"Where do you find paradise on a map?...As Alessandro Scafi shows in his erudite history of the Christian effort to map paradise, pre-modern mapmakers focused on spiritual navigation, not the secular kind. They tried to portray time and space in a way that is still beautiful, but can seem baffling. Their maps showed God, history, and human woes and joys, often biblical ones. The Garden of Eden was a real place, just as Adam was a real man.... Mr Scafi tells this story well from the sublime start to the ridiculous end, with spectacular flourishes of art history and confident quotes from Latin, Greek and Hebrew."
"Mapping Paradise aspires to be nothing less than a history of earthly paradise, starting with the early Christian era and continuing to the present day. Extensively illustrated, it is an atlas of the imagination, a guide to a landscape that remains just the slightest bit out of reach....Juxtaposing medieval illuminated manuscripts with satellite imagery and cartographic treasures—one map of the world, drawn in 1086, uses portraits of the Apostles to signify the territories they evangelized—Mapping Paradise is, in the end, a record not of place but of desire. Or, as Scafi puts it: 'Whether the approach is openly religious or not, mankind still longs for a paradise on earth.'"
(David Ulin Los Angeles Times
"'A map of the world that does not include utopia is not even worth glancing at," quipped Oscar Wilde. Even so, scholars who study the medieval habit of charting the Garden of Eden as if it were an actual place have traditionally approached their subject with 'a condescending smirk,' writes Alessandro Scafi, who promises a 'fresh look' at the matter. His book is richer in text than images, though the images are the highlight, and they are well presented. An ancient map rendered on faded parchment—labeled in a cramped script and written in a dead language—can be as incomprehensible to modern viewers as Mapquest directions would be to a Crusader seeking the Holy Land. Mr. Scafi displays originals and, where appropriate, offers close ups and diagrams to help decipher their content. Over the years, cartographers have mapped paradise just about everywhere: most commonly near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers but also in the Far East, sub-Saharan Africa, Armenia, close to the Seychelles and beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Those who depicted it as a kind of walled-off fortress, to signify its inaccessibility, were on to something: The quest to locate heaven on earth has always been doomed."
(John J. Miller Wall Street Journal
"[A] stunning book...LAvishly illustrated with more than 200 maps, this is a map connoisseur's dream—paradise, perhaps, on the page."
(Jerry Brotton BBC History
"Mapping Paradise is itself a masterly map of concepts and images whose logic has been lost with time. . . . Scafi's immensely learned and minutely accurate book . . . opens a treasury of lost learning. Historians and art historians, students of literature and religion, and specialists in exegesis and its crooked histories will all have much to learn from him. . . . 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 such lucidity and insight."
(Anthony Grafton New Republic
"[This] is one of those works one hates to see come to a conclusion, rich as it is in content and lavish in illustration. I consider it a tour de force of intellectual history."
(Lawrence S. Cunningham Commonweal
"Mapping Paradise brings an important theoretical and empirical contribution to contemporary scholarship in the history of cartography, but it is also particularly timely within broader contemporary debates fuelled by a revived interest in the geography of beliefs and the sacred. Besides geographers and historians of cartography, Scafi's book . . . will interest a broader audience of theologians, art historians, and medievalists. . . . An enjoyable book and a great scholarly achievement deserving special interdisciplinary attention."
(Veronica della Dora H-Net Book Review
"A valuable book that deserves a warm welcome for anyone engaged with medieval maps, and, more generally, in the dialogue between cartography and culture."
(Thomas O'Loughlin Imago Mundi
"Mapping Paradise is an achievement worth celebrating. Scafi has identified a fascinating area of Christian intellectual history. . . . A provocative and productive contribution to scholarship on Christian thought and material culture in all periods."
(Jessica Andruss Comitatus
"Scafi's stimulating overview of these varied mappings or Paradise provides a striking and invaluable contribution to the history of cartography. Ranging from the earliest maps of late antiquity to the biblical geographies of the present day, Scafi provides an exhaustive study of a fascinating phenomenon. . . . Much of Scafi's discussion is stimulating and thought provoking, and by setting all of this mapmaking within its theological context, the author has done the scholarly community a tremendous service."
(A. H. Merrills American Historical Review
"A must-have for those medievalists who view our collective scholastic endeavour as historically grounded."
(Michael Livingston Speculum
"It is hard to find fault with this book--the scholarship is impeccable, the argument both elegant and resourceful. The book is richly illustrated."
(Camille Serchuk Medieval Review