Wyld's World: Cartographic Desire and the Imperial Imaginary
Matthew Graves (University of Provence, France) [BIO]
On the periphery of the Great Exhibition of 1851, James Wyld the Younger - Member of Parliament, cartographer and Geographer to the Queen – unveiled a great model globe that he had designed and erected under a hemispherical dome on Leicester Square. Measuring 60 feet in diameter with a circumference of 190 feet and a total surface area of 10,000 square feet, the globe was among the biggest ever built and became one of the principal public attractions of London until its closure in 1862 on the expiry of the site lease.
Wyld's globe was one of a number of giant globes built or planned in the 19th century, from the Georama exhibited in Paris before the revolution of 1848 to the huge Villard-Cotard globe at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889 and Elisée Reclus' project for an even larger globe at the 1900 World Exhibition. Such large-scale maps have been described by Derek Gregory as "spectacular geography" and analysed in terms of "the world-as-exhibition". This paper proposes to look at the macro-modelisation of the earth as a cartographic corollary of 'Geography Militant', an endeavour which offered, in Wyld's case, to bring the world to the imperial capital as a 19th century hypsographic variant of the medieval mappae mundi.
Globes, like maps, yield evidence of a culture's world view, as well as of the power relations which produce them and which they in turn project. Furthermore, Wyld's globe is expressive of an enduring cartographic desire, apparent not just in the popular enthusiasm found in contemporary accounts of the exhibit, but also in the artistic production it inspired. Ultimately, the giant globe can be read as a material projection of Borgesian dimensions of the royal geographer and his public's mental map of the world.