It is impossible to represent on a plane the whole of the earth’s surface, or even a large extent of it, without a considerable amount of distortion. On the other hand a map drawn on the surface of a sphere representing a terrestrial globe will prove true to nature, for it possesses, in combination, the qualities which the ingenuity of no mathematician has hitherto succeeded in imparting to a projection intended for a map of some extent, namely, equivalence of areas of distances and angles. Nevertheless, it should be observed that our globes take no account of the oblateness of our sphere; but as the difference in length between the circumference of the equator and the perimeter of a meridian ellipse only amounts to 0·16%, it could be shown only on a globe of unusual size.
The method of manufacturing a globe is much the same as it was at the beginning of the 16th century. A matrix of wood or iron is covered with successive layers of papers, pasted together so as to form pasteboard. The shell thus formed is then cut along the line of the intended equator into two hemispheres, they are then again glued together and made to revolve round an axis the ends of which passed through the poles and entered a metal meridian circle.
The sphere is then coated with plaster or whiting, and when it has been smoothed on a lathe and dried, the lines representing meridians and parallels are drawn upon it. Finally the globe is covered with the paper gores upon which the map is drawn. The adaption of these gores to the curvature of the sphere calls for great care. Generally from 12 to 24 gores and two small segments for the polar regions printed on vellum paper are used for each globe. The method of preparing these gores was originally found empirically, but since the days of Albert Dürer it has also engaged the minds of many mathematicians, foremost among whom was Professor A. G. Kästner of Göttingen. One of the best instructions for the manufacture of globes we owe to Altmütter of Vienna.
Larger globes are usually on a stand the top of which supports an artificial horizon. The globe itself rotates within a metallic meridian to which its axis is attached. Other accessories are an hour-circle, around the north pole, a compass placed beneath the globe, and a flexible quadrant used for finding the distances between places. These accessories are indispensable if it be proposed to solve the problems usually propounded in books on the “use of the globes,” but can be dispensed with if the globe is to serve only as a map of the world. The size of a globe is usually given in terms of its diameter. To find its scale divide the mean diameter of the earth (1,273,500 m.) by the diameter of the globe; to find its circumference multiply the diameter by π (3·1416).
1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 17. pg. 633.