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Scouring the sphere and varnishing the globes

Curious Objects

Sir Nicholas Bacon (1510–1579), Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, gave a large brass sphere to the University in 1584–85—probably an armillary sphere, a model of the cosmos. It was moved to the Library by 1671–72, along with two globes, and the Library’s accounts show almost annual payments until 1720 for ‘scouring’ the sphere and cleaning, mending or varnishing the globes. They are not mentioned after that date, but the Library’s ‘English globe’, purchased in 1681 for five pounds and twelve shillings, is still in the collection today, along with later globes added by gift and purchase.

The ‘English globe’ was accompanied by a book with instructions for its use, which points towards the close relationship between scientific instruments and print, where the roles of books, paper and instruments intersect and overlap.