Ostrich Egg Globe Has Oldest Depiction Of The Americas

A depiction of the world engraved on an ostrich egg in 1504 may be the oldest depiction of the Americas, the Washington Post reports. The globe, which was purchased by an anonymous collector at the 2012 London Map Fair, shows the rough outline of South America, along with bits of the Caribbean and North America as small islands.

Created just twelve years after Columbus’ first voyage and in the early days of Europe’s Age of Discovery, it shows many parts of the world that had only recently been visited by Europeans, such as Japan. These regions are rather vague, while areas closer to home such as Europe and North Africa are fairly accurate.

A detailed study of the globe has been published in The Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society. One thing that emerged from the study was that the ostrich egg globe was used as the mold for a copper globe dated to 1510. The Hunt-Lenox globe is kept in the New York Public Library and was the previous record holder for the earliest depiction of the New World.

Actually the globe is made from two ostrich eggs. Discover Magazine notes that the rounded bottom halves of two eggs were used to make a more globular globe, but it’s still a bit too elliptical. The globe’s history is unclear but stylistic clues hint at an Italian origin. It may have been created for an Italian noble family by an artist associated with Leonardo da Vinci.

Vintage Globalization

After Sunday brunch yesterday I went for a wander around the antique stores and retro shops of Auckland’s bohemian Ponsonby neighbourhood. Amidst the array of interesting tat were a few globes from earlier times. Like the antique maps I collect (when I can afford to…), the faded tin mementos show a world very different from 2007. The USSR stretches in subtle pink from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and Africa’s troubled nation Zimbabwe is still dubbed Rhodesia. A country called Yugoslavia stretches from Ljubljana to Skopje and even Vietnam is divided at the 17th parallel.

Now we happily skim the planet via Google Earth, but there’s still something thrilling about spinning a globe and stopping it randomly with your finger.

The picture is of a globe nightlight I once had in a rustic pension in the Czech ski centre of Pec Pod Snezkou.