World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Travels of Marco Polo

Article Id: WHEBN0000538167
Reproduction Date:

Title: The Travels of Marco Polo  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Marco Polo, Banknote, Prester John, Fiat money, 13th century in literature
Collection: 1290S Books, Books About Asia, Italian Literature, Marco Polo, Medieval Literature, Prison Writings, Travel Books, World Digital Library Related
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Travels of Marco Polo

Book of the Marvels of the World
A page of The Travels of Marco Polo
Author Rustichello da Pisa and Marco Polo
Original title Livres des Merveilles du Monde
Country Republic of Venice
Language Old French
Publication date
c. 1300
Pages 150

Book of the Marvels of the World (French: Livre des Merveilles du Monde) or Description of the World (Devisement du Monde), in Italian Il Milione (The Million) or Oriente Poliano and in English commonly called The Travels of Marco Polo, is a 13th-century travelogue written down by Rustichello da Pisa from stories told by Marco Polo, describing Polo's travels through Asia, Persia, China, and Indonesia between 1276 and 1291, and his experiences at the court of Kublai Khan.[1][2]

The book was written in Old French by romance writer Rustichello da Pisa, who worked from accounts which he had heard from Marco Polo when they were imprisoned together in Genoa.[3] From the beginning, there has been incredulity over Polo's sometimes fabulous stories, as well as a scholarly debate in recent times. Some have questioned whether Marco had actually traveled to China or was just repeating stories that he had heard from other travelers.[4]

Supporters of the book's basic accuracy have replied—economic historian Mark Elvin concludes that recent work "demonstrates by specific example after specific example the ultimately overwhelming probability of the broad authenticity" of Polo's account, and that the book is, "in essence, authentic, and, when used with care, in broad terms to be trusted as a serious though obviously not always final, witness."[5]


  • History 1
  • Contents 2
  • Legacy 3
  • Subsequent versions 4
  • Other travellers 5
  • Footnotes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


The route Polo describes.
The probable view of Marco Polo's own geography (drawn by H. Yule, 1871).

The source of the title Il Milione is debated. One view is that it comes from the Polo family's use of the name Emilione to distinguish themselves from the numerous other Venetian families bearing the name Polo.[6] A more common view is that the name refers to medieval reception of the travelog, namely that it was full of "a million" lies.[7]

Modern assessments of the text usually consider it to be the record of an observant rather than imaginative or analytical traveler. Marco Polo emerges as being curious and tolerant, and devoted to Kublai Khan and the dynasty that he served for two decades. The book is Polo's account of his travels to China, which he calls Cathay (north China) and Manji (south China). The Polo party left Venice in 1271. They left China in late 1290 or early 1291[8] and were back in Venice in 1295. The tradition is that Polo dictated the book to a romance writer, Rustichello da Pisa, while in prison in Genoa between 1298–1299. Rustichello may have worked up his first Franco-Italian version from Marco's notes. The book was then named Devisement du Monde and Livres des Merveilles du Monde in French, and De Mirabilibus Mundi in Latin.[9]


The Travels is divided into four books. Book One describes the lands of the Middle East and Central Asia that Marco encountered on his way to China. Book Two describes China and the court of Kublai Khan. Book Three describes some of the coastal regions of the East: Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and the east coast of Africa.

Book Four described his trip back to Italy. The trip involved many great and fearsome dangers such as a gang of pirates robbing thousands of gold pieces from Marco and holding him hostage. The pirates were arrested by a passing ship which called for help from the Chinese police and Marco suffering from a bout of gout, which hindered his ability to walk for a few years.


The Travels was a rare popular success in an era before printing.

The impact of Polo's book on cartography was delayed: the first map in which some names mentioned by Polo appear was in the Catalan Atlas of Charles V (1375), which included thirty names in China and a number of other Asian toponyms.[10] In the mid-fifteenth century the cartographer of Murano, Fra Mauro, meticulously included all of Polo's toponyms in his 1450 map of the world.

