THE GLOBE IN A SQUARE.
by Henry Morley
From Household Words, 12 July 1851
We walk about the surface of our globe, tread the hot flagstones of its towns, or crush the soft grass of its forests, bathe on the margin of its seas, float on its rivers, look abroad from its mountain-tops, and. like good common-place folk, here we say we are in town, there by the sea-side, there we are in the country. We walk into Leicester-Square, and enter a neatly made brick packing case, look at the world boxed up in a diameter of sixty feet, and say, Ah, here is a colossal Globe! here is a work of beauty! what a clever man its maker, Mr. Wyld, must be! I, Jones, have entered Leicester SquareI, Jones, and Tomkins my companion; we have paid our shillings, and have entered the neat building in Leicester Square, where we perambulate the corridor between the outer wall and the convex surface of the contained Globe. It is pleasantly fitted up as what Tomkins denominates an interesting and instructive promenade, profusely filled with maps and globes. My friend ignores the attendant shopman, and magnanimously refuses to regard this corridor as a mere branch of Mr. Wyld's shop in the Strand. I tell him that I look upon the entire undertaking as a shop transaction, and thereupon Tomkins warns me how ungenerous it is
" To look upon a work of rare devise
The which a workman setteth out to view,
And not to yield it the deserved prize
That unto such a workmanship is due."
Tomkins, I answer, it is no discredit to a work like this that it has emanated from a shop. Of all years, the year 1851 is that in which the dignity of trade ought least to be forgotten. Trade may be made mean by its least worthy votaries, and so may law, or physic, or divinity; traders are the fertilising bees that flit with pollen on their wings among the barren branches of the world, and make them fruitful. The intellect of man is scattered abroad for increase by the hands of commerce. Take away from England ships and shops, what will remain, Tomkins? When I call the erection of this Globe a trade speculation I neither degrade the work nor exalt the department in which it is classed: the house of trade is noble, and this work is worthy to be born of such a house.
Where are we now ? says Tomkins. Must we tear up this boarding that we stand upon to get a view of the South Pole ? Where's the South Pole, I say? Holla, waiter! I say; South Pole directly, if you please ?Sir, says a gentleman with a wand, you had better commence your examination from the top; and he points up-stairs, and we go up to a landing with bits of the world, cosmical fragments, all about us, seen through the woodwork of a thick central pagoda of four stories in height. We mount to the next landing, and the next; gentlemen with long sticks, whom my friend Tomkins persists in calling waiters, are standing by the railing which runs round the edge of each stage, at a distance of ten feet from the model, pointing out, rapidly, the items of the bill of fare. Under the balustrade of each landing there runs a circle of gas jets with reflectors: these illuminate the model. We are on the topmost landing, and my friend Tomkins looks curiously to see how Mr. Wyld has solved the question of an open Polar Sea. A judicious hole in the model there admits a ventilator; except the door in the Pacific Ocean, by which we entered, and this ventilator, the model, I believe, is air-tight, and the heat reflected on all sides from the concave surface rises to make a little Sahara of the North Pole station. Tomkins, on the point of fainting, stops the gentleman who is discoursing on the course of Franklin, with a scream of " Waiter, ice!" He is indignantly informed that no ice is to be had at the North Pole; he must go down into the corridor. On our way down, finding it somewhat cooler within the tropics, we remain there to wonder at the world.
The modelling of the Earth's surface within rather than without so large a Globe, involves no possible misunderstanding, or apparent inconsistency It is, in that respect, neither more nor less than a wall map. Instead of having one large square map hung up in a room, we have a room made globular, and a map of the whole world evenly spread over it; so that all relative distances and size can be kept, and the whole picture be seen without distortion.
