Share This Page

Globe may be oldest depicting New World

| Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, 9:45 p.m.
The Washington Map Society
A globe that may be the world's oldest is seen in this photo provided by The Washington Map Society. The globe, dated 1504, is about the size of a grapefruit, and is engraved on two conjoined halves of ostrich eggs. In this view North America is depicted on the globe as a group of scattered islands. Illustrates GLOBE (category a), by Meeri Kim (c) 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: The Washington Map Society)

An Austrian collector has found what may be the oldest globe, dated 1504, to depict the New World, engraved with immaculate detail on two conjoined halves of ostrich eggs.

The globe, about the size of a grapefruit, is labeled in Latin and includes what were considered exotic territories such as Japan, Brazil and Arabia. North America is depicted as a group of scattered islands. The globe's lone sentence, above the coast of Southeast Asia, is “Hic Sunt Dracones.”

“ ‘Here be dragons,' a very interesting sentence,” said Thomas Sander, editor of the Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society. The journal published a comprehensive analysis of the globe on Monday by collector Stefaan Missinne. “In early maps, you would see images of sea monsters; it was a way to say there's bad stuff out there.”

The only other map or globe on which this specific phrase appears is what can arguably be called the egg's twin: the copper Hunt-Lenox Globe, dated about 1510 and housed by the Rare Book Division of the New York Public Library. Before the egg, the copper globe had been the oldest one known to show the New World. The two contain remarkable similarities.

John W. Hessler of the Library of Congress said he saw “a couple red flags that popped up” while reading Missinne's paper. He has heard from a number of sources that Missinne is the anonymous owner of the globe, raising a possible conflict of interest, given that Missinne is touting the importance of the discovery.

Missinne declined to say whether he owns the globe.

Washington Map Society board member Jeffrey Katz said as long as the scholarly aspect is there, it doesn't matter whether the author of the study is also the owner.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.