The New World on the ostrich egg globe. — Photo courtesy of Washington Map Society
A 16th-Century, softball-sized sphere is being heralded as the oldest surviving globe to show the New World, including Newfoundland.
It depicts North America as a group of small, unnamed islands.
One of them is Newfoundland, Belgian scholar Stefaan Missinne said in an email.
Not known before
The globe, previously unknown, has generated international headlines since late August, when Missinne’s paper on it was featured in The Portolan, a cartography journal published by the Washington Map Society.
Missinne spent more than a year researching the globe, which was purchased at the London Map Fair last year by an anonymous institution.
It had apparently been in a European collection for some time before that.
Missinne’s efforts included lengthy analysis and a variety of scientific tests such as carbon dating.
He also consulted with numerous scholars and experts.
Oldest surviving New World globe
His conclusion: it’s the oldest surviving engraved globe to depict the New World.
Until now, the Lennox Globe, which belongs to the New York Public Library, held that distinction.
But in his paper, Missinne says the bronze Lennox Globe was actually cast from the “new” sphere, which was made from the lower halves of two ostrich eggs some time around 1504.
And if that’s not fascinating enough: in his research paper, Missinne suggests the globe was made in Florence, Italy, and that the engraver was influenced by Leonardo da Vinci or worked in the artist’s workshop.
That’s no doubt an incredible finding, and it’s been met with some skepticism.
In a release, Tom Sander, the Portolan’s editor, called the globe a major discovery.
“We undertook a very extensive peer review process to vet the article, which itself was based on more than a year of scientific and documentary research,” he said.
As for the sources for the globe’s depiction of New World, Missinne says the engraver based it on the accounts of explorers such as Columbus and the Corte-Reals, Gaspar and Miguel.
The latter is where the inclusion of Newfoundland originated.
The Corte-Reals made voyages to Newfoundland and/or Labrador in the early 1500s. (There is a statue of Gaspar at the Confederation Building.)
Missinne elaborated in a Postmedia News story that a ship on the globe backs his theory the depicted island is Newfoundland.
He said the vessel, which is near the island on the globe, is Gaspar Corte-Real’s “with full sail going west, trying to find new territories.”
If Missinne is right about this stuff, if nothing else, the ostrich egg globe is a reminder of Newfoundland’s importance in world history, and that it has literally been on the map for a very, very long time.
Email Steve Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter, he’s @TelegramSteve.