Marco Polo’s silk road : the art of the journey, an Italian at the court of the Kublai Khan Marco Polo introduction by John Masefield London : Watkins, 2011 Hardcover. 272 p. : ill, map. ; 24 cm. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
In the late 1290s Venetian merchant Marco Polo dictated an account of his own travels in north and south China (Cathay and Manji, in Polo’s terminology) to a scribe with whom he shared a prison cell in Genoa. Despite the fact that there was still no printing in Europe, the book was a popular success (in manuscript). The Travels of Marco Polo can rightly be described as the founding adventure book of the modern world. With China today occupying such a large place on the world stage, Polo’s masterpiece remains a fascinating account of ‘old China’ from a highly observant foreign visitor.
The original manuscripts have long been lost, but the English translations by William Marsden and Henry Yule, based on hybrid versions, are each regarded as having particular strengths – and this book presents a modernised abridgement of the most reliable passages.
Consisting of nearly 150 individual chapters, this edition recounts Polo’s travels through Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, Central Asia and China which remained unsurpassed in scope for centuries. His record of the manners, customs and beliefs of the diverse people he encountered are entertaining and unique. Polo was a forerunner of the great age of exploration. In his wake followed Columbus, inspired in part by Marco Polo’s description of the riches of the Far East, Magellan and Vasco da Gama – and the world was changed forever.