Enchanting Video Shows How Globes Were Made by Hand in 1955: The End of a 500-Year Tradition

The first globe–a spherical representation of our planet Earth–dates back to the Age of Discovery. Or 1492, to be more precise, when Martin Behaim and painter Georg Glockendon created the “Nürnberg Terrestrial Globe,” otherwise known as the “Erdapfel.” It was made by hand. And that tradition continued straight through the 20th century, until machines eventually took over.

Above, you can watch the tail end of a 500-year tradition. Somewhere in North London, in 1955, “a woman takes one of the moulds from a shelf and takes it over to a workbench. She fixes it to a device which holds it steady whilst still allowing it to spin.” “Another girl,” notes British Pathe, “is sticking red strips onto a larger sphere.” After that, “coloured printed sections showing the map of the world are cut to shape then pasted onto the surface of the globes.” Through that “skilled operation,” the London-based firm produced some 60,000 globes each year.

Here, you can also watch another globe-making mini-documentary, this one in black & white, from 1949. It gives you a glimpse of a process that takes 15 hours, from start to finish.

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