Doorway of the House of Marco Polo in the Corte Sabbionera, at Venice
Obscurities of Polo’s Book, and personal History.]
1. With all the intrinsic interest of Marco Polo’s Book it may perhaps be doubted if it would have continued to exercise such fascination on many minds through succesive generations were it not for the difficult questions which it suggests. It is a great book of puzzles, whilst our confidence in the man’s veracity is such that we feel certain every puzzle has a solution.
And such difficulties have not attached merely to the identification of places, the interpretation of outlandish terms, or the illustration of obscure customs; for strange entanglements have perplexed also the chief circumstances of the Traveller’s life and authorship. The time of the dictation of his Book and of the execution of his Last Will have been almost the only undisputed epochs in his biography. The year of his birth has been contested, and the date of his death has not been recorded; the critical occasion of his capture by the Genoese, to which we seem to owe the happy fact that he did not go down mute to the tomb of his fathers, has been made the subject of chronological difficulties; there are in the various texts of his story variations hard to account for; the very tongue in which it was written down has furnished a question, solved only in our own age, and in a most unexpected manner.
Ramusio, his earliest biographer. His account of Polo.]
2. The first person who attempted to gather and string the facts of Marco Polo’s personal history was his countryman, the celebrated John Baptist Ramusio. His essay abounds in what we now know to be errors of detail, but, prepared as it was when traditions of the Traveller were still rife in Venice, a genuine thread runs through it which could never have been spun in later days, and its presentation seems to me an essential element in any full discourse upon the subject.
Ramusio’s preface to the Book of Marco Polo, which opens the second volume of his famous Collection of Voyages and Travels, and is addressed to his learned friend Jerome Fracastoro, after referring to some of the most noted geographers of antiquity, proceeds:1 —
“Of all that I have named, Ptolemy, as the latest, possessed the greatest extent of knowledge. Thus, towards the North, his knowledge carries him beyond the Caspian, and he is aware of its being shut in all round like a lake — a fact which was unknown in the days of Strabo and Pliny, though the Romans were already lords of the world. But though his knowledge extends so far, a tract of 15 degrees beyond that sea he can describe only as Terra Incognita; and towards the South he is fain to apply the same character to all beyond the Equinoxial. In these unknown regions, as regards the South, the first to make discoveries have been the Portuguese captains of our own age; but as regards the North and North–East the discoverer was the Magnifico Messer Marco Polo, an honoured nobleman of Venice, nearly 300 years since, as may be read more fully in his own Book. And in truth it makes one marvel to consider the immense extent of the journeys made, first by the Father and Uncle of the said Messer Marco, when they proceeded continually towards the East–North-East, all the way to the Court of the Great Can and the Emperor of the Tartars; and afterwards again by the three of them when, on their return homeward, they traversed the Eastern and Indian Seas. Nor is that all, for one marvels also how the aforesaid gentleman was able to give such an orderly description of all that he had seen; seeing that such an accomplishment was possessed by very few in his day, and he had had a large part of his nurture among those uncultivated Tartars, without any regular training in the art of composition. His Book indeed, owing to the endless errors and inaccuracies that had crept into it, had come for many years to be regarded as fabulous; and the opinion prevailed that the names of cities and provinces contained therein were all fictitious and imaginary, without any ground in fact, or were (I might rather say) mere dreams.
Ramusio vindicates Polo’s Geography.]
3. “Howbeit, during the last hundred years, persons acquainted with Persia have begun to recognise the existence of Cathay. The voyages of the Portuguese also towards the North–East, beyond the Golden Chersonese, have brought to knowledge many cities and provinces of India, and many islands likewise, with those very names which our Author applies to them; and again, on reaching the Land of China, they have ascertained from the people of that region (as we are told by Sign. John de Barros, a Portuguese gentleman, in his Geography) that Canton, one of the chief cities of that kingdom, is in 30–2/3° of latitude, with the coast running N.E. and S.W.; that after a distance of 275 leagues the said coast turns towards the N.W.; and that there are three provinces along the sea-board, Mangi, Zanton, and Quinzai, the last of which is the principal city and the King’s Residence, standing in 46° of latitude. And proceeding yet further the coast attains to 50°.2 Seeing then how many particulars are in our day becoming known of that part of the world concerning which Messer Marco has written, I have deemed it reasonable to publish his book, with the aid of several copies written (as I judge) more than 200 years ago, in a perfectly accurate form, and one vastly more faithful than that in which it has been heretofore read. And thus the world shall not lose the fruit that may be gathered from so much diligence and industry expended upon so honourable a branch of knowledge.”
