Skip to main content

Maps of Paradise

Where is paradise? It always seems to be elsewhere, inaccessible, outside of time. Either it existed yesterday or it will return tomorrow; it may be just around the corner, on a remote island, beyond the sea. Across a wide range of cultures, paradise is located in the distant past, in a longed-for future, in remote places or within each of us. In particular, people everywhere in the world share some kind of nostalgia for an innocence experienced at the beginning of history. For two millennia, learned Christians have wondered where on earth the primal paradise could have been located. Where was the idyllic Garden of Eden that is described in the Bible? In the Far East? In equatorial Africa? In Mesopotamia? Under the sea? Where were Adam and Eve created in their unspoiled perfection?
Maps of Paradise charts the diverse ways in which scholars and mapmakers from the eighth to the twenty-first century rose to the challenge of identifying the location of paradise on a map, despite the certain knowledge that it was beyond human reach. Over one hundred illustrations celebrate this history of a paradox: the mapping of the unmappable. It is also a mirror to the universal dream of perfection and happiness, and the yearning to discover heaven on earth.

176 pages | 100 color plates | 8-1/4 x 10-1/2 | © 2013

Geography: Cartography

History: General History, History of Ideas

Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion


“A sumptuously illustrated volume.”

Toby Lester | Boston Globe

Maps of Paradise is a highly readable yet deeply learned journey into how ‘humankind has yearned for a timeless elsewhere’, searching for ‘perfect bliss, remote either in time or in space.’”

Jerry Brotton, Queen Mary University of London | History Today

“Numerous beautiful color illustrations make this book a visual treat, and each chapter contains a ‘Visual Interlude,’ which gives a close analysis of a particular cartographic image. [It] will be very welcome to students and to learned amateurs who would like to explore this fascinating topic.”

Journal of Historical Geography

“Enough verve for a wider audience yet enough scholarship for students and academ­ics. . . . The result is a visually impressive and thought-provoking study showing how people perceived, situated, and mapped Eden over time. . . . Because the notion of paradise is so long lived in Western thought, Scafi is able to write both an intellectual history and a history of cartography following one idea through time. Maps of Paradise serves as a wonderful and colorful adjunct to those who already have his similar 2006 work Mapping Paradise; it is a great introduction for those who are unfamiliar with Scafi’s earlier work.”

Gene Rhea Tucker, Temple College | Historical Geography

“The topic of Alessandro Scafi’s mesmerizing Maps of Paradise is the cartographic representation of the Garden of Eden from the first millennium to the present day. It is the culmination of years spent immersed in the subject and while it is certainly more condensed than his Mapping Paradise… it lacks none of its authority.”
“Because of the nature of the subject, which encompasses art, science and theology among other fields, it will appeal to both scholarly and amateur readers with a variety of interests.”
“[The images and text] make the erudite journey of discovery that Scafi’s book offers readers tremendously enjoyable.”

Dominic Bate | Print Quarterly

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Paradise Nowhere and Elsewhere
Beyond the Cloud of the Present Moment
The Vicissitudes of a Word
Elusive but Everywhere 
A Paradise Remote in Time or Space
Paradise in Islam
Visual Prelude: A Luminous Ascension
Bibliographic Essay

Chapter 2

Mapping the Territory
In Search of a Road Map
Maps of Paradise
Visual Interlude: Paradise on the Leardo Map
Bibliographic Essay

Chapter 3 

Mapping the Bible
Paradise in the Text
Paradise on Earth: the Birth of a Notion
Naming the Place
Mapping with Theology
Visual Interlude: Paradise on the Beatus Map
Bibliographic Essay

Chapter 4

Mapping Time
Maps of the World: Medieval and Modern
Paradise on the Map
Mapping Time and Space
A Case in Point: The Hereford Mappa Mundi
Where was Eden?
Visual Interlude: Paradise on the Ebstorf World Map
Bibliographic Essay

Chapter 5

Where is Nowhere?
Glimpsing Paradise from a Distance
Grasping the Mystery
Paradise and the Climatic Zones
Return to the Bible
Geography Catches Up on Maps
Visual Interlude: Paradise on Fra Mauro’s World Map
Bibliographic Essay

Chapter 6

Pinning Down Paradise
From Paradise Present to Paradise Past
A Radical Change in European Cartography
Changing Theology
Paradise Lost and Found
Visual Interlude: Paradise in Mesopotamia
Bibliographic Essay

Chapter 7

Everything Changes, Nothing Changes
Sacred Geography
Variations on the Mesopotamian Theme
Paradise in Armenia and the Holy Land
Visual Interlude: The Invisible Paradise in the Land of Canaan
Bibliographic Essay

Chapter 8

New Life into an Old Debate
Secular Scholars Searching for Eden
Babylon and the Bible
A Swinging Pendulum
Visual Interlude: Paradise in the Seychelles
Bibliographic Essay

Chapter 9

Paradise and Utopia
Visual Closure: Maps of Utopia
Imagine There’s No Eden
Bibliographic Essay

Picture credits

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press