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A Small London Company That Makes Beautiful Globes (atlasobscura.com)
232 points by prismatic on May 15, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments

Thanks for posting this. Quote from OA...

"Bellerby says it takes around six months to complete just one of the globes, which range from £999 ($1440) for the smallest to £59,000 ($85,000) for the Churchill."

William Morris[1] was a socialist and paid decent wages and provided good jobs. He did it by making furniture and wallpapers that only the seriously rich could afford. I suspect we will see more of this craft production of nice things at costs a large multiple of the cheapest mass-produced items.

(OA lead me to a teaching idea...[2], and it turns out that gore projection is full of compromises and trade-offs [3])

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris

[2] http://www.gma.org/surfing/imaging/globe.html

[3] https://www.mapthematics.com/Downloads/Gores.pdf

Taking a stroll through London's Chelsea Design Quarter, you'll find there is indeed a substantial market for craft production of nice things that cost a serious amount more than the Ikea version.

Have a look at Catchpole and Rye, for instance. They make absolutely beautiful bathroom fittings, handmade in Kent:


Glasgow 1980s in the tenements around Templeton's factory. They had Belfast sinks with taps like the more retro ones on that page. Just made in brass locally. Strange how stuff changes - the objects that surround us.

All the stuff people ripped out for being old fashioned. Probably with the exception of stuff from the 70s, I think every look inevitably makes a comeback, because it looks old fashioned!

This is fascinating. I will be sure to visit that area the next time I visit London. Are you aware of similar areas in New York?

No, I'm afraid I don't know the NY equivalent (if any). I only know the Chelsea place because I used to run through it when living in London.

> I suspect we will see more of this craft production of nice things at costs a large multiple of the cheapest mass-produced items.

That’s pretty much the business model of several european countries even – high tech, and nice things manifactured.

It is also quite a nice way to shape your purchases. Buy very few things, but get the best quality you can afford. For me, it aligns nicely with a minimalist approach to life. See the Boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

> I suspect we will see more of this craft production of nice things at costs a large multiple of the cheapest mass-produced items.

A nice thought. Experience tells me it will remain remarkably difficult to find skilled craftspeople.

Businesses such as this, although frequently making things I want to buy, seem exceptionally vulnerable to recessions, so there's regular attrition.

Even now will often have little idea of this new-fangled internet thing - presumably too busy at the lathe or forge!

I wish there were easier ways of finding these folks. Google is no help most of the time.

Thanks for link [3] in particular. I learned about the different planisphere projections at a young age, but had never thought about the challenge of pasting a flat map on a physical sphere!

Really the kind of thing you only think about when you have to physically execute it.


Interesting 6 minute short about the company: https://vimeo.com/63511505


It's a great example of obliquity in action. He's not interested in doing it for the sake of making money ... he's making globes because he has always wanted to make globes perfectly. The money is coming in because of his method of making the globes. Rare quality and workmanship are conspicuous aspects of his products. The price and demand are byproducts.

Note that they are, however, wrong about the fact that globes give no distortion; viewing any three dimensional object results in it being projected onto the back of your eyeball which results in distortion. In cartography, we call this the General perspective projection. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Perspective_projection

Since we experience this distortion for anything we look at, aren't our brains equipped to handle it? Can we really call it a distortion if that is true?

Also consider that the brain already corrects for the upside down image on the retina, and the stereoscopic input due to having two eyes. The brain's plasticity is slightly underrated.

Reminds me of how a new eyeglass prescription may make the edges of images coming through the lenses look curved or distorted, but after a couple days everything looks straight again.

I'm happy that these are out there. I make a point to find the highest quality versions of the products I buy, the product research is somewhat of a hobby. I researched globes a couple years ago and was disappointed that globes appeared to be one of the only products I couldn't find a high quality version of. Even the best I found in construction quality were mediocre and had inaccurate maps.

I'm surprised there are no globe makers that make oblate spheroid-shaped globes. While the sphere shape isn't inherently "wrong," a oblate spheroid is more accurate because the earth is compressed.

Would just be a cool niche to have scientifically more accurate globes.

Stack Exchange about the earth's compression:


Scientific American article about the earth's true shape:


Roughly figuring, that would be about a 1mm deviation for a 30cm globe.

I don't think anyone would notice, especially on a "bumpy" globe. It might be less than manufacturing tolerances.

Whilst perfectionists might appreciate the idea, the difference between a normal round sphere and Earth's spheroid shape wouldn't be noticeable in a desktop-sized globe, to the bare eye. And you could maybe detect mountain ranges by running your fingers on them, but not really by seeing them?

