Marco Polo 1254-1324
Italian merchant and traveller.
A Venetian merchant, Polo was among the first travellers to the East to provide an account of that region in a Western language. His narrative, The Travels of Marco Polo, met with skepticism and disbelief upon its circulation, as the region had only previously been written about in legends such as those of Alexander the Great, and by William of Rubrouck, a French Franciscan friar who wrote a missionary's account of his trip to Mongolia upon his return to France in 1255. Many of Polo's previously unsubstantiated observations and claims were, however, confirmed by later travellers and his work is now regarded by most scholars as the first accurate description of Asia by a European.
Polo was born in Venice in 1254 while his father Nicolo and his uncle Maffeo were away on a trading voyage during which they first met Kublai Khan, the Emperor of Mongolia; they did not return to Italy until Polo was about fifteen years old. The elder Polos had been instructed by the Khan to solicit the Pope for Christian missionaries to be escorted back to the Emperor's court. The Polos were forced to wait until 1270 for a new pope, Gregory X, to be elected due to the failure of the cardinals to name a successor to Pope Clement IV following his death in 1268. Polo, now about seventeen years old, accompanied his father and uncle to Mongolia following the trio's presentation of the Khan's request to Pope Gregory X. After reaching the Khan's court and being employed in his service for a number of years, the Polos desired to return to Italy. The Khan was unwilling to release the merchants from his service, but complied with their request when they agreed to travel to Persia to escort a princess betrothed to the Khan's grand-nephew. The Polos completed their mission and then began their journey home, arriving in Venice in 1295 after a twenty-four-year absence. Soon after his return, Polo was appointed to command a ship in the war between the city-states of Venice and Genoa. His fleet was defeated and he arrived in Genoa as a political prisoner on October 16, 1298. Polo was released from prison in July of 1299. He lived in Venice until his death at the age of seventy.
While he was in prison, Polo had dictated his account of his travels to a fellow prisoner, Rustichello. Scholars believe that Polo's original manuscript was translated, copied, and widely circulated following his release from prison in 1299. The language of the original manuscript is unknown and a topic of much debate. In 1320, Pipino made a Latin translation of Polo's Travels from a version written in an Italian dialect, implying that this dialect version was Polo's original. Giovanni Battista Ramusio, an Italian geographer whose edition of Polo's work was published in 1559 in a collection of travel accounts known as Navigationi et viaggi, believed that the original manuscript was written in Latin. Others have maintained that Polo's work was written in French or Franco-Italian. Another source of contention among critics regards the role played by Rustichello in the writing of Travels. Some critics argue that Rustichello copied a draft already completed by Polo, or transcribed the work as Polo dictated it. Others believe that Rustichello served as a collaborator and editor, rewording Polo's phrasing and adding commentary of his own. The manuscript regarded by many critics as the most complete is a French version known as fir. 1116, published by the French Geographic Society in 1824. Some critics have contended that fr. 1116 is a true transcript of Polo's dictation to Rustichello, but other scholars such as N. M. Penzer have argued that it does not represent a direct copy of Polo's work, asserting that another manuscript (referred to by Polian scholars as Z) may antedate fr. 1116. Other groups of Polian manuscripts studied for their authenticity and their relation to the original manuscript include the Grégoire version, which critics have suggested is perhaps an elaborated version of fr. 1116; the Tuscan Recension, an early fourteenth-century Tuscan translation of a Franco-Italian version of the original manuscript; and the Venetian Recension, a group of over eighty manuscripts which have been translated into the Venetian dialect. Travels was first translated into English by John Frampton in 1579. In the nineteenth century, scholars such as William Marsden, Henry Yule, and Luigi Benedetto began to publish revisions of the work that utilized information from several manuscripts to produce a more comprehensive edition of Travels. Since the original manuscript of Travels has never been recovered, the search for the version most directly descended from it continues.
