9. Sphaera Stellifera Accurate

9. Willem Jansz (Blaeu), 1606
Sphaera Stellifera Accurate
Smith Collection: SM-1855-69

Sphaera Stellifera Accurate (#9) is the oldest globe currently on display in our cases. It was created by Willem Jansz. Blaeu, in 1606.

This globe represents the Dutch Golden Age of cartography, when Dutch globes and maps were the most beautiful, accurate, and innovative items of their kind.

According to Peter van der Krogt’s Globi Neerlandici, this is the first state of Blaeu’s 6-inch globe. The second state of this globe was produced after ca. 1621, when Jansz. adopted the name Blaeu to differentiate himself from Johannes Janssonius. Since this globe reads “Janssonius,” not Blaeu, we know that it cannot be the second state.

This globe is the oldest one currently on display in our cases. Itwas made by Willem Jansz Blaeu, the most prominent globe-maker of the 17th century. He began his career by working with Tycho Brahe (known for his work in astronomy). He finished his career with heavy contributions to the reputation of Dutch globes as the most beautiful, accurate, and innovative globes of his century. In fact, at the time, Amsterdam was one of the most important centers of commerce in Western Europe.

The inscription on this globe carries an interesting story of the personal stakes that globe makers had in their businesses. Willem Jansz (Blaeu) created this globe for his dear friend Adrian Metius. The inscription reads “To the most learned and famous Adrian Metius, Professor of Divine Mathematics at the University of Franeker, this star-bearing sphere is dedicated with friendship by Willem Blaeu,- 1606.” Unfortunately, less than a year later, Metius designed a globe for Blaeu’s biggest competitor, Jodocus Hondius. Metius’ design for Hondius was probably unappreciated by Blaeu.

Blaeu’s competition did not stop there. Blaeu’s name was originally Willem Jansz, but he later added the surname “Blaeu.” Why would he add another name? For Willem Jansz, it was important to distinguish himself from other globemakers. One of his competitors was named Johannes Janssonius (who happened to be the son-in-law of Jodocus Hondius, mentioned above). Willem thought the name Janssonius sounded too much like his own name, Janszoon. He decided to add the surname “Blaeu” to his name to secure a distinct reputation, and he was then known as Willem Jansz Blaeu.

Engraved by Jan Pietersz Saenredam, Blaeu’s globes depict the constellations with a little extra character. For example, the plowman Bootes, which appears in the northern hemisphere, is dressed in a heavy coat, boots, and hat to combat the cold.

Blaeu created this celestial globe in order to depict newly charted constellations. One of these new constellations was “Musca”, or the fly. Blaeu worked with his engraver Saenradam to show the fly caught in a moment of danger, as the constellation Chamaeleon reaches out its tongue to eat Musca.

Blaeu infused his globes with plenty of Dutch pride. This constellation, Argo, traditionally represents a ship from Greek mythology. But, here, Blaeu and Saenradam picture the ship as a Dutch explorer’s ship, particularly notably by the two Dutch flags on the masts.