4. Ramusio, then, after a brief apologetic parallel of the marvels related by Polo with those related by the Ancients and by the modern discoverers in the West, such as Columbus and Cortes, proceeds:—
Ramusio compares Polo with Columbus.]
And often in my own mind, comparing the land explorations of these our Venetian gentlemen with the sea explorations of the aforesaid Signor Don Christopher, I have asked myself which of the two were really the more marvellous. And if patriotic prejudice delude me not, methinks good reason might be adduced for setting the land journey above the sea voyage. Consider only what a height of courage was needed to undertake and carry through so difficult an enterprise, over a route of such desperate length and hardship, whereon it was sometimes necessary to carry food for the supply of man and beast, not for days only but for months together. Columbus, on the other hand, going by sea, readily carried with him all necessary provision; and after a voyage of some 30 or 40 days was conveyed by the wind whither he desired to go, whilst the Venetians again took a whole year’s time to pass all those great deserts and mighty rivers. Indeed that the difficulty of travelling to Cathay was so much greater than that of reaching the New World, and the route so much longer and more perilous, may be gathered from the fact that, since those gentlemen twice made this journey, no one from Europe has dared to repeat it,3 whereas in the very year following the discovery of the Western Indies many ships immediately retraced the voyage thither, and up to the present day continue to do so, habitually and in countless numbers. Indeed those regions are now so well known, and so thronged by commerce, that the traffic between Italy, Spain, and England is not greater.
Recounts a tradition of the travellers’ return to Venice.]
5. Ramusio goes on to explain the light regarding the first part or prologue of Marco Polo’s book that he had derived from a recent piece of luck which had made him partially acquainted with the geography of Abulfeda, and to make a running commentary on the whole of the preliminary narrative until the final return of the travellers to Venice:—
“And when they got thither the same fate befel them as befel Ulysses, who, when he returned, after his twenty years’ wanderings, to his native Ithaca, was recognized by nobody. Thus also those three gentlemen who had been so many years absent from their native city were recognized by none of their kinsfolk, who were under the firm belief that they had all been dead for many a year past, as indeed had been reported. Through the long duration and the hardships of their journeys, and through the many worries and anxieties that they had undergone, they were quite changed in aspect, and had got a certain indescribable smack of the Tartar both in air and accent, having indeed all but forgotten their Venetian tongue. Their clothes too were coarse and shabby, and of a Tartar cut. They proceeded on their arrival to their house in this city in the confine of St. John Chrysostom, where you may see it to this day. The house, which was in those days a very lofty and handsome palazzo, is now known by the name of the Corte del Millioni for a reason that I will tell you presently. Going thither they found it occupied by some of their relatives, and they had the greatest difficulty in making the latter understand who they should be. For these good people, seeing them to be in countenance so unlike what they used to be, and in dress so shabby, flatly refused to believe that they were those very gentlemen of the Ca’ Polo whom they had been looking upon for ever so many years as among the dead.4 So these three gentlemen — this is a story I have often heard when I was a youngster from the illustrious Messer GASPARO MALPIERO, a gentleman of very great age, and a Senator of eminent virtue and integrity, whose house was on the Canal of Santa Marina, exactly at the corner over the mouth of the Rio di S. Giovanni Chrisostomo, and just midway among the buildings of the aforesaid Corte del Millioni, and he said he had heard the story from his own father and grandfather, and from other old men among the neighbours — the three gentlemen, I say, devised a scheme by which they should at once bring about their recognition by their relatives, and secure the honourable notice of the whole city; and this was it:—