Marco Polo's description of the Far East and its riches inspired Christopher Columbus's decision to try to reach Asia by sea, in a westward route. A heavily annotated copy of Polo's book was among the belongings of Columbus. Polo's writings included descriptions of cannibals and spice growers.

Subsequent versions

Handwritten notes by Christopher Columbus on the Latin edition of Marco Polo's Le livre des merveilles.

Marco Polo was accompanied on his trips by his father and uncle (both of whom had been to China previously), though neither of them published any known works about their journeys. The book was translated into many European languages in Marco Polo's own lifetime, but the original manuscripts are now lost.

The oldest surviving Polo manuscript is in Old French heavily flavoured with Italian;[11] for Luigi Foscolo Benedetto, this "F" text is the basic original text, which he corrected by comparing it with the somewhat more detailed Italian of Ramusio, together with a Latin manuscript in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. Other early important sources are R (Ramusio's Italian translation first printed in 1559), and Z (a fifteenth-century Latin manuscript kept at Toledo, Spain). Another Old French Polo manuscript, dating to around 1350, is held by the National Library of Sweden.[12]

A total of about 150 copies in various languages are known to exist. During copying and translating many errors were made, so there are many differences between the various copies.[13] The first English translation is the Elizabethan version by John Frampton, The most noble and famous travels of Marco Polo, based on Santaella's Castilian translation of 1503 (the first version in that language).[14]

The first attempt to collate manuscripts and provide a critical edition was in a volume of collected travel narratives printed at Venice in 1559.[15]

The editor, Giovan Battista Ramusio, collated manuscripts from the first part of the fourteenth century,[16] which he considered to be "perfettamente corretto" ("perfectly correct"). He was of the opinion, not shared by modern scholars, that Marco had first written in Latin, quickly translated into Italian: he had apparently been able to use a Latin version "of marvelous antiquity" lent him by a friend in the Ghisi family of Venice.

The edition of Benedetto, Marco Polo, Il Milione, under the patronage of the Comitato Geografico Nazionale Italiano (Florence: Olschki, 1928), collated sixty additional manuscript sources, in addition to some eighty that had been collected by Henry Yule, for his 1871 edition. It was Benedetto who identified Rustichello da Pisa,[17] as the original compiler or amanuensis, and his established text has provided the basis for many modern translations: his own in Italian (1932), and Aldo Ricci's The Travels of Marco Polo (London, 1931).

A. C. Moule and Paul Pelliot published a translation under the title Description of the World that uses manuscript F as its base and attempts to combine the several versions of the text into one continuous narrative while at the same time indicating the source for each section (London, 1938).

An introduction to Marco Polo is Leonard Olschki, Marco Polo's Asia: An Introduction to His "Description of the World" Called "Il Milione", translated by John A. Scott (Berkeley: University of California) 1960; it had its origins in the celebrations of the seven hundredth anniversary of Marco Polo's birth.

Other travellers

Although Marco Polo was certainly the most famous, he was not the only nor the first European traveller to the Mongol Empire that subsequently wrote an account of his experiences. Other thirteenth-century European travellers who journeyed to the court of the Great Khan were André de Longjumeau, William of Rubruck and Giovanni da Pian del Carpine with Benedykt Polak. None of them visited China except Marco Polo.

The Moroccan merchant Ibn Battuta travelled through the Golden Horde and China subsequently in the early-to-mid-14th century. The 14th-century English author John de Mandeville wrote an account of journeys in the East, but this was probably based on second-hand information and contains much apocryphal information.


