The stars, simplified
By NEWTON, [John], NEWTON, [William Edward] and NEWTON, [Alfred Vincent]. , 1840

Newton's Improved Pocket Celestial Globe.

  • Author: NEWTON, [John], NEWTON, [William Edward] and NEWTON, [Alfred Vincent].
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: No. 66 Chancery Lane
  • Publication date: c1840
  • Physical description: Globe, 12 hand-coloured engraved paper gores, over a papier mâché and plaster sphere, varnished, brass hour ring affixed to brass meridian ring, which sits in an engraved hand-coloured and varnished horizon ring, housed within original shagreen over paste-board clamshell case with extended base, with hooks and eyes, upper lid lined with 12 hand-coloured engraved celestial gores, solar calotte, four small engraved images of the earth pasted over gores, varnished.
  • Dimensions: Diameter: 76mm (3 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 15667


An example of Newton’s celestial pocket globe held within a bronze meridian ring.

During the first half of the nineteenth century the firm of Newton, together with Bardin and Cary, occupied a leading position in the manufacture of globes in London. The firm was established by John Newton in 1783 and operated originally from the Globe & Sun 128 Chancery Lane, moving to 97 Chancery Lane in 1803, before settling at 66 Chancery Lane in 1817.

John Newton (1759-1844) was trained by Thomas Bateman (fl1754-81), who had previously been apprenticed to Nathaniel Hill (fl1746-1768). Newton’s first globe was a revised edition of Hill’s 1754 pocket globe, which he published in 1783 in association with William Palmer. The partnership dissolved shortly after, and Newton continued to publish the pocket globe under his own name. John’s second son William Newton (1786-1861) joined the firm between 1814-1816, which traded under the name J. & W. Newton. In the same year the firm produced a new series of globes, including a new pocket globe.

By the 1830s the firm was also active as a patent agent and was joined by Miles Berry, a civil engineer and patent agent, after which the firm was known as Newton, Berry & Son. In 1842, William’s eldest son, William Edward Newton (1818-1879), joined the business, followed by his brother Alfred Vincent Newton (1821-1900). The firm became known as W. Newton & Son, or once again, on the death of William, as simply Newton & Son from 1861 until about 1883.

Perhaps the greatest triumph for the Newton family was the Great Exhibition of 1851, where, aside from the globes they exhibited from 150 to 635mm (1 to 25 inches) in diameter, they were awarded a prize medal for a manuscript terrestrial globe of six feet in diameter.

The globe identifies the stars, the signs of the zodiac and the 48 Ptolemaic constellations, along with several non-Ptolemaic constellations. These are not illustrated with figures, however, but simply labelled with their name. The solstices and equinoxes are marked, and other important astronomical bodies are also labelled, including the Milky Way “Via Lactea”.

The globe itself is held within a bronze meridian ring. This allows the globe to be positioned at an angle, mimicking the earth’s axial tilt and giving the viewer a better understanding of the position of the constellations from a terrestrial viewpoint.

The lid of the globe contains an astronomical calendar around the rim, with the signs of the zodiac represented in constellation form over the appropriate months. The gores on the lid have been cleverly engraved with rays so that the calotte pasted to the centre looks like the sun. Four small pictures of the earth have been pasted in around the lid to show how shadow passes across the planet during its daily rotation.