“They invited a number of their kindred to an entertainment, which they took care to have prepared with great state and splendour in that house of theirs; and when the hour arrived for sitting down to table they came forth of their chamber all three clothed in crimson satin, fashioned in long robes reaching to the ground such as people in those days wore within doors. And when water for the hands had been served, and the guests were set, they took off those robes and put on others of crimson damask, whilst the first suits were by their orders cut up and divided among the servants. Then after partaking of some of the dishes they went out again and came back in robes of crimson velvet, and when they had again taken their seats, the second suits were divided as before. When dinner was over they did the like with the robes of velvet, after they had put on dresses of the ordinary fashion worn by the rest of the company.5 These proceedings caused much wonder and amazement among the guests. But when the cloth had been drawn, and all the servants had been ordered to retire from the dining hall, Messer Marco, as the youngest of the three, rose from table, and, going into another chamber, brought forth the three shabby dresses of coarse stuff which they had worn when they first arrived. Straightway they took sharp knives and began to rip up some of the seams and welts, and to take out of them jewels of the greatest value in vast quantities, such as rubies, sapphires, carbuncles, diamonds and emeralds, which had all been stitched up in those dresses in so artful a fashion that nobody could have suspected the fact. For when they took leave of the Great Can they had changed all the wealth that he had bestowed upon them into this mass of rubies, emeralds, and other jewels, being well aware of the impossibility of carrying with them so great an amount in gold over a journey of such extreme length and difficulty. Now this exhibition of such a huge treasure of jewels and precious stones, all tumbled out upon the table, threw the guests into fresh amazement, insomuch that they seemed quite bewildered and dumbfounded. And now they recognized that in spite of all former doubts these were in truth those honoured and worthy gentlemen of the Ca’ Polo that they claimed to be; and so all paid them the greatest honour and reverence. And when the story got wind in Venice, straightway the whole city, gentle and simple, flocked to the house to embrace them, and to make much of them, with every conceivable demonstration of affection and respect. On Messer Maffio, who was the eldest, they conferred the honours of an office that was of great dignity in those days; whilst the young men came daily to visit and converse with the ever polite and gracious Messer Marco, and to ask him questions about Cathay and the Great Can, all which he answered with such kindly courtesy that every man felt himself in a manner his debtor. And as it happened that in the story, which he was constantly called on to repeat, of the magnificence of the Great Can, he would speak of his revenues as amounting to ten or fifteen millions of gold; and in like manner, when recounting other instances of great wealth in those parts, would always make use of the term millions, so they gave him the nickname of MESSER MARCO MILLIONI: a thing which I have noted also in the Public Books of this Republic where mention is made of him.6 The Court of his House, too, at S. Giovanni Chrisostomo, has always from that time been popularly known as the Court of the Millioni.
Recounts Marco’s capture by the Genoese.]
6. “Not many months after the arrival of the travellers at Venice, news came that LAMPA DORIA, Captain of the Genoese Fleet, had advanced with 70 galleys to the Island of Curzola, upon which orders were issued by the Prince of the Most Illustrious Signory for the arming of 90 galleys with all the expedition possible, and Messer Marco Polo for his valour was put in charge of one of these. So he with the others, under the command of the Most Illustrious MESSER ANDREA DANDOLO, Procurator of St. Mark’s, as Captain General, a very brave and worthy gentleman, set out in search of the Genoese Fleet. They fought on the September feast of Our Lady, and, as is the common hazard of war, our fleet was beaten, and Polo was made prisoner. For, having pressed on in the vanguard of the attack, and fighting with high and worthy courage in defence of his country and his kindred, he did not receive due support, and being wounded, he was taken, along with Dandolo, and immediately put in irons and sent to Genoa.
“When his rare qualities and marvellous travels became known there, the whole city gathered to see him and to speak with him, and he was no longer entreated as a prisoner but as a dear friend and honoured gentleman. Indeed they showed him such honour and affection that at all hours of the day he was visited by the noblest gentlemen of the city, and was continually receiving presents of every useful kind. Messer Marco finding himself in this position, and witnessing the general eagerness to hear all about Cathay and the Great Can, which indeed compelled him daily to repeat his story till he was weary, was advised to put the matter in writing. So having found means to get a letter written to his father here at Venice, in which he desired the latter to send the notes and memoranda which he had brought home with him, after the receipt of these, and assisted by a Genoese gentleman, who was a great friend of his, and who took great delight in learning about the various regions of the world, and used on that account to spend many hours daily in the prison with him, he wrote this present book (to please him) in the Latin tongue.
