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The Mantle of the Earth

Genealogies of a Geographical Metaphor

Publication supported by the Bevington Fund

The term mantle has inspired philosophers, geographers, and theologians and shaped artists’ and mapmakers’ visual vocabularies for thousands of years. According to Veronica della Dora, mantle is the “metaphor par excellence, for it unfolds between the seen and the unseen as a threshold and as a point of tension.” Featuring numerous illustrations, The Mantle of the Earth: Genealogies of a Geographical Metaphor is an intellectual history of the term mantle and its metaphorical representation in art and literature, geography and cartography. Through the history of this metaphor from antiquity to the modern day, we learn about shifting perceptions and representations of global space, about our planetary condition, and about the nature of geography itself.

416 pages | 10 color plates, 71 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2021

Geography: Cartography, Cultural and Historical Geography

History of Science


"In its ambitious scope and humanistic approach, the book is an excellent example of the erudite scholarship that traces the emergence and mutability of an earthly imagination manifest in changing cartographic practices over time. . . . There is, for example, a brilliant exposé of how, in Renaissance Europe, the dissection of the mantle by mapmakers echoed the contemporaneous slicing open and pinning back of the tissues of the human body in anatomical science. . . . As an account of ideas and artifacts The Mantle of the Earth provides a sweeping backdrop to current-day scientific technologies and practices."

Deborah P. Dixon | Science

"The Earth's mantle constitutes a major concept in modern geosciences.. Veronica Della Dora's book invites us to go beyond our modern definitions of the object to explore the genealogy of the term."


“Probing the constellation of meanings that the earth’s mantle has thrown up in European and North American history from antiquity to the present day, della Dora offers nothing less than a genealogy of our attitudes to the earth and its environments. Polyglot, profound, and at times poetic, The Mantle of the Earth is an astonishing intellectual history with vital resonances to our present planetary condition.”

Robert J. Mayhew, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol

The Mantle of the Earth is an exceptional book. Thoroughly researched, endlessly interesting, and beautifully written, it takes a notion that seems straightforward and explores it in multiple insightful and productive ways. Its breadth is quite extraordinary. Della Dora also wears her learning lightly, until you start looking at the notes, which are staggeringly erudite. Fabulous.”

Stuart Elden, University of Warwick, author of "The Birth of Territory," "Shakespearean Territories," and "Canguilhem"

“An ambitious, wide-ranging, and detailed inquiry into a compellingly evident (yet underexamined) topic, namely, the metaphor of the earth’s mantle (or veil) and the intellectual genealogy and representational geography of this term. Notions of fabrication—in weaving; in the textures of surfaces; and in maps, as veils and as substantive forms of earthly representation—are employed with ease and insight. Clear, with hardly a word of jargon and numerous well-chosen illustrations that help illuminate the text, The Mantle of the Earth is impressive in its scholarly depth and range.”

Charles W. J. Withers, Geographer Royal for Scotland, professor emeritus, University of Edinburg

Table of Contents

Introduction: On Mantles, Maps, and Metaphors

Part I: Clothing Creation

1. Mythical Cloaks
2. Biblical and Byzantine Garments
3. Medieval Vernicles

Part II: Unveiling Space

4. Renaissance Stage Curtains
5. Drapes, Lights, and Shadows
6. Romantic Veils

Part III: The Surfaces of Modernity

7. The Surfaces of Geography
8. Pierced Surfaces and Parted Veils
9. The Green Mantle

Part IV: Weaving Worlds

10. Cartographic Embroideries
11. The Digital Skin

List of Abbreviations

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