A standard pocket globe is terrestrial globe, approximately 3 inches in diameter housed in a fish skin case. Inside the case are a pair of concave celestial maps of the northern and southern skies. The globe often has axis points on which it can rotate in the case; though some were made without. The heyday of the pocket globe was Georgian period England, from the early 18th century to about 1840. They were mainly made as novelty items for English aristocrats interested in geography and astronomy. There are variations on the form including terrestrial globes in lidded boxes (wooden or cardboard), and celestial pocket globes. Another rare variation is a pocket globes in a brass meridian. In addition, the interior of the case can vary to include astronomical or historical charts, or be blank (the latter especially on celestial pocket globes). The miniature size of pocket globes no doubt added to their appeal as precious objects, which still holds true for collectors today.
The production of pocket globes coincides with the age of the Enlightenment in Britain, which encouraged members of the upper classes to acquire a broad body of knowledge about the arts and sciences. The fields of geography and astronomy were rapidly expanding during this period, with British explorers and scientists making major contributions. Societies were founded to fund exploratory expeditions, and foster research about foreign lands – from geography to natural history. World maps were constantly being redrawn as voyages such as those of Captain Cook and Admiral Anson brought back new geographic information about the Western Hemisphere, South Pacific and polar regions. Such discoveries and Cook's routes were frequently noted on British globes, even at the small scale of a pocket globe.
The earliest British pocket globes were manufactured by John Senex in the first half of the 18th century. After Senex's death, John Ferguson designed his own pocket globes, and his designs were handed down to Dudley Adams and Nicolas Lane, who published revised versions of Ferguson's designs into the 19th century. Although pocket globes in fishkin celestial cases were generally a British production, miniature globes were also produced in Europe, notably by German makers, who usually produced then in illustrated cardboard boxes. These globes were more commonly made in the mid 19th Century, and like miniature British globes of the Victorian era, were often produced for parlor use for families to study geography as a pastime.
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