“To this day the Genoese for the most part write what they have to write in that language, for there is no possibility of expressing their natural dialect with the pen.7 Thus then it came to pass that the Book was put forth at first by Messer Marco in Latin; but as many copies were taken, and as it was rendered into our vulgar tongue, all Italy became filled with it, so much was this story desired and run after.
Ramusio’s account of Marco’s liberation and marriage.]
7. “The captivity of Messer Marco greatly disturbed the minds of Messer Maffio and his father Messer Nicolo. They had decided, whilst still on their travels, that Marco should marry as soon as they should get to Venice; but now they found themselves in this unlucky pass, with so much wealth and nobody to inherit it. Fearing that Marco’s imprisonment might endure for many years, or, worse still, that he might not live to quit it (for many assured them that numbers of Venetian prisoners had been kept in Genoa a score of years before obtaining liberty); seeing too no prospect of being able to ransom him — a thing which they had attempted often and by various channels — they took counsel together, and came to the conclusion that Messer Nicolo, who, old as he was, was still hale and vigorous, should take to himself a new wife. This he did; and at the end of four years he found himself the father of three sons, Stefano, Maffio, and Giovanni. Not many years after, Messer Marco aforesaid, through the great favour that he had acquired in the eyes of the first gentlemen of Genoa, and indeed of the whole city, was discharged from prison and set free. Returning home he found that his father had in the meantime had those three other sons. Instead of taking this amiss, wise and discreet man that he was, he agreed also to take a wife of his own. He did so accordingly, but he never had any son, only two girls, one called Moreta and the other Fantina.
“When at a later date his father died, like a good and dutiful son he caused to be erected for him a tomb of very honourable kind for those days, being a great sarcophagus cut from the solid stone, which to this day may be seen under the portico before the Church of S. Lorenzo in this city, on the right hand as you enter, with an inscription denoting it to be the tomb of Messer Nicolo Polo of the contrada of S. Gio. Chrisostomo. The arms of his family consist of a Bend with three birds on it, and the colours, according to certain books of old histories in which you see all the coats of the gentlemen of this city emblazoned, are the field azure, the bend argent, and the three birds sable. These last are birds of that kind vulgarly termed Pole,8 or, as the Latins call them, Gracculi.
Ramusio’s account of the Family Polo and its termination.]
8. “As regards the after duration of this noble and worthy family, I find that Messer Andrea Polo of San Felice had three sons, the first of whom was Messer Marco, the second Maffio, the third Nicolo. The two last were those who went to Constantinople first, and afterwards to Cathay, as has been seen. Messer Marco the elder being dead, the wife of Messer Nicolo who had been left at home with child, gave birth to a son, to whom she gave the name of Marco in memory of the deceased, and this is the Author of our Book. Of the brothers who were born from his father’s second marriage, viz. Stephen, John, and Matthew, I do not find that any of them had children, except Matthew. He had five sons and one daughter called Maria; and she, after the death of her brothers without offspring, inherited in 1417 all the property of her father and her brothers. She was honourably married to Messer AZZO TREVISANO of the parish of Santo Stazio in this city, and from her sprung the fortunate and honoured stock of the Illustrious Messer DOMENICO TREVISANO, Procurator of St. Mark’s, and valorous Captain General of the Sea Forces of the Republic, whose virtue and singular good qualities are represented with augmentation in the person of the Most Illustrious Prince Ser MARC’ ANTONIO TREVISANO, his son.9
“Such has been the history of this noble family of the Ca’ Polo, which lasted as we see till the year of our Redemption 1417, in which year died childless Marco Polo, the last of the five sons of Maffeo, and so it came to an end. Such be the chances and changes of human affairs!”
1 The Preface is dated Venice, 7th July, 1553. Fracastorius died in the same year, and Ramusio erected a statue of him at Padua. Ramusio himself died in July, 1557.
2 The Geography of De Barros, from which this is quoted, has never been printed. I can find nothing corresponding to this passage in the Decades.
3 A grievous error of Ramusio’s.
4 See the decorated title-page of this volume for an attempt to realise the scene.
5 At first sight this fantastic tradition seems to have little verisimilitude; but when we regard it in the light of genuine Mongol custom, such as is quoted from Rubruquis, at p. 389 of this volume, we shall be disposed to look on the whole story with respect.
6 This curious statement is confirmed by a passage in the records of the Great Council, which, on a late visit to Venice, I was enabled to extract, through an obliging communication from Professor Minotto. (See below, p. 67.)
7 This rather preposterous skit at the Genoese dialect naturally excites a remonstrance from the Abate Spotorno. (Storia Letteraria della Liguria, II. 217.)
8 Jackdaws, I believe, in spite of some doubt from the imbecility of ordinary dictionaries in such matters.
They are under this name made the object of a similitude by Dante (surely a most unhappy one) in reference to the resplendent spirits flitting on the celestial stairs in the sphere of Saturn:—
“E come per lo natural costume
Le Pole insieme, al cominciar del giorno,
Si muovono a scaldar le fredde piume:
Poi altre vanno vià senza ritorno,
Altre rivolgon sè, onde son mosse,
Ed altre roteando fan soggiorno.”— Parad. XXI. 34.
There is some difference among authorities as to the details of the Polo blazon. According to a MS. concerning the genealogies of Venetian families written by Marco Barbaro in 1566, and of which there is a copy in the Museo Civico, the field is gules, the bend or. And this I have followed in the cut. But a note by S. Stefani of Venice, with which I have been favoured since the cut was made, informs me that a fine 15th-century MS. in his possession gives the field as argent, with no bend, and the three birds sable with beaks gules, disposed thus ***.
Arms of the Polo*
* [This coat of arms is reproduced from the Genealogies of Priuli, Archivio di Stato, Venice. — H. C.]
9 Marco Antonio Trevisano was elected Doge, 4th June, 1553, but died on the 31st of May following. We do not here notice Ramusio’s numerous errors, which will be corrected in the sequel. [See p. 78.]
9. The story of the travels of the Polo family opens in 1260.
State of the Levant.]
Christendom had recovered from the alarm into which it had been thrown some 18 years before when the Tartar cataclysm had threatened to engulph it. The Tartars themselves were already becoming an object of curiosity rather than of fear, and soon became an object of hope, as a possible help against the old Mahomedan foe. The frail Latin throne in Constantinople was still standing, but tottering to its fall. The successors of the Crusaders still held the Coast of Syria from Antioch to Jaffa, though a deadlier brood of enemies than they had yet encountered was now coming to maturity in the Dynasty of the Mamelukes, which had one foot firmly planted in Cairo, the other in Damascus. The jealousies of the commercial republics of Italy were daily waxing greater. The position of Genoese trade on the coasts of the Aegean was greatly depressed, through the predominance which Venice had acquired there by her part in the expulsion of the Greek Emperors, and which won for the Doge the lofty style of Lord of Three–Eighths of the Empire of Romania. But Genoa was biding her time for an early revenge, and year by year her naval strength and skill were increasing. Both these republics held possessions and establishments in the ports of Syria, which were often the scene of sanguinary conflicts between their citizens. Alexandria was still largely frequented in the intervals of war as the great emporium of Indian wares, but the facilities afforded by the Mongol conquerors who now held the whole tract from the Persian Gulf to the shores of the Caspian and of the Black Sea, or nearly so, were beginning to give a great advantage to the caravan routes which debouched at the ports of Cilician Armenia in the Mediterranean and at Trebizond on the Euxine. Tana (or Azov) had not as yet become the outlet of a similar traffic; the Venetians had apparently frequented to some extent the coast of the Crimea for local trade, but their rivals appear to have been in great measure excluded from this commerce, and the Genoese establishments which so long flourished on that coast, are first heard of some years after a Greek dynasty was again in possession of Constantinople.1
The various Mongol Sovereignties in Asia and Eastern Europe.]
10. In Asia and Eastern Europe scarcely a dog might bark without Mongol leave, from the borders of Poland and the Gulf of Scanderoon to the Amur and the Yellow Sea. The vast empire which Chinghiz had conquered still owned a nominally supreme head in the Great Kaan,2 but practically it was splitting up into several great monarchies under the descendants of the four sons of Chinghiz, Juji, Chaghatai, Okkodai, and Tuli; and wars on a vast scale were already brewing between them. Hulaku, third son of Tuli, and brother of two Great Kaans, Mangku and Kúblái, had become practically independent as ruler of Persia, Babylonia, Mesopotamia, and Armenia, though he and his sons, and his sons’ sons, continued to stamp the name of the Great Kaan upon their coins, and to use the Chinese seals of state which he bestowed upon them. The Seljukian Sultans of Iconium, whose dominion bore the proud title of Rúm (Rome), were now but the struggling bondsmen of the Ilkhans. The Armenian Hayton in his Cilician Kingdom had pledged a more frank allegiance to the Tartar, the enemy of his Moslem enemies.
Barka, son of Juji, the first ruling prince of the House of Chinghiz to turn Mahomedan, reigned on the steppes of the Volga, where a standing camp, which eventually became a great city under the name of Sarai, had been established by his brother and predecessor Batu.
The House of Chaghatai had settled upon the pastures of the Ili and the valley of the Jaxartes, and ruled the wealthy cities of Sogdiana.
Kaidu, the grandson of Okkodai who had been the successor of Chinghiz in the Kaanship, refused to acknowledge the transfer of the supreme authority to the House of Tuli, and was through the long life of Kúblái a thorn in his side, perpetually keeping his north-western frontier in alarm. His immediate authority was exercised over some part of what we should now call Eastern Turkestan and Southern Central Siberia; whilst his hordes of horsemen, force of character, and close neighbourhood brought the Khans of Chaghatai under his influence, and they generally acted in concert with him.
The chief throne of the Mongol Empire had just been ascended by Kúblái, the most able of its occupants after the Founder. Before the death of his brother and predecessor Mangku, who died in 1259 before an obscure fortress of Western China, it had been intended to remove the seat of government from Kara Korum on the northern verge of the Mongolian Desert to the more populous regions that had been conquered in the further East, and this step, which in the end converted the Mongol Kaan into a Chinese Emperor,3 was carried out by Kúblái.
11. For about three centuries the Northern provinces of China had been detached from native rule, and subject to foreign dynasties; first to the Khitan, a people from the basin of the Sungari River, and supposed (but doubtfully) to have been akin to the Tunguses, whose rule subsisted for 200 years, and originated the name of KHITAI, Khata, or CATHAY, by which for nearly 1000 years China has been known to the nations of Inner Asia, and to those whose acquaintance with it was got by that channel.4 The Khitan, whose dynasty is known in Chinese history as the Liao or “Iron,” had been displaced in 1123 by the Chúrchés or Niu-chen, another race of Eastern Tartary, of the same blood as the modern Manchus, whose Emperors in their brief period of prosperity were known by the Chinese name of Tai-Kin, by the Mongol name of the Altun Kaans, both signifying “Golden.” Already in the lifetime of Chinghiz himself the northern Provinces of China Proper, including their capital, known as Chung-tu or Yen–King, now Peking, had been wrenched from them, and the conquest of the dynasty was completed by Chinghiz’s successor Okkodai in 1234.
Southern China still remained in the hands of the native dynasty of the Sung, who had their capital at the great city now well known as Hang-chau fu. Their dominion was still substantially untouched, but its subjugation was a task to which Kúblái before many years turned his attention, and which became the most prominent event of his reign.
India, and Indo–China.]
