24. Giovanni M. Cassini, 1790
Smith Collection: SM-1790-17
Giovanni Maria Cassini was one of the three major Italian globemakers between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, some scholars argue that Cassini’s globes were not as sophisticated as those made in London or Paris. But nevertheless, Cassini’s globes were very popular, and thus he is still considered an “important engraver” in globe history. His real expertise was in the production of atlases and sheet maps. His atlas, Nuovo Atlante geografico universale, also published in 1792, is considered his masterpiece.
Giovanni Maria Cassini was an Italian globemaker of the 18th century. Cassini’s globes are our only Italian globes from the time, and they feature stylistic imagery and simple elegance. Although their design is simpler compared to British and French globes made during their time, the globes are still as practical as they are beautiful.
On Cassini’s terrestrial globe, you might find that the globe displays much more information on the continent of Europe compared to the continent of Africa. The lack of detailed information about other continents is a common deficit in European globes, as the globemakers only had access to maps of what European explorers had charted.
James Bruce was one of those explorers. Bruce brought back with him all sorts of cultural, botanical, and cartographic information about the interior of Africa, and this was likely the newest and most detailed information about Africa that Cassini had access to while he was creating his terrestrial globe.
This globe was made at the end of a century that witnessed a growing connection between Europe and Africa. Europe had found advantages by expanding into Africa, including trade of goods and slaves, war advantages through settlements in Africa, and the drive to establish colonies following the American Revolutionaiy War. While much of Europe gained profit from this expansion, Africa lost her people, resources, and land.
However, Cassini’s globes come from a time that may have sparked a turning point in the European view of African people and cultures. Cassini published his globes around the same time as the founding of the “Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa.” Many members of the Association from London were abolitionists and hoped to humanize Africans in the minds of Europeans while discovering the diversity and depth of African cultures.