A serpent, from Livre des symples medichinos, autrement dit Arboriste, continué selon le A, B, C. by Platearius (XVth century manuscript).

A serpent, from Livre des symples medichinos, autrement dit Arboriste, continué selon le A, B, C. by Platearius (XVth century manuscript).

The mountain where amber is found; close to a source, appears a creature of human form, and another with the head of a horse. (Persian manuscript, XVIth century)

The mountain where amber is found; close to a source, appears a creature of human form, and another with the head of a horse. (Persian manuscript, XVIth century)

Nel mezzo del cammin di noſtra uita / Mi ritrouai per una ſelua oſcura / Che la dirrita uia eta ſmarrita. — First page of an early manuscript of Dante’s Inferno.

Nel mezzo del cammin di noſtra uita / Mi ritrouai per una ſelua oſcura / Che la dirrita uia eta ſmarrita. — First page of an early manuscript of Dante’s Inferno.

A unicorn killed by a spearman. From a XIIIth-century English bestiary.

A unicorn killed by a spearman. From a XIIIth-century English bestiary.

Map of the world, from a manuscript of Il Dittamondo by Fazio degli Uberti (1447). The Dittamondo is a didactic poem composed under Dante’s influence, that describes the known world through an imaginary journey. Like Farinata, his most famous ancestor, Fazio degli Uberti was a Ghibelline.

Map of the world, from a manuscript of Il Dittamondo by Fazio degli Uberti (1447). The Dittamondo is a didactic poem composed under Dante’s influence, that describes the known world through an imaginary journey. Like Farinata, his most famous ancestor, Fazio degli Uberti was a Ghibelline.

It’s not possible to fantasize a garden of Eden that would not be, at the same time, a walled garden — to keep strangers out. It also helps to pretend strangers are not quite like us, or demons. This approach is known to fail as soon as the inhabitants of the garden start asking too many questions. (Illustration from a French manuscript of Saint Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, 1400)

It’s not possible to fantasize a garden of Eden that would not be, at the same time, a walled garden — to keep strangers out. It also helps to pretend strangers are not quite like us, or demons. This approach is known to fail as soon as the inhabitants of the garden start asking too many questions. (Illustration from a French manuscript of Saint Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, 1400)