Legend has it that over three thousand years ago the centaur Chiron gave Jason a celestial sphere so that the hero could guide the Argonauts in their search for the Golden Fleece.
In actual fact, the first attempts to represent the stars on spheres by means of lines and points of reference date back to the Chaldeans and Egyptians. It was these "barbarians" that inspired the Greeks who, perhaps as early as the VIth century BC with Thales and Anaximander, but most surely in the IVth century with Eudoxus of Cnidus, began to build celestial globes. The idea of also depicting on a sphere the lands where one lived and sailed round, however, undoubtedly came later.
After centuries of decadence, globography took off again, towards the end of the first millenium, in the Arab world from where it was to return to Europe only in the XVth century.
From the very beginning, the use of globes served two purposes: as an aid to navigation, and as a means of teaching and explaining the positions and motions of celestial bodies.
The oldest known European terrestrial sphere was the one built by Martin Behaim of Nuremberg (1436-1507) in 1492, the year of Columbusí first voyage, whereas the small globe by Martin Waldseemüller (1470-1518), the first to use the name America, dates from 1509.
The spherical shape of the earth, already known to the Greeks, was only universally recognized after Magellanís voyage in the first half of the XVIth century. The enormous advances made in geography in that period completely renewed cartography.
The geographical studies of Gerard Kremer (1512-1594), better known as Mercator, and the construction of his celestial and terrestrial globes date from the middle of this century, and it was at that time too that the first globes covered with printed paper gores appeared.
In this way we arrive, in the XVIIth century, at the work of the world famous Dutchman Janszoon Willem Blaeuw (or Blaeu or, in Latin, Caesius - 1571-1638), pupil of Tycho Brahe, and that of the friar Minorita Conventuale Vincenzo Coronelli of Venice (1650-1718), author of some of the biggest globes of the period (up to 4 m in diameter).