Perfect, isn't it, my boy! says Tomkins, as we lean over the railing, and look down on a continuous expanse of land and sea. Beautiful, admirable, I reply; but perfect it is not Ah, mutters Tomkins, that fellow wants enthusiasm! Well, Jones, name your drawback, and have done with it. In the first place, thenFirst place, eh? How many places more? I am not discontented, Tomkins. Perfection is a myth. I only mean to point out, in this instance, what the drawbacks on perfection are. In the first place, I do not get so much of the Earth's surface at a glance as I had been led to expect. The heavy wooden scaffolding is greatly in the way of our eyes. A lighter iron edifice, with open floors, would
have permitted, I suspect, a more complete impression to be made of Earth's whole surface from one point of view. Perhaps, however, this is a practical difficulty not to be overcome. Then, secondly, I note a very serious drawback upon perfection. Two different scales are used in the construction of the map, or model. On the surface, an inch represents ten miles, but in elevation of the hills and mountains, an inch represents one mile only; so that of all heights there is a tenfold exaggeration. The consequence is, that as we have a fair notion of the heights of mountains, and see on the model mountain chains, the mind tacitly and inevitably adopts them as the only standard of comparison, we form an idea of the Earth's magnitude ten times too small. For this reason, the idea of smallness was one of the first that struck me when I was looking yonder at America. Nor is this the only objection to the use of two scales; there is another of much greater moment. Anything like a model of the true form of a mountain can obviously not be attained, when its base is to cover a surface ten times smaller than a due proportion to its height requires. Carve a mountain out of india-rubber, and lay it upon the table. Say it is now some elevation carefully modelled on the scale of ten miles to an inch. Now, when I tell you that such a mountain to be suited to this map must have its base remain unaltered in extent, while it is pulled upward to ten times its original height, you will perceive that the true features of a mountainous country modelled on such a principle can only be caricatured. Fancy a sculptor's carving of a man nearly sixty feet tall, with body and limbs no thicker than belong to ordinary mortals; fingers no larger round than yours, dear Tomkins, only ten times as long. Were such a piece of sculpture shown in another planet as the model of a man, it would convey just such a false notion as we get out of these modelled mountains. Jones, you will make me discontented with the model. Tomkins, I don't wish to do that. Mr. Wyld did wisely, I think, in adopting the two scales. He was perplexed between a choice of disadvantages, and chose, perhaps, the least. I only want to show how very, very fur a globe, or map, is from conveying a true notion of the Earth we live uponhow far from perfect this Globe is, although the grandest, and in some points the most useful, ever yet constructed. A marking of snow-peaks, an icy painting of the Arctic regions, and a lurid painting of the deserts, are as far from representing all the marvels of scenery whereof the world is full, us yonder expanse of blue painted wall is from revealing all the wonders of the ocean.
Does not the ocean please you ? What a quantity there is of it !Why, Tomkins, perhaps I'm wrong in wishing for it; but I do wish the painter's brush had indicated, as it might so easily have done, the ocean currents. These are not less fixed than rivers in importance, more magnificent in extent, and scarcely less beneficent in operation. I look forward to the time when sea will no longer be represented as a mere blank even in our worst maps; and on this model, therefore, I should have liked to see the path of ocean rivers painted.
