cover image The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus

The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus

Valerie I. J. Flint. Princeton University Press, $47.5 (233pp) ISBN 978-0-691-05681-4

In Flint's complex, speculative portrait, Columbus emerges as a Renaissance man freighted with medieval baggage, one whose inner vision of a world teeming with terrors and promises colored almost all he saw. Columbus occasionally wore a Franciscan habit, and in his self-justifying need to find a higher motive for his pursuit of gold, he turned to the messianic message of Franciscan friars, according to the author, a New Zealand history professor. She also contends that mappae mundi (schematic maps illustrated with biblical figures and mythic monsters) as well as Mediterranean and early Christian sea stories fortified the explorer's ambitions. Her theory remains conjectural, however, since we don't know exactly which maps he had seen. Books that Columbus read and annotated attest to his belief in forbearance in the face of suffering. The Genoese mariner's certainty that he had located the Terrestrial Paradise posited by theologians and mapmakers, in Flint's assessment, flowed logically from the medieval geography and worldview he carried in his head. Illustrated. (Aug.)