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Greaves & Thomas, fine Globemakers, a potted history.
Award winning Globemakers Greaves & Thomas are a small company based in the United Kingdom, today they make Historical Globes, Celestial Globes, Lunar Globes, Planetary Globes, Facsimile Globes, Replica Globes, Themed Globes, Paper Folding Globes, and Modern Day Globes. Arts Corespondent Jemmy Button looks into their history.
In 1991 James Bissell-Thomas after several years of research, published his first globe (Merzbach & Falk's 1881 globe). The globe was well received, especially because of the ageing techniques developed to lend the globes a patina producing a convincing replica. James Bissell-Thomas believes that this was achieved because of his Art School background, his printing knowledge gained running his own publishing house in the 1980's (Long Tail Prints) combined with his knowledge as an antiques dealer. In 1991 the first globe joined an already existing eclectic range of furnishing ideas which included Giant Tennis Rackets, Rivercraft furniture, Hat Boxes etc. (most are still being made: www.gtstore.co.uk) . It was because of James Bissell-Thomas' interest in globes, that the decision was then made to form a collection of globes, spanning cartographic history from 1492 to the present day.
At the time James' knowledge in globes was poor, however a good friend at the Royal Geographical Society pointed out that the following year (1992) would be not only be the 500 year anniversary of the European discovery of the New World, but it would also be the anniversary of the earliest surviving terrestrial globe ~ Martin Behaim's 'Erdapfel'. This globe today resides in the Germanishes Museum in Germany, rightly described by Bissell-Thomas as the 'Holy Grail' of all globes, not just because of its age, but also because of the profusion of data inscribed on the globe, the globe is best described as a medieval geographical census describing the world beyond Europe, listing the origin of spices, metals, traditions, peoples, animals, islands and religions etc. not only this but the globe covered in beautiful illustrations by Glockendon.
Despite the globe being on an elaborate stand, with extremely detailed artwork, Greaves & Thomas still decided it would be wise to republish this fine relic. Appointments were then made with the Germanisches Museum and flights were booked. On arrival at the museum in September 1991, it transpired that the Germanisch Museum had its own globe publishing interest and was not interested in helping G&T achieve their goal. Consequently, they were given a very limited time to study the original globe and reference images they also commissioned from the Museum were later blocked and never arrived. While many would have given up, Greaves & Thomas decided that it would persevere, knowing that what ever they produced would ultimately be compared to a rival globe that would have the Museum's seal of approval. All possible data concerning the globe was sourced and the finished result once again was well received, and is today is considered one of the most important globes in their collection.
In August 1992 when the Martin Behaim Globe was completed, Bissell-Thomas proudly informed the Germanish Museum that despite their reluctance to help, he had succeeded in making their facsimile. Soon after this 3 overseas business men arranged to come and see their Behaim Globe, at the time Greaves & Thomas was trading from 2 small garages in a small muddy yard, then even the two garages were not room enough, and a small 12' white square marquee had been hurriedly erected in the yard as a temporary measure. When the visitors arrived, they spent considerable time inspecting the globe, and then had an impromptu board meeting by themselves in the rain in the muddy yard, they re-entered, and announced that 2 of them were presidents of two globe companies, Rath Globes from Germany and Cram Globes from the USA. They informed Greaves & Thomas that they had been working with the Gemanishes Museum to produce their facsimile version, however upon inspection of the globe, they stated that they were keen to cease production of their own efforts and to market the G &T globe. This they did, with considerable success including selling one example to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Not only this, but the Gemanishes Museum also ordered a globe for themselves.
Greaves & Thomas have, on more than one occasion, offered to make the Germanische Museum's version, which would be one step closer to the original, but to date they have declined. The Greaves & Thomas version can now be found in numerous museums around the world.
From this point onwards, Greaves and Thomas would only concentrate on globes, initially historical globes but soon branching into themed globes: Holbein's Terrestrial Globe; Shakespeare's Globe; Alice's Celestial Globe and lastly the ludicrous Elvis Presley Mars Globe is another example of the diversity that can be achieved in globemaking, if one cares to explore the possibility of producing something other than the norm.
Today alongside their Themed Globes, Historical Replica Globes and their Modern Day Globes, Greaves & Thomas have also added the spectacular 'Hermetic Globe' to their Collection and this will soon be followed by a production version of their amazing Invisible Globe.
Greaves & Thomas now also have now formed an interesting collection of globes made in the last 300 years by other globemakers, this 500 strong collection will soon be prominently displayed in the Museum that they are presently preparing on the Isle of Wight. This should be a Mecca for designers as it will show numerous different versions of the same object. Not only this, but they will be using the Sistine Chapel's ceiling as inspiration to make a stunning celestial ceiling, and at the same time show one of the finest optical illusions in the world.
A surprising aspect of Greaves & Thomas is that they produce all their Globes in the UK. While numerous companies in the UK now relocate their production to the far east, in order to survive in today's cut throat market, G&T continue to produce a quality product which is well received. Their workforce never more than 5 craftpersons, and the globes they offer are limited by craft instead of number, this is verified in the small numbers of certain globes produced each year ( for example 2-6 Coronelli Globes per year and 5-12 Behaim Iron Stand Versions per year) , consequently there is always a waiting list for the larger more intricate globes that Greaves & Thomas produce. The globes are made using recycled papers and the wooden components for the elaborate stands are also made using reclaimed / recycled timber. Consequently Greaves & Thomas globes will never cost the Earth.
Jemmy Button, Arts Corespondent
TO VIEW THE G&T GLOBE COLLECTION CLICK HERE!