'Atlante Farnese, c 200 BC', 1921.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving taken from 'Terrestrial & Celestial Globes' by E L Stevenson, published by Yale University Press (1921). The engraving shows the Farnese Atlas, a stone statue showing the titan Atlas holding up a celestial globe. The sculpture was acquired by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in the early 16 century, and is now at the Museo Nazionale Archeologico in Naples. It is believed to be a Roman copy, made in about 150 AD, of a Greek original dating from 200 BC. This is the oldest surviving western representation of a celestial globe. The idea of representing the heavens on a sphere probably arose from the discovery that the Earth is spherical.