Polo's The Travels of Marco Polo, his first and only known work, provides readers with a detailed description of late thirteenth-century Asia. The work includes an account of Nicolo's and Maffeo's first journey to the residence of Kublai Khan; geographical descriptions of the countries between the Black Sea, the China Sea, and the Indian Ocean; and historical narratives about the Mongolian Empire's rise and expansion. Polo's Travels also relates the author's personal adventures and his association with Kublai Khan. Polo's tone throughout the narration is that of a commercial traveller reporting what he has seen and heard. He employs the same straightforward style in discussing his own experiences as he does when he relates hearsay, which he identifies as such. Polo focused his observations on aspects such as trade, political and military structures, religious customs relating to marriage and burial of the dead, and the architecture and layout of cities. His matter-of-fact tone in the narrative emphasizes the presentation of facts over the discussion of theories or ideas.
Polo's first critics, the friends and relatives to whom he verbally related his journey, refused to believe what they considered to be outrageous exaggerations or pure fiction. Yet Polo's story was appealing for its entertainment value and was rapidly copied and distributed following its initial transcription. His account did not gain credibility until after his death, when further exploration proved many of his claims. Some modern critics have faulted Polo for omitting certain subjects from the narrative: for example, Polo never mentioned tea, the practice of binding women's feet, or the Great Wall, all of which were unheard of in Europe. Polo's defenders have countered that since the merchant had lived in Mongolia for twenty-four years, subjects that would seem strange or exotic to Europeans had become commonplace in Polo's life. Others have contended that such omissions could also have been made consciously or accidentally by translators of the work. Travels is often criticized on stylistic grounds as well, for instance for shifting back and forth between first and third person narration, but scholars attribute many such faults to the numerous times the work has been translated and copied. Although many critics assess Travels as simply a merchant's pragmatic account of his stay in the East, some, like Mary Campbell, maintain that the work offers the authority of first-hand experience and argue that its value extends beyond providing enjoyment through vicarious experience in that it transforms the myth of the East into reality.
Principal English Translations
The Travels of Marco Polo (translated by John Frampton) 1579
The Travels of Marco Polo, the Venetian (translated and edited by William Marsden) 1818
The Book of Ser Marco Polo (translated and edited by Henry Yule) 1871
The Travels of Marco Polo (translated by Aldo Ricci from the Italian edition by L. F. Benedetto) 1931
Marco Polo: The Description of the World (translated and edited by A. C. Moule and P. Pelliot) 1938
The Adventures of Marco Polo (translated by Richard J. Walsh) 1948
The Travels of Marco Polo (translated by Robert Latham) 1958
The Travels of Marco Polo (translated by Teresa Waugh from the Italian edition by Maria Bellonci) 1984
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SOURCE: "The Epistle Dedicatorie," in The Travels of Marco Polo, edited by N. M. Penzer, translated by John Frampton, The Argonaut Press, 1929, pp. 1-2.
[In the following dedication to his 1579 translation of The Travels of Marco Polo, Frampton states his reasons for committing the manuscript to print in English.]
To the right worshipfull Mr. Edward Dyar Esquire, Iohn Frampton wisheth prosperous health and felicitie.
Having lying by mee in my chamber (righte Worshipful) a translation of the great voiage & lõg trauels of Paulus Venetus the Venetian, manye Merchauntes, Pilots, and Marriners, and others of dyuers degrees, much bent to Discoueries, resorting to me vpon seuerall occasions, toke so great delight with the reading of my Booke, finding in the same such strange things, & such a world of varietie of matters, that I coulde neuer bee in quiet, for one or for an other, for the committing the same to printe in the Englishe tongue, perswading, that it mighte giue greate lighte to our Seamen, if euer this nation chaunced to find a passage out of the frozen Zone to the South Seas, and otherwise delight many home dwellers, furtherers of trauellers. But finding in my selfe small abilitie for the finishing of it, in suche perfection as the excellencie of the worke, and as this learned time did require, I stayed a long time, in hope some learned man...
