A Map of Paradise Lost

A Map of Paradise Lost (forthcoming) situates John Milton’s Paradise Lost in its historical moment — the seventeenth century — published in a map-oriented culture that was at the peak of the development of a cartographic consciousness in Europe. Morgan Ng argues that there is a “tendency among current literary scholars, despite enormous interest in the ‘cartographic imagination’ in Renaissance writing, largely to ignore the texts’ actual visual counterparts. To explain the textual form of Paradise Lost requires equally close attention to the images which permeated Milton’s mimetic consciousness, even after the onset of his blindness.” (2013, 428). This project explores the maps that inspired Milton’s spatial thinking when creating the terrestrial world of Paradise Lost.

Essentially, A Map of Paradise Lost is an exploratory map , or geo-edition, that offers a visual entry point into the complex and multitemporal terrestrial space of John Milton’s epic poem. The points on the map are the unambiguous place-name mentions found in the epic poem that have been geocoded manually for accuracy. Each point is accompanied by:

  1. The comments that appear directly on the map, taken from editorial notes that explain the significance of the place
  2. Accompanying passages that provide the context for every place name mention from Paradise Lost and a reference to each passage
  3. Related locations that show what places are grouped together under the same categories by Milton
  4. The moral connotation that Milton assigns to place names based on his political, poetic, or historical perception of them
  5. Different marker types and color schemes to aid exploration

The project grants visual access to the world of “geographical continuity” that permeated Milton’s spatial consciousness. This worldview refers to the prevalent notion of historical sequence of a seventeenth-century English audience, namely the conviction that biblical events, like historical ones, progressed on a linear spectrum of geographical continuity, meaning that the land that the Ottoman Empire occupied in the seventeenth century is the same land in which biblical and classical accounts took place (Ng 2013, 433). The historical maps included in the project are meant to evoke these worlds imagined by Milton, captured through georectification (matching points on a map image with corresponding points on a map in a geo-coordinate system). To date, the two georectified maps are: a map of biblical lands from the King James Bible (similar to that found in the paratext of Milton’s own family bible, 1612/1613) and John Speed’s (1626) map of “The Turkish Empire.”


Randa El Khatib (University of Victoria) and Marcel Schaeben (University of Cologne)


  • Ng, Morgan. 2013. “Milton’s Maps.” Word and Image 29 (4): 428-42.

Keywords: John Milton, exploratory map, geographical continuity, geo-edition, georectification,