Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

December 21, 2006
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A recent review penned by the distinguished historian and scholar Anthony Grafton has much to say about Alessandro Scafi’s new book Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth. Writing for The New Republic Grafton praises the book’s detailed historical account of the various attempts—made throughout the Middle Ages to the Renaissance—to chart the geographical location of paradise. Grafton writes:

[In Mapping Paradise, Scafi] becomes a sort of erudite Virgil, leading the reader on an extraordinary journey through thousands of texts and maps—a journey that ends up teaching many lessons not only about the visions of the world but about tradition and how it operates.… Scafi’s patient and scrupulous exegeses tease out the meanings of icons and symbols, and record the immensely varied visual and verbal conventions that the mapmakers devised, and make clear the extraordinary conceptual richness and density of the maps of paradise. Mapping Paradise is itself a masterly map of concepts and images whose logic has been lost with time.… Mapping Paradise does honor to its author and his teachers, as well as to the generations of scribes and miniaturists, exegetes and theologians, whose colorful world it charts with lucidity and insight.

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