Now you have done objecting, I suppose ? No, I have not. I don't dwell much upon my last want; but there is another obvious defect in this model; the very great defect that it is in some places rather too perfect. Go on, go on ! Why, Jones, you are absolutely an atrocious grumbler. Look here, Tomkins, at this unexplored region, modelled without any indication of the fact that we know nothing:, or nearly nothing, of its features. Mr. Wyld seems to have solved all problems in geography; at any rate, the model bears no testimony to the that problems still exist; and yonder highly clergyman who pointed the Andes and asked what they were, is informed by nothing on the model that there are some portions of their geography about which Europe is as ignorant as Alma Mater. --What could be more easy than to hang a cloud of gauze over those districts of which I speak, making the cloud thicker or thinner in proportion to the degree of obscurity it means to indicate? But now, my friend, is it not time to admire this work, which is not indeed perfect, but which is, intellectually speaking, of inestimable value? It teaches many things that never have been illustrated so efficiently before, and many more things, certainly, it can and will be made to teach with new force by a few simple arrangements on the surface. Let me tell you, my dear friend, the history of this Globe. The original idea, which followed upon the announcement of Prince Albert's Exhibition scheme, was to construct a Globe, one hundred feet in diameter, to be placed in the Great Exhibition of All Nations, that all nations there might see their homes. This Globe was to have elevations and depressions modelled on its surface, externally as usual, and galleries were to run round it and over it from which it was to be seen. Practical difficulties which suggested themselves at this stage of the idea, were not to be overcome, and the proposed Great Globe was of necessity excluded from the Exhibition building. A globe of this magnitude ceases to be a globe in the sense applied to those smaller spheres, comparatively speaking globules, commonly in use. It is much rather a continuous set of maps adjusted; and as you would not lay a large map of Europe on the floor, and walk over it, in order to see it naturally, so the first notion of walking over and about a large globe modelled externally, not only involved a much larger expenditure of space for the external galleries, but was in reality too clumsy to be worth the pains of execution. The idea grew in importance twenty-fold when it developed itself into the design of a model executed on spherical walls of a room. Out of a cumbrous notion of a show Globe for the Exhibition, sprang the plan which forms really an important epoch in the history of study; for henceforth all students should have access to a Globe like this. The execution of Mr. Wylds mature design was commenced in the October of last year. One of the first checks to be encountered was the t difficulty of finding a sufficient number of suitable workmen to manipulate in the modelling department. The business was almost a new one, and there was created a demand for many hands. Many of the workmen had to be instructed as they went, all were required daily to read books, and examine many maps, illustrative of the region upon which they chanced to be engaged. The labour was an exercise of mind; the labourers became excited and interested, entered into emulation, worked late and early, and west home to their families proud of the information they had stored up in their minds, delighting in a sense of intellectual advancement.
Upon a square containing five degrees of latitude, and three of longitude, the drawing for a single block was, in the first instance, made with painful care, and subjected to scrupulous examination. Being found correct, it was then placed upon a cylinder, and thinly covered with a coat of clay. Upon this clay the lines drawn by the artist were traced out in his turn by the modeller. The modeller then, having removed the drawing, began building mountains, cutting rivers, shaping lakes, on the substratum to which he had transferred the artists' sketch; and here he brought a practical result out of his daily reading. The model, when completed in this way, underwent, of course, tests and examinations, and corrections, until, being pronounced true, it was placed in the moulder's hands, that a east from it might be taken in plaster. The plaster cast had to be tested, and sometimes corrected to ensure its perfectness: after this it was oiled, numbered, and placed on a rack. Of such moulds, blocks of plaster averaging three feet square, about six thousand were required, having a total weight of twenty tons. From these moulds casts are taken, which fit side by side, and form the Globe in which we now are talking. The moulds are, of course, preserved; so a set of casts precisely similar can be at any time supplied to order. The cost of this model, with its case of brickwork, exceeds twenty thousand pounds. For this outlay the proprietor is being slowly reimbursed by the proceeds of the exhibition. It is the whole cost of mould- making, and so forth. At what price casts from these molds could be sold, I am unable to determine; but that they should be issued at a fairly remunerative price, anti that Great Globes like this should be erected wherever there exist large populations that have intellects to satisfy, I am sure, Tomkins, you will agree with me hl thinking. The Universities of Oxford ante Cambridge, remarks Tomkins, should erect such Globes for the instruction of their students. Why do you grunt, Jones?
Alas, my dear Tomkins, you are a very
sanguine fellow. Did you not hear that reverend Oxonian asking
about the Andes? I have more hope in the spirit of our towns. The
noble advances made by Manchester in the way of parks, and
recently in the establishment of a Free Library, give me reason
to fear that Manchester will take the lead of Oxford in all
matters of this kind. Let us now to the other side of the world,
where you will find your ices.