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SOURCE: "Marsden's Marco Polo," in The Quarterly Review, Vol. XXI, No. XLI, January-April, 1819, pp. 177-96.
[In the following review, the anonymous critic praises Marsden's edition of Polo's book, provides an overview of the author's life, and comments on the accuracy of the narrative.]
'It might have been expected,' Mr. Marsden says, 'that in ages past, a less tardy progress would have been made in doing justice to the intrinsic merits of a work (whatever were its defects as a composition) that first conveyed to Europeans a distinct idea of the empire of China, and, by shewing its situation together with that of Japan (before entirely unknown) in respect to the great Eastern ocean, which was supposed to meet and form one body of water with the Atlantic, eventually led to the important discoveries of the Spaniards and Portugueze.' At length, however, we need not scruple to assert that ample justice has been done to the character and reputation of this early oriental traveller; and that the name of Marco Polo stands completely rescued from that unmerited reproach which, in an age of ignorance, was wantonly heaped upon it, and which five centuries have not been sufficient entirely to wipe away; at least, according to Mr. Marsden, who tells us there are still those 'who declare their want of faith, and make the character of Marco Polo the subject of their pleasantry.'—There may be such 'persons;' but we...
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SOURCE: An introduction to The Travels of Marco Polo, the Venetian, edited by Thomas Wright, translated by William Marsden, George Bell & Sons, 1890, pp. ix-xx-viii.
[In Wright's 1854 introduction to his revision of William Marsden's translation of The Travels of Marco Polo, Wright offers an overview of Polo's travels and discusses the history of Polo's manuscript.]
So much has been written on the subject of the celebrated Venetian traveller of the middle ages, Marco Polo, and the authenticity and credibility of his relation have been so well established, that it is now quite unnecessary to enter into this part of the question; but the reader of the following translation will doubtless be desirous of learning something more about the author than is found in the narration of his adventures. We are informed by the Italian biographers, that the Polos were a patrician family of Venice, but of Dalmatian extraction. Andrea Polo da S. Felice had three sons, named Marco, Maffeo, and Nicolo, the two latter of whom were great merchants in a city where the profession of commerce was anything but incompatible with nobility. They were probably in partnership; and about 1254 or 1255, they proceeded on a voyage to Constantinople, between which city and Venice the commercial relations were at this time very intimate.
Under the stern rule of the Tartar monarchs, the interior of Asia, knit...
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SOURCE: "Yule's Edition of Marco Polo," in The Edinburgh Review, Vol. CXXXV, No. CCLXXV, January, 1872, pp. 1-36.
[In the following excerpt, Rawlinson praises Yule's translation of Polo's book, noting that he blends several earlier texts in his edition in order to best present "what the author said, or would have desired to say."]
The publication of Colonel Yule's Marco Polo is an epoch in geographical literature. Never before, perhaps, did a book of travels appear under such exceptionally favourable auspices; an editor of a fine taste and ripe experience, and possessed with a passion for curious medieval research, having found a publisher willing to gratify that passion without stint on the score of expenditure; and the result being the production of a work which, in so far as it combines beauty of typography and wealth of illustration with a rich variety of recondite learning, may be regarded as a phenomenon in these days of thrifty and remunerative book-making. Nor is it a slight praise thus to pronounce Colonel Yule's edition to be a great success; for never, perhaps, has there been a more difficult book of the class to expound than Marco Polo's travels, since his great prototype, Herodotus, recited his history at Athens. Every page is a puzzle; every chapter contains strange names which it is hard to recognise, strange stories which it is harder still either to believe or to explain. And, indeed,...
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SOURCE: "The Book of Marco Polo," in The Nation, New York, Vol. XXI, No. 530, August 26, 1875, pp. 135-37, 152-53.
[In the essay that follows, Marsh discusses Yule's edition of Polo's book and comments on the traveler's "reputation for veracity" as well as his collaboration with his fellow prisoner Rustichello, here called Rusticiano.]
