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High-tech display shows off rare ‘sea monster' globe dating back 400 years

Adorned with fantastical sea monsters and sailing ships, the item was crafted in 1592 using ‘the newest, secretest, and latest discoveries'.

The quirks and wonders of a rare antique globe dating back to the reign of Elizabeth I will be on full view to the public after the artefact was painstakingly moved to a new display.

Adorned with fantastical sea monsters and sailing ships, the item was made by mathematician Emery Molyneux in 1592 using “the newest, secretest, and latest discoveries”.

The Molyneux globe has been on show at the National Trust’s Petworth House and Park in West Sussex, having been there since at least 1632.

However, in its previous display members of the public could only peer at the intricate details engraved on the item’s surface from several feet away.

Petworth House Elizabethan globe
National Trust conservator Samantha Taylor inspects the rare Elizabethan globe (Andrew Matthews/PA)

But on Wednesday the globe was carefully manoeuvred on to a hydraulic table and transferred into a new case which will allow visitors to get within inches of the 430-year-old piece.

Sue Rhodes, visitor operations and experience manager at Petworth House, described the “incredible” story of how the globe may have come to be there.

According to family legend, she said, while the 9th Earl of Northumberland was imprisoned in the Tower of London for being implicated in the Gun Powder Plot, he got to know adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh.

“The Earl was a gentleman prisoner so instead of being thrown in a dungeon he had a grand suite of rooms.

“It was here that Raleigh gave the Earl the Molyneux globe, and when he was finally released, he brought it back to Petworth.

“I’d love to think that this is true, though we’ve got no way of knowing for sure.”

Petworth House Elizabethan globe
The globe has a new display case at Petworth House in West Sussex (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Molyneux globe is the first English globe, and the only surviving example of the first edition.

It was crafted at a time when accurate maps and globes were critical to planning maritime navigation, trade, foreign policy and warfare.

Molyneux presented one of these globes to Queen Elizabeth I and its production celebrated the role of England as a maritime power.

Measuring 63.5cm in diameter, the globe is made from paper, plaster, ink, pigment, gesso and sand, with a beech, oak and brass stand.

Ms Rhodes added: “We’re really excited about showing the globe to our visitors in its new case.

“They’ll be able to see Jodocus Hondius’s charming engravings clearly for the first time, and it’s beautifully lit too. It’s going to be a real highlight this autumn.”

The globe is one of a number of National Trust objects that will be newly displayed at Trust places across the country this autumn, giving visitors an opportunity to discover their stories and view these items in a fresh light.

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