Monday, 16 July 2012

This goodly frame, the earth

Globus Biler globe, Silkeborg, Denmark
image by Thomas Bredøl, reproduced under
Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Denmark license.

On the subject of monumental constructions, I'm just in the process of purging my old blog, The Apothecary's Drawer, of posts that have succumbed to link rot, and rescued this.

This goodly frame, the earth

What's the world's biggest globe of the world? Depends what you mean. For sheer size, it's the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, NY: "one of the few remaining artifacts from the 1964-65 New York World's Fair". Ingo Gunther's Exosphere sculpture (bigger images here) may be the largest suspended globe, although it's not representational. Another contender, which I don't know much about, is the Globus Biler (Globe Cars) globe pictured above; a converted gas tank at a car dealership in Silkeborg, Denmark. You might count buildings, such as the Ericsson Globe (formerly the Stockholm Globe Arena - billed as "the world's largest hemispherical building") or Mira on the Living Mall, Taipei, the largest spherical department store.

But if you bring in the proviso that it must turn and be a naturalistic representation of the world, since 1999 (when it was officially accepted by the Guiness Book of Records) it's been the 42-foot Eartha, the "World’s Largest Revolving / Rotating Globe" built by Maine mapmaking firm DeLorme (more on the background at PC World: Building the world's biggest globe).

This is unfortunate for Orfeo Bartolucci, the craftsman who constructed the previously largest revolving globe, as his story is in many ways the most interesting. He built the 33-foot "Mappamondo della Pace" ("Globe of Peace") over a period of six years near the small Italian town of Apecchio.

Mappamondo della Pace, Apechie, Italy
Public domain image by "Wolfra", Italian Wikipedia

I've taken the liberty of posting a translation, as best I can manage it, of the October 1999 news item by the Italian pipe manufacturers Centraltubi. It's a very nice and underpublicised story of a labour of love (or interesting obsession) that would be better known if it hadn't been done in rural Italy. (Translations that stumped me are in italics).
The largest globe of the world in the world
Apecchio is a small town in the interior of the Pesaro region. In its way, it's a capital, an important centre. It features in the Guinness Book of Records: it accommodates the largest globe of the world in the world. The statistics: 10 metres diameter, 30 cubic metres of wood, a ton of nails, 25 quintals of special putty [a quintal = 100 kg], 170 quintals in weight, room for 500 persons inside, and it's the result of six years of work by a single man: 75-year-old Orfeo Bartolucci.
      Artificer, constructor, factotum, a man who loves impossible bets, he says: "How did the idea come to me to construct the greatest globe of the world in the world? I had the inspiration during a visit I made in the 70s with my sons to Venice. We were visiting the Ducal Palace with a guide who showed us through hall after hall. He explained the paintings to us. He told us the history. Until, our having seen a hall that was the largest in the world, he took us into a place where there was a globe of the world two metres in diameter. This astonished me more than many of the other things, and it remained impressed in my mind, the idea to construct one like it, and indeed larger.
      "The plan began to nag at me constantly. Since a passion for carpentry, for hammering in nails, has always been much attached to my trade - as a mason, then a small building contractor - I thought I could do likewise with a sphere, and the idea began to mature of constructing one of 6 metres diameter. I wanted to make one that didn't exist elsewhere. For a little while I had doubts. If I constructed a 6-metre one, might there be another in the world of greater dimensions? I asked Mondadori of Verona if there were useful indications in the Guinness Book of Records that they publish. They answered that a globe of the world more than 8 metres existed in the United States, in Massachusetts. If I didn't make it larger, my project would be pointless. I determined to make it with a superior diameter of 10 metres.
      "Alone, without saying anything to anybody, I set to work. By night I planned; by day I executed what I'd thought and worried about. I did this punctually from 5 in the morning until dusk, for six long years. For the enterprise, I relied on my pension and collected all my savings, taking care not to get into debt. From information I received from America, I knew that their 'stars and stripes' globe had been instigated by the editor of a major newspaper, in order then to donate it to the University. They were very kind, the Americans. They informed me that it had defects: a tendency to fall over, as it was constructed with materials with little resistance to bad weather. Moreover, in order to bring it to fruition would need an investment of well over half a billion [lire, presumably]. That information I used in the selection of my own materials".
       But for Orfeo Bartolucci the globe of the world was not alone in his thoughts; there were also his ten sons who time after time told him they were starting a family. To all he has sbancato the land, in fact the foundations and many other habitations. From land acquired in the 70s, today [the site] has become like a village that joins to Colombara, the part of Apecchio where Bartolucci was born and where he means to remain as long as destiny wants. His story continues: "For this work I have received a tide of congratulations. Seven thousand onlookers and a representative of the State took part in the day of its inauguration".
       Bartolucci in his special notebook has written other superlatives [of the project], large and small. He has constructed a miniature globe of the world 5 millimetres of diameter. Through a magnifying lens can be admired seas, gulfs, meridians and parallels. A micromotor and in grado di fargli to effect its beautiful daily revolution. On the titanium facade, the Marchigian has chiselled a 130-metre long rosary, with 59 beads of 80 centimetre diameter. The total weight: 300 quintals.
- Immagini Centraltubi newsletter,#15, October 1999. Author uncredited (see Internet Archive for Italian text)
The Massachusetts globe Mr Bartolucci refers to is probably the 30-foot stained-glass Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity, Boston.

- slightly edited version from The Apothecary's Drawer, 1st July 2004

When I wrote the blog post eight years ago, the Immagini Centraltubi article was about the only nontrivial online reference to the Mappamondo della Pace. I'm pleased to see, although Mr Bartolucci died in 2011, that it's getting a little more attention. This post at the blog Outsider Environments Europe, Orfeo Bartolucci, Mappamondo della pace/Globe of peace, is interesting in itself, but it links through to a good illustrated feature in Italian, Parco artistico: Orfeo Bartolucci (1924-2011), at the website Costruttori di Babele (Builders of Babel) - of which more later.

Wylde's Great Globe - Illustrated London News 7 June, 1851
Addendum. And don't forget Wyld's Great Globe, the 60-foot diameter static globe that was a public attraction in London's Leicester Square from 1851-1862. Like the modern Mapparium in Boston, it was a concave globe; the mapped surface was viewable from the inside. See the excellent Wikipedia article Wylde's Great Globe: this is the kind of geeky and uncontroversial article where the Wikipedia model excels.

- Ray

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