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Schöner globe


The Bamberg-born mathematician, geographer, cartographer and astronomer Johannes Schöner (1477- 1547) could look back on an eventful life. After he was ordained priest in 1500, he took on several parish posts. In 1523 he was punished for neglecting the choir service and for concubinage in Franconian Switzerland.

With the support of Johann Seyler, he later produced terrestrial and celestial globes using series-oriented technology in order to be able to produce them more cheaply. In the 16th century, a globe was considered a status symbol and represented knowledge and power. The copy from the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, which we have digitised, is covered with twelve hand-coloured woodcut segments. The scale is 1:47,200,000. The sphere with a diameter of 27 cm rests in a plain wooden frame, set in a forged iron ring. The prime meridian runs vertically through the Cape Verde Islands. It impresses with its richness of detail. Another example of a Schöner globe from 1515 is in the Historical Museum of the City of Frankfurt am Main. Schöner used as the basis for his globe the world map of the cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, who in turn studied the travel reports of Amerigo Vespucci in detail. In his reports, Vespucci wrote of “Mundus novus” – i.e. the new world. Waldseemüller therefore names the continent “America”. And so the Schöner Globus is one of the first to show the new continent – albeit in a completely different form.

Details are visible that one would hardly expect to find on a globe created in the early 16th century, such as the sketch of an elephant at the southern tip of the African continent. From today’s perspective, the design of Antarctica is also striking. Schöner depicted it as a swampy continent, separated from South America by a narrow strait between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

In the 1820s, Duke Carl August (1757-1828) brought the globe from the Jena library to Weimar. Many renowned scholars studied it, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859).

Our task was quickly defined: “Create a 3D model including textures of the Schöner globe”. The challenge we faced was that we could not digitise the globe in one piece because parts of the globe were always covered. For example, the equator and meridian rings are located above the actual globe. Furthermore, it should be possible to digitally rotate the 3D model within the two rings later on. Based on photogrammetry, we captured the different elements of the globe. That was the optical challenge.

The 3D specialists have created a 3D model by linking the point clouds and the result can not only be seen, but also rotated. We are proud to continue to develop this technology and to learn with every digitalised model.

If you would like to see the result – you’re welcome. Please just click here, then the globe will open in a new window.

This article is also available in: German French

Frank Bayerl

Quote Frank Bayerl: "The digital capture of cultural heritage is in exactly the right hands with us because, coming from the "black arts", we have been dealing professionally with strip-light scanning processes, photogrammetry, colour management, databases and the presentation of assets for decades."