  1. ^ Polo & Latham 1958, p. 15.
  2. ^ Boulnois 2005.
  3. ^ Jackson 1998.
  4. ^ Wood 1996.
  5. ^ Vogel, Hans Ulrich (2013). "Preface". Marco Polo Was in China: New Evidence from Currencies, Salts and Revenues (Leiden; Boston: Brill). p. xix. 
  6. ^ Sofri (2001) "Il secondo fu che Marco e i suoi usassero, pare, per distinguersi da altri Polo veneziani, il nome di Emilione, che è l' origine prosaica del titolo che si è imposto: Il Milione."
  7. ^ Lindhal, McNamara, & Lindow, eds. (2000). Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs - Vol. I. Santa Barbara. p. 368.  ABC-CLIO
  8. ^ The date usually given as 1292 was corrected in a note by Chih-chiu & Yung-chi (1945, p. 51) reporting a ???
  9. ^ Sofri 2001.
  10. ^ The exhibition in Venice celebrating the seven hundredth anniversary of Polo's birth L'Asia nella Cartographia dell'Occidente, Tullia Leporini Gasparace, curator, Venice 1955. (unverifiable)
  11. ^ Bibliothèque Nationale MS. français 1116. For details, see, A. C. Moule and Paul Pelliot, Marco Polo: The Description of the World (London, 1938), p.41.
  12. ^ Polo, Marco (1350). "The Travels of Marco Polo - World Digital Library" (in Old French). Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  13. ^ Kellogg 2001.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Its title was Secondo volume delle Navigationi et Viaggi nel quale si contengono l'Historia delle cose de' Tartari, et diuversi fatti de loro Imperatori, descritta da M. Marco Polo, Gentilhuomo di Venezia.... Herriott (1937) reports the recovery of a 1795 copy of the Ghisi manuscript, clarifying many obscure passages in Ramusio's printed text.
  16. ^ "scritti gia piu di dugento anni (a mio giudico)."
  17. ^ "Rusticien" in the French manuscripts.

Further reading

Delle meravigliose cose del mondo, 1496
  • Polo, Marco; Latham, Ronald (1958-09-30). The Travels. London: Penguin Classics. p. 384.  
  • Polo, Marco; Smethurst, Paul (2005-07-16). The Travels Of Marco Polo. Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. p. 676.  
  • Yule, Henry (1871), The Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian (Volume 1), London: John Murray .
  • Yule, Henry (1871), The Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian (Volume 2), London: John Murray . + Index
  • Yule, Henry (1903), The Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East (Volume 1) (3rd ed.), London: John Murray .
  • Yule, Henry (1903), The Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East (Volume 2) (3rd ed.), London: John Murray . + Index
  • Polo, Marco (1350). "The Travels of Marco Polo" (in Old French). 
General studies
  • Boulnois, Luce (2005). Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. Hong Kong: Odessey Books & Guides. pp. 311–335.  
  • Haw, Stephen G. Marco Polo's China : A Venetian in the Realm of Khubilai Khan. (London ; New York: Routledge, Routledge Studies in the Early History of Asia, 2006). ISBN 0415348501.
  • Larner, John. Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999). ISBN 0300079710.
  • Olschki, Leonardo. Marco Polo's Asia: An Introduction to His "Description of the World" Called "Il Milione.". (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960). Translated by and rev. by the author John A. Scott.
  • Vogel, Hans Ulrich. Marco Polo Was in China: New Evidence from Currencies, Salts and Revenues. (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2013). ISBN 9789004231931.
  • Wood, Francis (1996). Did Marco Polo Go to China?. Boulder: Westview Press.  
Journal and newspaper articles
  • Chih-chiu, Yang; Yung-chi, Ho (1945-9). "Marco Polo Quits China". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 9 (1). 
  • Herriott, Homer (October 1937). "The 'Lost' Toledo Manuscript of Marco Polo". Speculum 12 (1): 456–463.  
  • Sofri, Adriano (2001-12-28). "Finalmente Torna Il favoloso milione". La Repubblica. 
  • Kellogg, Patricia B. (2001). "Did you Know?". National Geographic. 

External links

  • The Travels of Marco Polo. (Yule-Cordier translation) Volume 1 at Project Gutenberg
  • The Travels of Marco Polo. (Yule-Cordier translation) Volume 2 at Project Gutenberg
  • The Travels of Marco Polo public domain audiobook at LibriVox
  • The description of the world (Moule-Pelliot translation) on Internet Archive
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.