The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Preface to Third Edition

Little did I think, some thirty years ago, when I received a copy of the first edition of this grand work, that I should be one day entrusted with the difficult but glorious task of supervising the third edition. When the first edition of the Book of Ser Marco Polo reached “Far Cathay,” it created quite a stir in the small circle of the learned foreigners, who then resided there, and became a starting-point for many researches, of which the results have been made use of partly in the second edition, and partly in the present. The Archimandrite PALLADIUS and Dr. E. BRETSCHNEIDER, at Peking, ALEX. WYLIE, at Shang-hai — friends of mine who have, alas! passed away, with the exception of the Right Rev. Bishop G. E. MOULE, of Hang-chau, the only survivor of this little group of hard-working scholars — were the first to explore the Chinese sources of information which were to yield a rich harvest into their hands.

When I returned home from China in 1876, I was introduced to Colonel HENRY YULE, at the India Office, by our common friend, Dr. REINHOLD ROST, and from that time we met frequently and kept up a correspondence which terminated only with the life of the great geographer, whose friend I had become. A new edition of the travels of Friar Odoric of Pordenone, our “mutual friend,” in which Yule had taken the greatest interest, was dedicated by me to his memory. I knew that Yule contemplated a third edition of his Marco Polo, and all will regret that time was not allowed to him to complete this labour of love, to see it published. If the duty of bringing out the new edition of Marco Polo has fallen on one who considers himself but an unworthy successor of the first illustrious commentator, it is fair to add that the work could not have been entrusted to a more respectful disciple. Many of our tastes were similar; we had the same desire to seek the truth, the same earnest wish to be exact, perhaps the same sense of humour, and, what is necessary when writing on Marco Polo, certainly the same love for Venice and its history. Not only am I, with the late CHARLES SCHEFER, the founder and the editor of the Recueil de Voyages et de Documents pour servir à l’Histoire de la Géographie depuis le XIII’e jusqu’à la fin du XVI’e siècle, but I am also the successor, at the Ecole des langues Orientales Vivantes, of G. PAUTHIER, whose book on the Venetian Traveller is still valuable, so the mantle of the last two editors fell upon my shoulders.

I therefore, gladly and thankfully, accepted Miss AMY FRANCIS YULE’S kind proposal to undertake the editorship of the third edition of the Book of Ser Marco Polo, and I wish to express here my gratitude to her for the great honour she has thus done me.1

Unfortunately for his successor, Sir Henry Yule, evidently trusting to his own good memory, left but few notes. These are contained in an interleaved copy obligingly placed at my disposal by Miss Yule, but I luckily found assistance from various other quarters. The following works have proved of the greatest assistance to me:— The articles of General HOUTUM-SCHINDLER in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, and the excellent books of Lord CURZON and of Major P. MOLESWORTH SYKES on Persia, M. GRENARD’S account of DUTREUIL DE RHINS’ Mission to Central Asia, BRETSCHNEIDER’S and PALLADIUS’ remarkable papers on Mediaeval Travellers and Geography, and above all, the valuable books of the Hon. W. W. ROCKHILL on Tibet and Rubruck, to which the distinguished diplomatist, traveller, and scholar kindly added a list of notes of the greatest importance to me, for which I offer him my hearty thanks.

My thanks are also due to H.H. Prince ROLAND BONAPARTE, who kindly gave me permission to reproduce some of the plates of his Recueil de Documents de l’Epoque Mongole, to M. LÉOPOLD DELISLE, the learned Principal Librarian of the Bibliothèque Nationale, who gave me the opportunity to study the inventory made after the death of the Doge Marino Faliero, to the Count de SEMALLÉ, formerly French Chargé d’Affaires at Peking, who gave me for reproduction a number of photographs from his valuable personal collection, and last, not least, my old friend Comm. NICOLÒ BAROZZI, who continued to lend me the assistance which he had formerly rendered to Sir Henry Yule at Venice.

Since the last edition was published, more than twenty-five years ago, Persia has been more thoroughly studied; new routes have been explored in Central Asia, Karakorum has been fully described, and Western and South–Western China have been opened up to our knowledge in many directions. The results of these investigations form the main features of this new edition of Marco Polo. I have suppressed hardly any of Sir Henry Yule’s notes and altered but few, doing so only when the light of recent information has proved him to be in error, but I have supplemented them by what, I hope, will be found useful, new information.2

Before I take leave of the kind reader, I wish to thank sincerely Mr. JOHN MURRAY for the courtesy and the care he has displayed while this edition was going through the press.

PARIS, 1st of October, 1902.

1 Miss Yule has written the Memoir of her father and the new Dedication. [Omitted from this edition.]

2 Paragraphs which have been altered are marked thus +; my own additions are placed between brackets [ ]. — H. C.


“Now strike your Sailes yee jolly Mariners,

For we be come into a quiet Rode”. . . .

— THE FAERIE QUEENE, I. xii. 42.]

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