Pocket Globes and International Populations

Photo Jun 18, 12 34 48 PMThe Earth and Its Inhabitants (Nuremberg, c.1820): 2 1/8 x 2 9/16 x 2 1/8 inches (5.4 x 6.5 x 5.4 cm)

Seen at the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University. [1]

The Earth and Its Inhabitants comes in the form, not of a traditional miniature book, but rather of a pastel blue cardboard box with a label on the top giving the work’s title. Inside the box, a miniature or pocket globe, measuring about 1.7 inches in diameter, sits atop an accordion-folded set of pages, which are attached on one end to the bottom of the box and which have a red tab on the other end for the reader to lift the strip out of its case. EPhoto Jun 18, 12 25 25 PMach page of the foldout book measures 1 7/8 x 1 5/8 inches (4.7 x 4.2 cm) and includes a hand painted image of a male inhabitant of a foreign country, wearing the dress traditionally associated with his nation. Captions beneath list the man’s nationality in German, French and English, often with unusual English spellings or names. [2] Citizens of major European nations (including “English,” “Frankh,” “Italien,” and “Swiss”) mingle alongside inhabitants of remote countries (including the “Siamese,” “Japonese,” “Hindoe,” and “Neger”). The volume places a clear emphasis upon exoticism; Germans are omitted from the set, but the “Ostiaki” (Siberians), “Illirian” (ancient Balkans), “Calmuc” (peoples north of Tibet), “Tscherkesse” (peoples north of Turkey), and “Hottentotte” (South Africans) are Photo Jun 18, 12 35 07 PMall included. The nations are roughly organized into regions of the world, from the east Asia, to Canada, Africa, west Asia and Europe. This order, however, is imperfect; the “Cine” [the Chinese] are inexplicably represented between a “Spaniard” and the “Persians.”

The usual format of this work simultaneously serves to miniaturize the world and to suggest its expansive scale. Enclosed within a diminutive box, the world becomes a portable object. Pocket Photo Jun 18, 12 42 30 PMglobes like the one in this set, indeed, were popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, especially in England. These globes were presumably intended to teach children geography, although critics have suggested that they also functioned as geographical reference tools and as novelty toys for adults. [3] Yet while the globe serves to miniaturize the word, the 32 accordion-bound images serve to suggest the expansive variety of global populations. The strip of images unfolds to approximately 52 inches or 4 1/3 feet (132 cm) in length, parading figures that represent the diversity of global societies. The world, in this representation, is at once an knowable commodity that can be purchased and put in the pocket and an endless extent of new and diverse persons. Far from representing the earth and its inhabitants exhaustively, this work invites its reader to imagine the inhabitants of the rest of the globe.

1. This research was made possible by a Bridwell Library Research Fellowship.

2. All spellings are original to the work. 3. See Edward H. Dahl and Jean-François Gauvin. Sphaerae Mundi: Early Globes at the Stewart Museum (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2000): 89-90.


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