
****The James Wilson, and Mirriam & Moore globes pictured are curtesy of Murray Hudson, The 1930s, and 1940's celestials are curtesy of Vintage Cals****