A capital globe, indeed!

William Stokes, Teacher of Memory, Stokes's Capital Mnemonical Globe [with:] Companion to Stokes's Capital Mnemonical Globe, by Which the Relative Positions of the Principal Geographical Places in the World May be Learned as an Amusement in a Few Hours. Nineteenth Edition., London: Houston & Sons, T. Paternoster Building [and] A. N. Myers & Co., 15 Berners Street, W., 1879 (the Companion, the Globe itself is undated).
Collapsible globe comprising eight 11 ½"h x 3"w gores, each hand colored, varnished, mounted on card stock and canvas, and joined with cord passed through metal grommets mounted top and bottom. With small pamphlet, 16pp, printed wraps. Housed together in custom box.

A rare and remarkable teaching globe, offered here with the equally rare explanatory pamphlet.

William Stokes was a self-described “Teacher of Memory,” apparently successful enough to have taught his “system” at the Royal Polytechnic Institution, Oxford and Cambridge Universities and elsewhere. His “Golden Rule for Memory” was to “Observe, reflect, link thought with thought, and think of the impressions.” In practice, this seems to have involved techniques for rendering information accessible by linking words and facts to mental images.

The Mnemonical Globe consists of eight lithographed gores bound with cord, which can be manipulated to form a globe roughly 8″ in diameter. Superimposed on Africa and the South Atlantic is a human face, with the Greenwich meridian running down along the bridge of the nose. As the Companion pamphlet explains, this provides a mnemonic tool for users, who can either recall locations by associating them with nearby facial feature or by means of some truly awful word play connecting the features’ names with nearby place names. For example, “The front portion of the left ear has been struck by a mad ras-cal (Madras), and just below it there is a seal on (Ceylon).” Or again, “Gough, the orator, made good use of his mouth (Gough Island is in the mouth)…”

In keeping with this fondness for appalling punnery, Stokes explains the globe’s title as follows:

“The defect [in geographic education] has been frequently lamented, and it has been said again and again, that if a remedy could be invented, “it would be capital!” As my Mnemonical Globe is an almost magical remedy, and as it is based upon the head (caput) I have given it the modest name of Stokes’s Capital Mnenomical Globe, which I trust will be thought “capital.””

Like many modern-day self-help gurus and management consultants, Stokes developed a business model combining aggressive marketing, paid lectures and courses, and the sale of books and mnemonic “appliances” such as the globe offered here. His dozens of other publications included for example Stokes’s Memory-Aiding Music Staff, Stoke’s Historical Chronometer, The French Genders in Five Minutes, and a 24″ version of the Mnemonical Globe.

Gillian Hill, Cartographical Curiosities, p. 19. OCLC lists but two examples of the Globe (both dated 1868) and four of the Companion (editions of 1868, 1875 and 1879), with none held in American institutions. Not in Antique Map Price Record, though at least three examples of the globe, sans the Companion, having appeared on the market in the past 20 years: Christies’ June 25, 1997 Globes & Planetaria sale (920 Pounds); Jonathan Potter some time in the past 5-6 years (2200 Pounds); and Bloomsbury’s April 23, 2014 sale (1364 Pounds). I find no record of the Globe and Companion having appeared on the market together since the 19th century.


Minor repairs to tips and grommets of gores, with loss to a couple of grommets. Some soiling to pamphlet text and chipping to wraps. The globe was probably issued with a protective envelope, no longer present.