Book Review | BYU Studies

Book Review

May 4, 2017
Book Review
"The Mapmakers of New Zion: A Cartographic History of Mormonism" by Richard V. Francaviglia
Brandon S. Plewe

This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by Brandon S. Plewe. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.

This book is the most comprehensive treatment of historical cartography of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to date. It is beautifully illustrated with over one hundred maps that have been created by, or at least used by, Mormons over the past two hundred years, and it further discusses many more, demonstrating that cartography has been an important, and underappreciated, part of the history of the Church. It should be noted that the term "historical cartography" can be interpreted two ways: a history of maps (as in this work) or maps of history (see Mapping Mormonism). As Francaviglia discusses in his afterword (240), the two approaches are very different but can complement each other well.

The Mapmakers of New Zion is only partially a survey of historical cartography; in fact, that titular focus, "A Cartographic History of Mormonism," is probably of secondary importance. What Francaviglia has really created is a book about the evolving sense of place in the Mormon psyche: the sacred and secular way in which Mormons have viewed the spaces they have encountered and those they have created. As he states, "All maps function as complex texts that convey stories about people's changing relationship to place" (226). In this book, maps serve as a primary source for gleaning this sense of place in ways that cannot be found in more traditional source documents.