After searching for two years for a globe for his father’s 80th birthday present, Peter Bellerby was faced with gifting his father either a modern political globe (of the mass manufactured variety) or a very fragile (and expensive) antique globe.
Like most other plans that are hatched in a pub, Bellerby decided that rather than settle with something he didn’t like, he would take matters into his own hands and create two globes from scratch: one for his father for his upcoming birthday and one for himself.
“After all how difficult can it be to make a ball and put a map on it?” explains Bellerby.
Unsurprisingly, making a globe is extremely difficult and – as Bellerby soon found out – even one step of the process can take over a year to perfect.
“So firstly I had to license a map. From a reputable source,” he said.
“It had incorrect capitals, most of the names in the Middle East were either rubbish or incorrectly spelled or positioned. Don’t let me start on the Aral Sea.”
Over the course of about a year, Bellerby and his assistants spent at least six hours per day fixing redesigning the map using Adobe Illustrator – a piece of software that he describes as “not so difficult” and compares it to how intuitive basic internet and email are to his own parents.
Once the map was completed, he sourced a friend to write a program that could morph his finished rectangular map into ‘gores’ – the triangular shapes that fit onto the sphere’s body.
Of course, you can’t have a globe without a sphere – however finding the perfect sphere for a globe proved to not be an easy task.
“This was the beginning of my introduction to the world of tolerance,” explains Bellerby.
“I found several companies prepared to make a 50cm sphere mould, but the moulds were neither round, often had plateaus on and were far from accurate. Now the actual globe is not exactly round, but thats not really the point. In the end we have relied on Formula 1 fabricators to make our moulds. The reason being that when you have a tolerance (error) on a sphere, you might as well multiply this by Pi (3.14159 etc etc) …if you can imagine sticking 24 pieces of map on a sphere and each one is 0.1mm too small you have a 2.4 mm gap to contend with.”
Armed with both a finished map and a sphere engineered by Formula 1 fabricators, the final step of the process was to gore the globe (apply the map) – a process that can take months to perfect.
“The difficultly I had was that none of the current breed of globemakers, and I mean ALL the current globemakers and copy artists/ model makers are producing anything close to perfect globes. Latitude lines that don’t match is a personal passion. There are makers who overlap gores to the extent that they wipe out entire countries. There are even some who in order to prevent the paper ridging cut out little triangles of map. How is it possible to do it so badly? Some makers even have latitude lines that look like they have been drawn with a ruler after the map has been pasted on they are so straight. There just seemed little point in spending two years researching a project only to produce a poor quality finish.”
The result of Bellerby’s effort led to not only a globe design for his father’s birthday, but also the foundation of what would later become Bellerby & Co. Globemakers. Today, the North London company is made up of Bellerby and a team of highly-trained globemakers who focus on using traditional and modern globemaking techniques by hand including details such as bespoke stands, and custom map artwork.
In this short film from London-based production company Cabnine Films, we get a fascinating behind the scenes look at a day in the life of Peter Bellerby, globemaker: