The Molyneux Globe at Petworth House

The Molyneux Globe in the North Gallery at Petwoth House

Made by Emery Molyneux, a maker of compasses, hourglasses and globes, the globe at Petworth is only one of two surviving terrestrial globes made by this Elizabethan mathematician in 1592.

Of national and international significance, when Molyneux first made the terrestrial globes in 1592 they would have been the most up to date representations of the world, particularly of the New World - the Americas. These globes were the first to be made in England and the first terrestrial globes to be made by an Englishman.

Given that England and Spain, two major European powers of the time, were in open hostility since 1585, it makes the publication of the globe even more internationally significant and a major coup for the English. This was the Age of Discovery and on top of colonizing large parts of the world, European powers were racing to find the most efficient trade routes to Asia.  Rich backers began sanctioning sailors to raid Spanish trading ships to plunder their gold from Spanish territories in South America who were pursuing the fabled City of Gold, 'El Dorado'.

Thought to be the earliest terrestrial globe in existance
The Emery Molyneux terrestrial globe
Thought to be the earliest terrestrial globe in existance

El Draque - the scourge of the Spanish

Sailors like Franics Drake and Walter Raleigh who were hailed as masterful sailors and privateers in England were considered troublesome pirates to the Spanish, who nicknamed Drake 'El Draque' meaning 'The Dragon'.

English privateering became one of the factors for the 1588 Spanish Armada, a fleet of 130 Spanish ships sent to invade England. The Armada failed and marked the watershed of Spanish power in Europe. For the English to be the makers and owners of the most up to date version of the world just four years later would have symbolised their naval superiority across the world.

The height of Elizabethan geographical ingenuity

Emery Molyneux was well connected and knew promiment men of the time including Raleigh and Drake who would have have informed Molyneyx of the contours of the New World from their naval expeditions.

In particular is the circumnavigation of the globe by Francis Drake, lasting 3 years between 1577-80, for which the sailor was knighted. Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and only the second explorer in history to do so in a single expedition. Molyneux took that journey with Drake and made only 12 years later, our Molyneux Globe would have been the height of Elizabethan geographical ingenuiy.

Look closely at the globe and you will see the journey Drake took traced in red as well as the voyage by Thomas Cavendish who circumnavigated the globe in 1587-8, traced in blue.

The route of Drake's journey is hotly contested and what doesn't help is his route was kept a secret to keep the information from the Spanish. Some historians argue the sailor travelled so far up the west coast of the New World, in pursuit of the rumoured 'Northwest passage' to return to England through the Arctic ocean, that he discovered Alaska.

The founding of Nova Albion in modern day California

The consensus, as recognised by the U.S. government in 2012 is that Drake landed on Point Reyes in what is now called Drake's Cove and claimed the land for Queen Elizabeth, naming it 'Nova Albion' , meaning, New England, in order to make a divide between the Spanish territories of the New World to the south.

A photo showing the contours of California recorded in 1592

Even travelling as far north as Point Reyes, not far from modern day San Francisco and the Golden Gate, it would have made Drake the first European to sail that far up the west coast and it would have made Molyenux the first to more accurately record the coast line of the west coast to be later printed on to the Molyneux Globe.

There's speculcation that given the few men that returned from the voyage that Drake even left a colony at Nova Albion, which would have made it the very first English colony of the New World, predating Virginia and Newfoundland.

Dangerous wildlife, disease and catastrophic weather

One of the many sea monsters depicted on the Molyneux Globe

Drake left England in 1577 with 4 ships and 164 men and three years later, after the country had given them up for lost, returned with just his own ship, renamed the Golden Hind, and just 59 men. Coupled with the globe's alarming seamonsters dotted around the globe, these details recall the daily struggles these early explorers would have faced meeting indiginous populations, dangerous wildlife, disease and catastrophic weather.

After their creation, the globes were presented to the Queen and then given to noblemen and academic institutions in order to expertly train students with the most up to date information of the world. At a time when sailing was a dangerous profession, these globes would have been invaluable.

This may be how, as family tradition at Petworth has it, one of Molyneux's globes came to Petworth. Henry Percy, ninth Earl of Northumberland met Sir Walter Raleigh when they were both confined in the Tower of London and being a man of learning, Raleigh may have given the globe to the ninth Earl as a gift. It has no doubt been at Petworth sincer the Earl's release from the Tower in 1621.

Layers of small pieces of paper 

What makes the globe all the more important is its survival. Incredibly fragile, the globe is made from layers of small pieces of paper overlaid witha coat of plater, with the maps then pasted on.

A photo showing the disappearance of England from the globe.

You'll notice England has nearly been rubbed off the globe by the centuries of fingers pointing out our location. In order to protect the globe it has been housed inside a display case but what we'd like to do is redisplay the globe in a new specialised case with sophisticated lighting so the details can be more easily seen.

The sum required may well be in the region of £25,000. Find out how you can support this world-class object on your next visit.