When Marsden published his learned edition of the Travels of Marco Polo in 1818, it was supposed that he had so nearly exhausted all the possible sources of illustration of his author that future editors would find little or no matter for new commentaries. And when in 1865 Pauthier gave to the world a substantially authentic text for the old traveller's narrative, under the title of Le Livre de Marco Polo, and astonished European scholars by an imposing display of Chinese and other recondite lore, accomplished critics expressed a similar opinion with respect to his labors. But in the first edition of an English translation which appeared in 1871, the learning and diligence of the distinguished Oriental geographer, Colonel Henry Yule, brought to the elucidation of Polo's meagre, fragmentary, and confused recital a great amount of interesting and valuable material, which, though not inaccessible to earlier editors, had remained undetected until his patient and comprehensive researches brought it to light. The four years which have elapsed since the original publication have...
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SOURCE: "Marco Polo's Explorations and Their Influence upon Columbus," in The New England Magazine, Vol. VI, No. 6, August 1892, pp. 803-15.
[In the following excerpt, Margesson briefly comments on the influence Polo's narrative had on Christopher Columbus.]
While Columbus never directly mentions Polo, his hopes and fancies and the deeds of his late years are wholly incomprehensible if he had no acquaintance with the writings of the great Venetian. In a Latin version of Marco Polo, printed at Antwerp about 1485, preserved in the Columbina at Seville, there are marginal notes in the handwriting of Columbus, and he may have become familiar with the work while living in Lisbon, through the cosmographer, Martin Behaim, a native of Nuremburg, where it was published extensively. The recent invention of printing had begun not only to diffuse literature more widely, but to reduce the price of manuscripts; and in a country actively engaged in exploration, as was Portugal at this time, Columbus had uncommon opportunities for the study of a book which certainly appears to have had an almost fatal ascendancy over his mind. It is known that he had indirect knowledge of the Eastern traveller through a correspondence with the learned physician and mathematician, Toscanelli. Columbus's first letter from the latter was a copy of one previously sent to a canon of Lisbon, who, by order of Alfonso V., had asked the Italian...
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SOURCE: An introduction to Dawn of Modern Geography: A History of Exploration and Geographical Science, Vol. III, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1906, pp. 1-14.
[In the following excerpt, Beazley provides an overview of the surge in geographic exploration that occurred from the mid-thirteenth to the early years of the fifteenth century—providing context for Polo's explorations.]
Our conquest of the world we live in has a long history; in that history there are many important epochs, eras in which a vital advance was made, wherein the whole course of events was modified; but among such epochs there are few of greater importance, of deeper suggestiveness, and of more permanent effect than the century and a half [1260-1420] in which we gradually embark upon the oceanic stage of our development. For, in relation to man's knowledge of the earth and his exploration of the same, it is now that we reach the end of the overland philosophy of European expansion, it is now that we turn to another element to give us that final triumph which seems denied on terra firma. The Geographical history of the later mediaeval time is in many ways like its Constitutional, Literary, or Religious history—a record of brilliant achievement and still more brilliant hope, chequered by disillusion and disaster. Just as the noble ideals and promising experiments of political reformers, of Classical or Christian idealists,...
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SOURCE: An introduction to The Travels of Marco Polo, edited by N. M. Penzer, translated by John Frampton, The Argonaut Press, 1929, pp. xi-lx.
[In the following excerpt, Penzer provides a detailed analysis of the history of the Polian manuscripts.]
The existence of an Elizabethan translation of the Travels of Marco Polo will probably come as a surprise to the majority of readers. This is not to be wondered at when we consider that only three copies of the work in question are known to exist, and that it has never been reprinted.
The very rarity of the book would be of itself sufficient excuse for reprinting it, but in the present case there are other considerations which make its appearance little less than a necessity.
