Cartography and Geography, History, Religion, Reviews

Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

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The L. A. Times recently ran a review of Alessandro Scafi’s Mapping Paradise. Reviewer David L. Ulin says of Scafi’s book: “Mapping Paradise aspires to be nothing less than a history of earthly paradise … it is an atlas of the imagination, a guide to a landscape that remains just the slightest bit out of reach.” But though paradise may be beyond our grasp, fortunately, Scafi’s book is not. As Ulin insists “Scafi writes with a scholar’s thoroughness. Mapping Paradise is thick with footnotes; at times, the prose can get a little dense. [But] it’s all redeemed by the illustrations, 21 of them in color, that appear on nearly every page.”
The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, Mapping Paradise explores the intellectual conditions that made the medieval mapping of paradise possible and the challenge for mapmakers to make visible a place that was geographically inaccessible and yet real, remote in time and yet still the scene of an essential episode of the history of salvation. A history of the cartography of paradise that journeys from the beginning of Christianity to the present day, Mapping Paradise reveals how the most deeply reflective thoughts about the ultimate destiny of all human life have been molded—and remolded—generation by generation.