DNP and the Bibliothèque nationale de France collaborate on a project for 3D digitization of the library's precious collection of historical globes

Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. (DNP) and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF; National Library of France) concluded an agreement today on skills based patronage for the 3D digitization of a selection of 55 terrestrial and celestial globes from the library's collection and the sharing of these images with a wider public.

This is the first time such a comprehensive collection of terrestrial and astronomical globes has ever been 3D-digitized in the world.

DNP is providing BnF with the technological expertise in the digitization of cultural heritage and artworks throughout the world, as well as with digital tools for scanning globes developed specifically for this project. Each of the globes is both a work of art and a scientific instrument, and this high-resolution digitization will enable them to be smoothly rotated and zoomed from every possible angle, allowing viewers to appreciate details that would be difficult to perceive with the naked eye.

Digitization of a unique heritage

The Maps and Plans Department of BnF has one of the world's premier collections of terrestrial and celestial globes, made up of more than 200 pieces. For this digitization, 55 among the most precious globes in the collection have been selected, dating from the 11th to 19th centuries and originating from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, and the Arab world. The selection includes hand-drawn or etched metal globes from the 16th century illustrating the Age of Discovery. The selected items also exemplify the printed production developed during the Dutch Golden Age, and the diversification of European production during the Age of Enlightenment. The 19th century is represented by some equally remarkable pieces illustrating the development of the genre, including a lunar globe by the astronomer Camille Flammarion (1896).

DNP's innovative technologies

Founded in 1876 in Tokyo, DNP is an international leader in the printing industry with a range of advanced technologies in printing, digitization, and information communication. DNP has already completed the on-site shooting in Paris essential to the digitization of the BnF's 55 globes (up to 600 high-definition digital images per globe). The 3D mapping of this basic imaging data is presently underway in Tokyo. DNP is using this project to develop original specialized tools to permit the general public to have easy access to remarkable works from our global heritage that would otherwise be difficult to put on public display for reasons of conservation. The technological foundation established by this project will also be utilized in the development of DNP's digital archiving business.

Using of DNP technologies

Serving as a cultural bridge between France and Japan, this DNP project should enable Gallica, the digital library of BnF, to make this collection of 3D digitized globes available for online viewing by the beginning of 2016. Then, BnF and DNP will build on the success of their partnership to host a variety of events. Exhibitions at DNP's facility in Tokyo and at the BnF in Paris will utilize the high-definition digitized data of the globes to present visitors with an unprecedented way of experiencing and appreciating these objects. The BnF's own website and Gallica will also be presenting a variety of content, beginning with a virtual exhibition showcasing the project. (This virtual exhibition, the Gallica mobile app and the Paris exhibition will also receive generous support from the Fondation d'entreprise Total ).

Some Remarkable Pieces from the Digitized Selection:

Arabic-Kufic celestial globe

The oldest Arabian bronze celestial globe, dating from the end of the 11th century, representing the constellations according to the Almagest of Ptolemy.

Terrestrial globe of Martin Behaim / Facsimile reproduction

A copy of the globe made by Martin Behaim in Lisbon in 1492, representing the world as known before the voyage of Christopher Columbus. The original, in a collection in Nuremburg, is now almost illegible, so this facsimile reproduction ordered in 1847 by Edme-François Jomard, director of the Department of Maps and Plans, has become the most valuable reference source.

The "Green Globe"

This hand-drawn terrestrial globe, called the "Green Globe," is attributed to Martin Waldseemüller and was made around 1506. It is the first known globe to represent the Americas (North and South) as continents, and the first to use the name "America" for the New World.

Golden globe

Known as "the golden globe of Bure," this terrestrial globe was created between 1524 and 1528 in the atelier of Johann Schöner. It depicts Magellan's circumnavigation of the Earth, while still reflecting the hypothesis of Columbus which misidentified America as part of Asia.  

Rouen Globe

This globe, known as the Rouen or Lecuy globe, is the only known globe produced in 16th-century Rouen, probably about 1580, judging from the Spanish sources on which some of its place-names are based. The west coast of the New World is still vaguely rendered, but America and Asia are correctly distinguished from one another.

The globes of Abbé Nollet

These two globes, celestial and terrestrial, were made between 1728 and 1730 by Jean-Antoine Nollet, a French clergyman who was also a manufacturer of scientific instruments, made famous by the publication of his "causeries expérimentales," discussions of his scientific experiments that contributed to popularizing science among the court nobility. The celestial globe features an emerald green background, against which "the stars are rendered in gold relief... so that the natural state of the heavens may be perceived at a glance, without confusion." This prefigures the abandonment of the mythological figures of the constellations by modern astronomy.

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