In the first place, its value to students of Elizabethan literature is self-evident. Bearing this in mind, I have made no attempt to alter the spelling in any way, nor have I marred the charm of the narrative as known to contemporary readers by the insertion of unsightly notes. These are relegated to the end of the volume. The original head-and tail-pieces have also been preserved, together with sixteenth-century capitals.
In the second place, the translation, made by John Frampton from the Castilian of Santaella, originates in a MS belonging to the Venetian recension, one of the most important of all the Polian recensions. Its...
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SOURCE: "Marco Polo and His Book," in Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. XX, 1934, pp. 181-201.
[In the following excerpt from a lecture delivered before the British Academy, Ross gives a brief account of Polo's journey and his narrative, and introduces several new theories regarding Polo's manuscript.]
The outstanding geographical event of the thirteenth century was the discovery of the overland route to the Far East. The silk of China had long been known to the West, but the route by which it travelled was unknown, for European merchants had not ventured beyond certain Asiatic ports, whither the silk, like other Oriental wares, was conveyed by caravan.
It was an Italian, Plano Carpini, who first penetrated to the court of the Great Khan of the Mongols in 1245, and it was another Italian, Marco Polo, who at the end of the same century gave to the world the first full account of China in a Western language and 'created Asia for the European mind'. People were now to learn that a distant land which they imagined full of desert solitudes and strange monsters actually had a highly developed civilization of its own. In the fourteenth century further news of the Far East was brought or sent to Europe by other Italians, notably by Odoric of Pordenone, Marignolli, and John of Monte Corvino.
It was the sudden invasion of Central Europe by the armed hordes sent out by...
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SOURCE: "The 'Lost' Toledo Manuscript of Marco Polo," in Speculum, Vol. XII, No. 4, October, 1937, pp. 458-63.
[In the following essay, Herriott discusses the superiority of a fifteenth-century Polian manuscript believed to have been lost.]
In 1559 the first attempt at a critical edition of Marco Polo appeared in Venice in a volume entitled Secondo volume delle Navigation et Viaggi nel quale si contengono l'Historia delle cose de Tartari, et diuersi fatti de loro Imperatori, descritta da M. Marco Polo Gentilhuomo Venetiano, et da Haiton Armeno. The first volume of this collection of travels had been published in 1550, and the third volume in 1556. The editor of the series, Giouan Battista Ramusio, delayed publication of the second volume, since he was in search of additional materials to be incorporated in the work. Death overtook him in 1557, and, owing to a fire in the Giuntine presses, the volume was not issued until two years later.
In a long letter in the Introduction, dated July 17, 1553, Ramusio, dedicating the volume to Hieronimo Fracastoro, points out the importance of his edition of Marco Polo. He states that for many years, owing to numerous scribal errors, the work had been deemed a fairy tale, but that travelers in the East, especially the Portuguese, during the preceding hundred years had been discovering provinces, cities, and islands bearing the same names that Marco had...
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SOURCE: "The Immortal Marco," in The New Statesman & Nation, Vol. XVI, No. 400, October 22, 1938, pp. 606-07.
[In the following essay, Power discusses Polo's popular and literary reputation, arguing that his work is "a masterpiece of reporting."]
I once knew a master at a famous public school (which shall be nameless) who was under the impression that Marco Polo was a kind of game. I did not question his qualifications for imparting culture to the young, for he had in his day been a noted blue and, as the saying goes, first things come first. But I have been reminded of him by the almost simultaneous appearance of the first two volumes of a magnificent edition of Marco Polo edited by Professors Moule and Pelliot …, and of the travesty of the great traveller's "adventures" released by Hollywood. It seems an appropriate occasion on which to speculate upon the reason why of all medieval travellers (and the adjective might almost be omitted without detracting from the truth of the statement) Marco Polo enjoys the most widespread fame and is, indeed, a household word to may who would be hard put to it to describe what he did and when and why he did it.
The reasons for his popular reputation are less obvious than might be imagined. It would probably be true to say that of all the great travellers of history Marco Polo is the one who has put least of his personality into his book. As an...
