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My aim this day was to visit the gardens of the Biblioteque Nationale and walk the new dramatic bridge over to Park Bercy. I was happily detoured an hour by this sensational exhibit.

The globes pictured were designed in Paris by Venetian cosmographer Vincenzo Coronelli and represent the earth and the heavens. Exceptional in size, they have been part of the Biblioteque Nationale de France since the 18th century yet remained rarely shown until their permanent installation in 2006.

Having been entrusted by Louis XIV to the Royal Library, and thus taken out of his palace, the globes escaped destruction at the time of the French Revolution. I now had a chance to see the world such as it was in 1680, at the height of the Sun King’s glory.

Scientific objects as well as symbols of power, these 2-ton, 13 foot diameter globes, are the most monumental works in the library collection. Portrayed are large and magnificent insects attracting attention to the wealth of the East and West Indies, pearl-fishing, the cinnamon of Ceylon and the resources of far-off Japan, silver, furs, bird feathers, and the mines of New Spain.

Certain lands are portrayed as inhospitable: North Africa is inhabited by more or less dangerous animals and Brazilians are portrayed in scenes of cannibalism, drawn directly from the accounts of Amerigo Vespucci.

The Four Continent globe is crowned by an architectural decor. Europe and Asia are represented by women. Africa, surrounded by unfriendly animals, is looking at Europe whose eyes are oriented toward America.


The Celestial globe is an invitation to travel through the sky amidst the constellations such as they were on the day of the birth of Louis XIV. The very special style of the figures or the constellations are painted in different shades of Gauloise blue. The name of each constellation is written in four languages: French, Latin, Greek and Arabic. The comets are often represented with the date of their discovery and, more rarely, with the name of their discoverer. Sometimes, a golden tail indicates their direction. Spotlights made it difficult to photograph and time is needed to relish all the details.

This is why I travel.


Bibliothèque Nationale de France Site François-Mitterrand
Quai François Mauriac, 75013 Paris
Take the meteor metro