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Caspar Vopel - Globe

A small manuscript terrestrial globe.

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Caspar Vopel globe

Caspar Vopel - Globe

This three-inch terrestrial globe, within a six-inch armillary sphere, mounted on an octagonal brass base, is the work of Caspar Vopel (1511-1561), a teacher of mathematics in Cologne, Germany, and a scholar of wide cosmographical interests. Of particular historical interest is his portrayal of the uncertainty still prevalent in the first half of the sixteenth century among cosmographers regarding Columbus's contention that he had reached Asia. As shown on the globe, Caspar Vopel agreed with the school of thought that North America and Asia were joined as one land mass, a misconception that continued on some maps until the late sixteenth century.

Caspar Vopel's armillary sphere presents a model of the Ptolemaic, or earth-centered, cosmic system. The series of eleven interlocking and overlapping brass rings or armilla, some of which are movable, that make up the armillary sphere are adjustable for the seasons and illustrate the circles of the sun, moon, known planets, and important stars. The wide ecliptic band includes delicate engravings of the signs of the zodiac. It is interesting to note that 1543 is not only the year of the construction of Vopel's armillary sphere, but it is also the year Copernicus's theory of a heliocentric universe was published, a theory that greatly changed the design of armillary spheres.

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