His 12 pocket globes, some of the best the market has ever seen, achieved remarkable sums when offered on September 15 as part of a Bonhams Knightsbridge Instruments of Science and Technology sale.
A new record for a British pocket globe was set by a rare 2¾in (7cm) Charles II period example by Joseph Moxon (1627-91). Estimated £15,000-20,000, it sold at £150,000 (plus 27.5/25% buyer’s premium).
Moxon, a mathematician and hydrographer, was only the second person to make printed globes in England after the Elizabethan instrument maker Emery Molyneaux. The 14 mathematicians who supported his successful petition to be awarded the title of Hydrographer to the King noted ‘we know of none other in England that makes Globes, but himself or hath done these 20 years past’.
A Yorkshireman who learned his trade as a printer of scientific papers in the Netherlands, Moxon traded from ‘the signe of the Atlas in Cornhill’. His various catalogues record a variety of globes ranging in sizes from 3in (7½cm) up to 2ft 2in (66cm) in diameter. Samuel Pepys bought two pairs: one for himself and another for the Admiralty.
Small ‘pocket’ globes (the idea perhaps borrowed from a Dutch colleague) proved to be particularly popular in Britain, both as status symbols and a convenient way to discuss the latest geographic discoveries in the emerging coffee houses in the City.
Their earliest mention is made in Moxon’s sales catalogue of 1657. It reads: “Concave hemisphere of the starry orb, which serves for a case to a terrestrial globe 3” diameter made portable for the pocket. Price 15s.”
Moxon apparently issued two versions of his pocket globe. Most survivors are thought to date from the last two decades of the 17th century, including the example sold at Christie’s for £22,800 in 2006.
However, Edell’s model, bought at Christie’s South Kensington in 1985, is an earlier edition dated to the mid-1670s. The only other known is in the Scheepvartmuseum in Amsterdam.
Globes were only as accurate as science and exploration allowed. The terrestrial globe depicts the tracks of Sir Francis Drake and Thomas Cavendish and shows California as an island. To the interior of the fish-skin case are celestial gores and a cartouche signed Londini Sumptibus J Moxon.
Moxon’s pocket globes show the stars as they would be presented on a normal convex globe, and it was not until 1697 that Abraham van Ceulen designed a correct set of concave gores.
Also part of the Edell collection was a rare globe by Johann Baptist Homann (1664-1724). After a brief period of Jesuit monasticism, he had converted to Protestantism and moved to Nuremburg in the late 1680s to pursue a career in mapmaking. His publishing business had access to the terrestrial and celestial gores (and perhaps the original copper plates) published by the renowned astronomer Georg Christoph Eimmart (1638-1705).
This 2½in globe splits along the equator to reveal a printed card armillary sphere. Bought by Edell at Sotheby’s in 1979, it too improved on its estimate to bring £62,000.