It would be for those of us who like to apply a fairly big caliper to our globes...

> And you could maybe detect mountain ranges by running your fingers on them, but not really by seeing them?

On a 30cm globe, the Everest would peak ~200µm above the globe's average surface (though it would possibly/probably be too small to even represent), the tibetan plateau would be ~100µm above the average surface. It seems detectable[0] but would require a pretty ridiculously smooth globe, I don't think a plastic-and-paper globe would work.

[0] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916110853.h...

> The smallest pattern that could be distinguished from the non-patterned surface had grooves with a wavelength of 760 nanometres and an amplitude of only 13 nanometres.

The Churchill globe is enormous


I wonder why it weighs 700 pounds if it's hollow

If its wood, to eliminate sag as its rotated it would have to be quite thick and interestingly engineered.

Opening sentence of the article: "Looking at a globe close-up is a wonderful thing."

And then, not even a single close-up photo of a globe.

A quick google image search turns up a few:



Not the clearest, but better than nothing!

Looks like their blog might be the place to check.

Here's another beautiful globe, with more traditional cartography, but made in glass. The company that sells it specializes in nice craft items (this link in German only): http://www.manufactum.de/globen-ganze-welt-kugel-c-1751/

Whilst not the same thing, these reminded me of the color 3d printers by MCor[0]. I wonder whether you could do a colored globe with actual mountain ranges on something like that.


Edit: Found some pictures of a topographic print [http://mcortechnologies.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/10603...] No globes though.

Wow, the topographic print is great. Although the technology is already quite old, I still get shudders somehow when looking at mountains and valleys in Google Maps. Creating little relief maps of the world around us would be awesome. That used to be something that public offices would showcase in their entrance, but it was a huge individual effort to create them. Today you could feed OSM data into a 3d printer, very nice.

Even at the size of the Churchill globe mentioned in the article, Mt Everest would still be less than a millimetre above sea level. So I don't think the mountain ranges would be very noticeable.

Hmm, I guess there's a point there, since it only has 0.1 mm accuracy. I think it'd still look cool with satellite imagery though.

> They also take commissions. Bellerby says that they have completed a Pangea globe (“the ultimate historical globe”) but they don’t advertise projects like that.

I wish these things were more the rule. There's a lot of planets around past and future.

Along with ditching the euro centric north is always up top. You learn a lot by looking at a globe sidways since you loss the pre conditioned bias you'll have from standard flat maps.

> Along with ditching the euro centric north is always up top. You learn a lot by looking at a globe sidways since you loss the pre conditioned bias you'll have from standard flat maps.

In the second-to-last picture, a relatively large globe seems mounted in a double gimbal, so it doesn't really have an up/down.

I admire the venture, but it leaves me wondering: don't those manual touches lead to inevitably less precise globes? I get the feeling that the result may be more beautiful and such, but necessarily less accurate.

I imagine you exhausted, lost deep in the Kalahari.

With a roar of frustrating you hurl your desk globe into a ravine. Should've brought a map.

Well, the founder brings up the issue of accuracy: he developed his own cartography, as he found the available sources full of errors. That makes me think that he's interested in delivering not just an artistic object, but a faithful representation. Maybe they use an automated process for borders, landmarks, etc. Go figure...

PS: I wouldn't hurl any of those babies =)

Nah...it's just Zuckerberg plotting world domination Churchill style.

$1500 for a desk globe? not too shabby.

I wonder how much it will cost to make a 3d printed one.

And while searching i found this: https://scandy.co/welcome. They are too small...

Completely different thing, it's like comparing apples to cucumbers, at least for the specific handcrafted globes. It's about the crafting behind it rather than the object.

Thanks for sharing! In full disclosure, I work with Scandy ;). We are about to announce our larger spheres. We are testing out a 6" and a 7.5" Scandy Sphere. I'd love to know what you think. https://www.instagram.com/p/BFg9hq0jjGL/?taken-by=scandy.co

You are probably searching for this: www.littleplanetfactory.com

I used to love globes as a kid. This os pretty amazing

I'm from Uruguay, the president they talk about there left office around a year ago, bit late for the facts!

Extremely Beautiful. Very Cool. Very Expensive. Where is the value ?

Here: "Extremely Beautiful. Very Cool."

i always thought it would be nice to have digital globe with a touch screen - maybe once bendable OLEDs are cheap enough

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