Celestial globe, 1533-35.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Detail showing the decorative figure of the constellation of Pisces (the fishes), one of the 12 signs of the zodiac. Made by Johann Schoner in Nuremberg, Germany, this is the oldest known printed celestial globe in existence. An almost identical globe can be seen in the famous painting 'The Ambassadors' (1533) by Hans Holbein, on display at the National Gallery in London. Like later examples, this early globe is decorated with ornate constellation figures obscuring the stars. The celestial globe is a three-dimensional model of the heavens on which the stars are plotted on the outside of a sphere. Originating in the Ancient World, it was probably inspired by the discovery that the Earth was round. These globes could be used to teach and demonstrate various astronomical principles.