15 December 2021

‘Priceless’ 16th century globe could be oldest offered at auction

15 December 2021

A “priceless” 16th century globe which may have been found by one of the Second World War’s so-called Monuments Men could be the oldest such example offered for auction.

The carved wood and paper sphere, which dates to either the 1550s or the 1560s, was brought by its owner to a free valuation event, Hansons Auctioneers said.

At the time it was made, no European had set foot on or even sighted Australia and the land mass is missing from the artefact.

The globe dates to around the start of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign (PA) (PA Archive)

Its mapped sides, made from carefully engraved paper panels known as gores, also include sea monsters while North America is described in Latin as “Devicta ann 1530” or “conquered in 1530”.

The globe is thought to be either the work of Francois Demongenet, a French physicist and geographer, or derived from one of his designs, said Jim Spencer of Derbyshire-based Hansons.

He said: “One specialist I spoke to said 16th-century globes are nigh on impossible to come across.

“The leading galleries were as keen as mustard and said it’s absolutely right for the period.

“In terms of value, the general consensus is that it’s a complete unknown and should be very exciting to watch.

“Our globe looks like it could be the earliest ever offered at auction.”

People would've been wearing ruffs and codpieces when they first handled this globe in Elizabethan England

The oldest terrestrial globe in the world is the Erdapfel from 1492, with Mr Spencer adding “the age of our globe firmly places it among the rarest in existence”.

“It’s older than other terrestrial globes in many major museums, including the British Library and British Museum,” he said.

The find is going under the hammer at Hansons online auction on Friday, with a guide price of between £20,000 and £30,000.

Valuers were left stunned when the globe was first brought by its owner, who is from North Wales, to the auctioneers’ Staffordshire saleroom at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge.

Around the time it was being crafted, England was going through a period of political upheaval, with the premature death of Edward VI followed by the ill-fated nine-day reign of Lady Jane Grey, then the tumult of Mary I, and finally her sister Elizabeth I taking the throne.

The era was one of exploration as navigation improved, with Sir Francis Drake the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world.

Hansons’ Jim Spencer with the globe. (Hansons Auctioneers/PA)

Mr Spencer said: “The vendor had a number of objects and was unsure if the globe was anything of great significance, so one of the valuers called me over to take a look.

“I expected to pick up a modern reproduction, but I was instantly struck by the engraved gores, which indicated authentic age.”

He added: “I don’t think it’s possible to say what its monetary value is because I have nothing to compare it with, but I’m guiding at £20,000-£30,000 and feel it must surely reach or soar beyond that.

“If the globe gains the interest it deserves, the sky’s the limit.

“To me, it feels priceless.

“The sheer age of the globe is mind-blowing.

The globe has many exquisite details including sea monsters. (Hansons Auctioneers/PA)

“People would’ve been wearing ruffs and codpieces when they first handled this globe in Elizabethan England.

“It’s amazing to think of all the historical events this delicate little globe has survived.

“As well as coming through two world wars, it was made a century before the Great Fire of London in 1666.

“To me, it feels like a museum piece.”

The globe was originally in the collection of Major Edward Croft-Murray, former keeper of prints and drawings at the British Museum, before being bought by its current owner.

Mr Spencer said: “I guess we’ll never know how Major Croft-Murray acquired the globe, but we do know he was one of the Monuments Men who rescued all manner of treasures during the war.”

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