Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2012 Issue

A Walk on the Wild Side

Globe_animation

Various views of the globe

A suggestion a month ago that I look at Louis J. Dianni’s upcoming auction at West Point August 18th-19th prompted me to look over the upcoming sale and to bid on several items.  The Dianni auctions, while well documented, have not been covered in AE’s upcoming auction search.  They will be but this first sale fell into the two-week period when we, like the trade, try to take a few weeks off.

The item that brought the auction to my attention was a  “Terrestrial Globe 9”, J. Wilson & Co, 1824”.  This was of interest because the globe was made in Albany, New York – within the Hudson Valley that is the focus of a collection I’m obsessively building.  J. Wilson is considered America’s first globe maker.  A few months ago I underbid a larger, somewhat different version in much better condition, that brought $17,500 at Bonhams in New York in their “Gentlemen’s Library” sale.

In the Dianni auction the example was smaller, 9”, and damaged.  Significant surface loss was evident.  Nevertheless, the low estimate, $400 to $800 made the object appealing.  It sold for $1,600 and I was the under bidder.

As happens, when you find one item you tend to look the entire sale over and I did find another item, a lithograph – West Point Ferry at Garrison’s Landing, a 16” x 21.75”.  I bought it for $1,500 plus hammer.  Here are the descriptions of these two items:

Terrestrial Globe 9”, J. Wilson & Co., Albany 1824

A terrestrial globe, 'The American Nine Inch Terrestrial globe exhibiting with the greatest possible accuracy the positions of the principle known places of the earth with new discoveries and political alterations down to the present period, 1824. By J. Wilson & Co., Albany Wilson was the first American globe maker. Original finish. See history below. Size: 12" H x 12" Diameter Weight: 3.5 lbs "

James Wilson (March 15, 1763-1835) was the first maker of globes in the USA. Born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, Wilson farmed with his father and trained as a blacksmith, though had little other formal education. He moved to Bradford, Vermont in 1796 and became interested in cartography and taught himself map making. He invested in an encyclopedia and taught himself engraving and mapmaking with the intention of producing maps for the schoolchildren of America. When he visited Dartmouth College's European globe collection, he was inspired by a pair of terrestrial and celestial globes. He left determined to produce his own and produced a heavy wooden sphere covered with ink drawings on paper. Though his first attempts were disappointing, Wilson continued on his quest. He sought out an expert in copper engraving and studied with Amos Doolittle in order to master the art of engraving. In 1813 he opened the first geographic globe factory in the US and sold his initial 13 inch globe for $50. The Wilson globes met with huge success and he produced sets of his own celestial and terrestrial globes for sale. Wilson increased his production to meet demand and with his sons, he later opened a second factory in Albany, New York.

Condition: Good, unrestored. No longer spins; repaired crack in stand; northern hemisphere crack approx 5".

Rare Book Monthly

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