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SOURCE: "The Literary Precursors," in Marco Polo's Precursors, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1943, pp. 1-15.
[In the following essay, Olschki explores the influence of the poetic history of Alexander the Great on Polo's book.]
Until about the middle of the thirteenth century, when the first missionaries set out "ad Tartaros," there prevailed in the Western world a profound and persistent ignorance of Central and Eastern Asia, an ignorance partially mitigated by a few vague and generic notions in which remote reminiscences of distant places and peoples were mingled with old poetic and mythical fables. The Tartar invasion of Eastern and Central Europe in 1241 did not alter or even correct the conventional image of Asia popularized by poems and legends. On the contrary, this bloody and destructive clash of the Mongolian and the Christian worlds left the latter just as ignorant of the physical and human aspects of Central and Eastern Asia as these Oriental peoples were of European civilisation. No actual experience of warriors, travellers and traders contributed to the clarification of geographical and ethnological details concerning those regions known only by persistent erudite and literary traditions. At that time even such bookish and superficial knowledge of the interior of Asia was confined to the limits of the world known to the ancients. The territories lying beyond the Caspian Sea, the Oxus, the Indus...
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SOURCE: An introduction to Masterworks of Travel and Exploration: Digests of 13 Great Classics, edited by Richard D. Mallery, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1948, pp. 3-12.
[In the following excerpt, Mallery discusses the appeal of Polo's The Book of Marco Polo in the context of the travel narrative genre.]
Travel narratives, through the ages, reflect the character and predilections of the era in which they are composed. Very often they help to determine the special character of the age. They appeal, of course, primarily to that sense of wonder which is found, to a greater or less extent, in all periods. What we know of the fascination exerted upon young and old by the Arabian Nights helps us to recapture the mood in which our forefathers read or heard read The Book of Marco Polo or the Travels of Sir John Mandeville. In the long run, travel books have always had an important educational value, but before men could develop a serious study of geography or history, their sense of wonder had to be awakened.
Travel books of the early centuries, like the most popular poetry, were therefore essentially romantic in their fostering of an interest in the remote, the unusual, and the faraway. Much formal literature of the fourteenth century was didactic and moral, but our first great poet Chaucer shows in his work the close relation between the traveler's tale and literature....
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SOURCE: An introduction to The Travels of Marco Polo, translated by Ronald Latham, Penguin Books, 1958, pp. vii-xxix.
[In the following excerpt, Latham examines Rusticello's contribution to Polo's book and asserts that, while Polo's observations in other fields tend to be conservative, his remarks on the "human geography" of the places he visited are outstanding.]
The book most familiar to English readers as The Travels of Marco Polo was called in the prologue that introduced it to the reading public at the end of the thirteenth century a Description of the World (Divisament dou Monde). It was in fact a description of a surprisingly large part of the world—from the Polar Sea to Java, from Zanzibar to Japan—and a surprisingly large part of it from first-hand observation. The claim put forward in the Prologue, that its author had travelled more extensively than any man since the Creation, is a plain statement of fact, so far at least as it relates to anyone who has left a record of his travels. Even among the Arab globe-trotters he had no serious competitor till Ibn Batuta, two generations later. And to western Christendom the world he revealed was almost wholly unknown. Some stretches of the trail he blazed were trodden by no other European foot for over 600 years—not, perhaps, till the opening of the Burma Road during the last war. And the task of putting it on the map, in the most literal sense,...
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SOURCE: "Politics and Religion in Marco Polo's Asia," in Marco Polo's Asia: An Introduction to His "Description of the World" Called "Il milione, " University of California Press, 1960, pp. 178-210.
[In the following essay, Olschki analyzes the accuracy of Polo's observations regarding Asian religion and politics in the thirteenth century.]
