Illustrations on a sphere’s surface have been used as celestial or terrestrial references for centuries. As far as we know, the first terrestrial globe was made around 150 BC by the Greek scholar Crates of Mallus. The ancient Greeks had never entertained the hypothesis that the earth was flat, so Crates drew a reproduction of the world as he knew it – on the exterior of a sphere.
But what about a globe that is designed to have an interior function as well, like a bar globe or globe drinks cabinet. Is this a relatively modern concept?
It is unclear, at least to this author, when the interior of a globe first contained anything other than the materials it was constructed with. It is also most likely impossible to determine whether what was inside was a clock, a drinks cabinet, a thermometer, or something else. Something like, perhaps, people.
In 1683 a Franciscan monk named Vincenzo Coronelli was commissioned by King Louis XIV to make a pair of globes, one terrestrial and one celestial, for the royal palace in Versailles. The globes he constructed were each 12 feet in diameter (3.85 m) and weighed approximately 2 tons.
Not only were these globes enormous, they both contained trap doors so that people could enter to view them from the inside.
So how many people can you fit in a globe? The 17th century answer – about 30. And since Coronelli’s globe was the largest to be built until the early 20th century, the answer remained the same for more than two hundred years.
The 21st century answer should be somewhere in the range of 100. Eartha, the largest rotating and revolving globe in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is nearly three and a half times the size of Coronelli’s globe with a diameter of more than 41 feet (12.5 m).
These days, globes intended to hold various things inside them are fashionable and have been for some time. Snow globes, globe drinks cabinets and vintage globe bar replicas are among the most popular. Then there are coin bank globes, toy chest globes, candy dish globes and jewelry box globes, as well as globes designed to hold chess sets, card decks, poker chips… and, of course, people.
Not everyone can afford the luxury of, or would even want to own a globe big enough for people to fit inside it. But we may have Franciscan monk Vincenzo Coronelli to thank for letting people through the door of his 17th century globe and giving us the idea that there can be more to a globe than meets the eye.