NYSD: In this age of Google Maps and GPS and Google Earth, why are people still so drawn to these objects, these globes?
GDG: Well, there are a lot of different reasons but as you just said, it is an object, so even if something is on a computer you’re still looking at it on a screen and it’s reduced to two dimensions. There’s something embedded in our DNA that we relate to it, and the sun, moon and stars. It’s built into our system.
NYSD: What do your customers say to you about why they want to buy a globe?
GDG: It’s usually somebody who is interested in collecting and cartography but more commonly it’s somebody who just wants to buy a gift. Usually there is an angle to it like the person likes to travel. Some people are interested in geography and the antiquated place names. You really have to go back to the 16th and 17th century to see odd shaped landmasses although it is still possible even in the early 18th century to see California as an island.
NYSD: What are the earliest globes?
GDG: In ancient Greece and Rome you would find some celestial globes in stone; not terrestrial.
NYSD: When you do start to get the earliest concept of the earth as sphere?
GDG: Oh, I think they knew that in those [ancient] times because of the horizon. The idea of a flat earth was more of a myth. The idea that people believed rather extensively in a flat earth was a myth that was created in the 19th century.
NYSD: I wonder if the Flat Earth Society still exists.
GDG: Well once you had the Apollo missions and you saw the earth from space…
NYSD: Was it mainly in the 19th century that expensive globes really became status symbols?
GDG: If you go back to the 17th and 18th century in England, the merchants and the rich people and aristocrats, [for them] they were status symbols. And in the 18th century they were an aspect of the Society of Dilettanti, where the term dilettante wasn’t the pejorative term it is now, where they were well-educated gentleman interesting in everything from ancient Greece and Rome to astronomy and music. But a lot of these American globes were school globes from the 19th century where you had more of an expanded educational system for the public and globes could be found in middle class parlors. In some ways this room is a throwback to an 18th to mid-19th century gentleman who has a curiosity about many different things. You have the natural history specimen: the hornbill and then there are the globes and there’s a volcano model there. It’s not decorated.
NYSD: But in this day and age it’s very original.
GDG: Well, it’s unusual because most people have gone modern. For some reason I love these globes. I like decorative arts. I like objects probably better than art, although I am an art dealer too.
NYSD: There’s an extraordinary delicacy to globes, the lines, the script, the way they balance and turn.
GDG: To me everybody should want a globe because it has everything in it, including geography, education, history, decorative arts designs. They’re also scientific instruments.
NYSD: Do men mainly buy them?
GDG: Well that’s always been an aspect of them, merchants had them. And in terms of collecting is it more of a guy thing? Yeah. Men tend to be more of the collectors. People do buy them for women as gifts.
NYSD: How do you live in this place?
GDG: Well, not easily. It was sort of a mad scramble to clear a lot of the space out. [The corridor outside the apartment was piled with stuff]. It’s sort of like this is my life and this is what I want to do and I know this place is not like anybody else’s place but I don’t care.
NYSD: So collecting is somehow different from acquisition, is it? It’s not just acquisition?
GDG: No, but that’s part of it I think. I want to find different things that have a commonality and I want to bring them together for aesthetic purposes and study. There’s something about the personality of the collector and the relationship to objects that is stronger, more passionate — but also methodical and deliberate — that other people don’t do as much.