Marco Polo's intention of conferring upon his journey the character of a religious mission is immediately evident in the first part of his book. Ecclesiastical and pious motives abound, from the moment when the three Venetians procured some oil from the lamp of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and departed with the Pope's blessing (benedictio finalis); then in the description of the Christian sects in western Asia; in the narration of the miracles worked by the Faith in the struggle against the infidels; and in the account of the homage paid by the Magi to the Christ Child, which opens his description of Persia.
At the same time, our traveler notes the most striking manifestations of the Mohammedan faith, notably in his description of the end of the Abbasid caliphate, and in his still more dramatic account of the sect of the Assassins in Persia, which, in Marco's times, caused a stir throughout the Old World from China to Spain. Nor does he fail to mention the "fire-worshipers," the last followers of Zoroaster. Further on, in his description of...
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SOURCE: "Epilogue," in Marco Polo, Venetian Adventurer, University of Oklahoma Press, 1967, pp. 233-64.
[In the following excerpt, Hart examines the impact of Polo's book on the sciences of geography and cartography.]
Messer Marco Polo's reputation for veracity as an author suffered greatly during his lifetime, for his contemporaries (with very few exceptions) could not and did not accept his book seriously. Their ignorance and bigotry, their belief in and dependence on the ecclesiastical pseudogeography of the day, their preconceived ideas of the unvisited parts of the earth, as well as the inherited legends and utter nonsense to which the medieval mind clung with a blind persistence that is incomprehensible to modern man—all these factors combined to make it impossible to perceive or accept the truths contained in Marco's writings.
Jacopo d'Acqui, a contemporary of the traveler, records an anecdote which may be true. Marco's friends were evidently much concerned over the unfavorable reputation which he had gained by telling what were considered incredible exaggerations or downright lies. "And," noted Jacopo, "because [in Marco's book] there were to be found great things, things of mighty import, and, indeed almost unbelievable things, he was entreated by his friends when he was at the point of death to correct his book and to retract those things that he had written over and above...
(The entire section is 1387 words.)
SOURCE: "Merchant and Missionary Travels," in The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 400-1600, Cornell, 1988, pp. 87-121.
[In the following excerpt, Campbell discusses methods of description and narration employed by Polo, suggesting that "the being'' that Polo has given to the East in his book "is the body of the West's desire."]
In the works of Marco Polo and the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck, the experiencing narrator born and bred in the pilgrimage accounts meets the fabulous and relatively unprescribed East of Wonders [of the East] and the Alexander romances. One might expect this encounter between the eyewitness and the factitious to be a meeting of matter and antimatter, in which explosion a host of images will perforce be smashed. But images are hardier than that:
They have many wild elephants and they also have unicorns enough which are not at all by any means less than an elephant in size. And they are made like this, for they have the hair of the buffalo; it has the feet made like the feet of an elephant. It has one horn in the middle of the forehead very thick and large and black.… It has the top of the head made like a wild boar and always carriers its head bent towards the ground and stays very willingly amongst lakes and forests in the mud and in the mire like swine. It is a very ugly beast to see and...
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Baker, J. N. L. "The Middle Ages." In A History of Geographical Discovery and Exploration, pp. 34-57. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1967.
Discusses the advances made by Polo, his father, and his uncle in the field of geographical exploration.
Brendon, J. A. "Marco Polo." In Great Navigators … Discoverers, pp. 29-38. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1930.
Provides an overview of Polo's life and travels.
Clark, William R. "Explorers of Old." In Explorers of the World, pp. 10-39. London: Aldus Books, 1964.
Describes Polo's travels throughout Asia and discusses his association with Kublai Khan.
Cordier, Henri. Ser Marco Polo. London: John Murray, 1920, 161 p.
Provides—as supplementary material to Henry Yule's edition of Polo's work—"notes and addenda" which contain "the results of recent research and discovery."
Penzer, N. M. "Marco Polo: Parts I and II." The Asiatic Review XXIV, No. 80 (October, 1928): 657-67; XXV, No. 81 (January, 1929): 49-56.
Examines in detail the history of a number of versions of Polian manuscripts.
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