One of the Oldest Terrestrial Globes to Go 3D

Elizabeth Borneman


The New York Public Library (NYPL) has a myriad of extraordinary things contained within its walls. From rare books to open social spaces, artefacts and historical objects and more, the New York Public Library is a treasure in more ways than one. One of their treasures is the Hunt-Lenox Globe.

The Hunt-Lennox Globe is a globe that was purchased by the United States from France in the 1850s. William Morris Hunt, an architect, purchased the globe and gifted it to James Lenox of the New York Public Library. The globe is roughly from the year 1510 and is one of the oldest terrestrial globes ever created. The globe is the oldest known globe to depict the Americas, too.  It’s also one of only two cartographic works known to actually carry the Latin inscription for here be dragons, “HIC SVNT LEONES.”

New technological advances have allowed researchers to scan the globe using 3D imaging. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation granted funds to the New York Public Library to scan the globe using advanced imaging technologies.

In order to replicate the globe in precise detail, multispectral imaging and structure from motion modelling were used. The multispectral imaging captured a 2D representation of the map and the structure from motion imaging was able to convert this image into a 3D creation. The rendering of the globe into 3D digital format is ongoing, as the highly detailed process takes some time to perfect.


Images of the Hunt-Lenox Globe will eventually be available on the website of the New York Public Library for all to view and interact with. A current version of the 2d model of the Hunt-Lenox Globe is currently available on the website (see the NYPL’s flattened, hi-res 2D images of the globe’s northern and southern hemispheres).

Creating a digital version of this globe is important not only for historical purposes, but to create a lasting reminder of this incredibly important historical item for years to come. The physical Hunt-Lenox Globe cannot be replicated, but a digital version will preserve this incredible piece of art and science for use in the future.

More Coming Soon: The Hunt-Lenox Globe, in 3D! New York Public Library, January 29, 2016

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About the author
Elizabeth Borneman
My name is Elizabeth Borneman and I am a freelance writer, reader, and coffee drinker. I live on a small island in Alaska, which gives me plenty of time to fish, hike, kayak, and be inspired by nature. I enjoy writing about the natural world and find lots of ways to flex my creative muscles on the beach, in the forest, or down at the local coffee shop.

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