In 1498, in a letter to the king and queen of Spain written from the New World, Christopher Columbus revealed that the earth was not spherical, but “pear-shaped, like a round ball on one part of which is placed something like a woman’s breast”—at the summit, or nipple, of which lay Paradise, site of the tree of life and source of the four rivers found in Scripture, which, according to Columbus, flow downhill into the ocean—thereby rendering Paradise unapproachable by sail. No mapmaker took up the Columbian finding, with the result that we have no maps locating the Paradise that he was certain was there, perhaps because, as Alessandro Scafi points out in Maps of Paradise (University of Chicago Press), by the end of the fifteenth century, locating Paradise on earth was no longer seen to be part of the cartographer’s task. (Two hundred and fifty years later the Northwest Passage suffered a similar fate.) The central paradox of mapmaking had for centuries been a requirement that Paradise be located somewhere but remain unapproachable; the Hereford Mappa Mundi, circa 1300, shows a walled Eden at the beginning of time separated from the earth by sea; Fra Mauro’s map of 1450 locates Paradise in vignette outside the frame. Nevertheless, belief in the Garden of Eden persists: General “Chinese Gordon,” hero and martyr of the British Empire, claimed in 1881 to have found it on an island in the Indian Ocean, where he identified the double coconut as the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge, and the breadfruit palm tree as the tree of life. In July 2013, the Iraqi government announced that it had saved the Garden of Eden and turned it into a national park. Alessandro Scafi has written a fascinating history of the mapping of Paradise that can perhaps be seen as a quest not as much to locate heaven on earth as to invoke it. And he reminds us of Oscar Wilde’s observation that “a map of the world that does not include utopia is not even worth glancing at.” A copy of Scafi’s major work on the subject, Mapping Paradise, from which Maps of Paradise is condensed, is “richly illustrated” and “worth every penny and more,” according to Amazon readers, and available on Amazon for $485.