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Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth
by Alessandro Scafi
University of Chicago Press, 2006
Cloth: 978-0-226-73559-7
Library of Congress Classification BL540.S23 2006
Dewey Decimal Classification 202.3

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Throughout history, humans have searched for paradise. When early Christians adopted the Hebrew Bible, and with it the story of Genesis, the Garden of Eden became an idyllic habitat for all mankind. Medieval Christians believed this paradise was a place on earth, different from this world and yet part of it, situated in real geography and indicated on maps. From the Renaissance through the Enlightenment, the mapping of paradise validated the authority of holy scripture and supported Christian faith. But from the early nineteenth century onwards, the question of the exact location of paradise was left not to theologians but to the layman. And at the beginning of the twenty-first century, there is still no end to the stream of theories on the location of the former Garden of Eden.

Mapping Paradise is a history of the cartography of paradise that journeys from the beginning of Christianity to the present day. Instead of dismissing the medieval belief in a paradise on earth as a picturesque legend and the cartography of paradise as an example of the period’s many superstitions, Alessandro Scafi explores the intellectual conditions that made the medieval mapping of paradise possible. The challenge for mapmakers, Scafi argues, was 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. Mapping Paradise also accounts for the transformations, in both theological doctrine and cartographical practice, that brought about the decline of the belief in a terrestrial paradise and the emergence of the new historical and regional mapping of the Garden of Eden that began at the time of the Reformation and still continues today.

The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, 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.


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