Nice to see this lovely article on Bellerby & Co in Der Spiegel today! Rough translation….
Bellerby’s workshop isn’t big, but worlds fit inside. They are on the tables and on the floor and one must watch out that one does not accidentally dent the Congo or South Pole with a pointy shoe. Upstairs under the roof three of his people work painting the Pacific with watercolours, gluing continents on and giving the coast of West Africa dark brush strokes, the last important details. It is a business, but for Bellerby, it is also a statement against the digital direction, “We gradually forget that the world constantly needs new maps in order to be updated and current”, he said.
His globe workshop is in a quaint back street in Stoke Newington in North London. Peter Bellerby is 48 and like many inventors he found roundabout ways to this place where he is now. He worked for TV, sold furniture and owned a bowling lanes night club with friends. Six years ago he got the idea to make a globe for his father’s 80th birthday. Bellerby got absorbed in the project. He said, ” the thing got out of control.” Today he sells the globes up to €64,500 a piece. His clients are in Japan, UK and Brasil. His favorite piece is about the size of a handball and weighs 3 kilograms and costs about €1,200.
It is not that in the 21st century orientation, a guide is missing. In the car a computer knows to give us directions. On the mobile phone there is information and at home, Google maps. The world fits into a display. It became flat, Bellerby is working on making it round again.
Since Homer’s ” Odyssey”, people are hungry to search for the unknown. Discoverers are revered as heroes. Map makers were their assistants. They worked in their studios making maps. Good map artists were world artists, bad ones were cartoonists. Bellerby said he is surprised how many cheaper versions are still around.
In the beginning he found incorrect maps. Arabic cities were wrongly named. Some places were hundreds of kilometers off their mark. Bellerby saw there was a need for an accurate globe.
In Greenwich, 6 miles east from his workshop is the British Maritime Museum. It is just a few meters south from 0 meridian and houses the biggest collection of historical globes. Bellerby was there to see how his colleagues from hundred of years ago worked. The old maps are in wooden climate controlled halls behind glass near the Museum.
Gillian Hutchinson switched on the lights in the hall. She is the curator and knows all about the globes and maps. Her oldest one is from 1537 from Belgium. It is a celestial globe with wild fish & birds going into each other. Centaurs for the dreamers & astrology fans….
Peter Bellerby said he wanted to re-invent the art of globe making. He learned also the problems of cartography that map artists are familiar with. A customer from India came and wanted a map of the state drawn where it borders with Pakistan shown. Where these borders lie is where the problems between the countries start. Bellerby cannot make the decision alone. He makes his borders according to the laws of the nations
His workshop is booked up until March. Now he is working on his own map of the world, about art strips more exact and more beautiful.
Gillian Hutchinson from Maritime Museum is less romantic. She says at her home she just has an inflatable plastic globe for the swimming pool.