12. In India the most powerful sovereign was the Sultan of Delhi, Nassiruddin Mahmud of the Turki House of Iltitmish;5 but, though both Sind and Bengal acknowledged his supremacy, no part of Peninsular India had yet been invaded, and throughout the long period of our Traveller’s residence in the East the Kings of Delhi had their hands too full, owing to the incessant incursions of the Mongols across the Indus, to venture on extensive campaigning in the south. Hence the Dravidian Kingdoms of Southern India were as yet untouched by foreign conquest, and the accumulated gold of ages lay in their temples and treasuries, an easy prey for the coming invader.
In the Indo–Chinese Peninsula and the Eastern Islands a variety of kingdoms and dynasties were expanding and contracting, of which we have at best but dim and shifting glimpses. That they were advanced in wealth and art, far beyond what the present state of those regions would suggest, is attested by vast and magnificent remains of Architecture, nearly all dating, so far as dates can be ascertained, from the 12th to the 14th centuries (that epoch during which an architectural afflatus seems to have descended on the human race), and which are found at intervals over both the Indo–Chinese continent and the Islands, as at Pagán in Burma, at Ayuthia in Siam, at Angkor in Kamboja, at Borobodor and Brambánan in Java. All these remains are deeply marked by Hindu influence, and, at the same time, by strong peculiarities, both generic and individual.
Autograph of Hayton, King of Armenia, circa A.D. 1243.
“ . . . e por so qui cestes lettres soient fermes e establis ci avuns escrit l’escrit de notre main vermoil e sayelé de notre ceau pendant. . . . ”
1 See Heyd, Le Colonie Commerciali degli Italiani, etc., passim.
2 We endeavour to preserve throughout the book the distinction that was made in the age of the Mongol Empire between Khán and Kaán ([Arabic] and [Arabic] as written by Arabic and Persian authors). The former may be rendered Lord, and was applied generally to Tartar chiefs whether sovereign or not; it has since become in Persia, and especially in Afghanistan, a sort of “Esq.,” and in India is now a common affix in the names of (Musulman) Hindustanis of all classes; in Turkey alone it has been reserved for the Sultan. Kaán, again, appears to be a form of Khákán, the [Greek: Chagános] of the Byzantine historians, and was the peculiar title of the supreme sovereign of the Mongols; the Mongol princes of Persia, Chaghatai, etc., were entitled only to the former affix (Khán), though Kaán and Khakán are sometimes applied to them in adulation. Polo always writes Kaan as applied to the Great Khan, and does not, I think, use Khan in any form, styling the subordinate princes by their name only, as Argon, Alau, etc. Ilkhan was a special title assumed by Huláku and his successors in Persia; it is said to be compounded from a word Il, signifying tribe or nation. The relation between Khán and Khakán seems to be probably that the latter signifies “Khán of Kháns” Lord of Lords. Chinghiz, it is said, did not take the higher title; it was first assumed by his son Okkodai. But there are doubts about this. (See Quatremère’s Rashid, pp. 10 seqq. and Pavet de Courteille, Dict. Turk–Oriental.) The tendency of swelling titles is always to degenerate, and when the value of Khan had sunk, a new form, Khán-khánán, was devised at the Court of Delhi, and applied to one of the high officers of state.
[Mr. Rockhill writes (Rubruck, p. 108, note): “The title Khan, though of very great antiquity, was only used by the Turks after A.D. 560, at which time the use of the word Khatun came in use for the wives of the Khan, who himself was termed Ilkhan. The older title of Shan-yü did not, however, completely disappear among them, for Albiruni says that in his time the chief of the Ghuz Turks, or Turkomans, still bore the title of Jenuyeh, which Sir Henry Rawlinson (Proc. R. G. S., v. 15) takes to be the same word as that transcribed Shan-yü by the Chinese (see Ch’ien Han shu, Bk. 94, and Chou shu, Bk. 50, 2). Although the word Khakhan occurs in Menander’s account of the embassy of Zemarchus, the earliest mention I have found of it in a Western writer is in the Chronicon of Albericus Trium Fontium, where (571), under the year 1239, he uses it in the form Cacanus”— Cf. Terrien de Lacouperie, Khan, Khakan, and other Tartar Titles. Lond., Dec. 1888. — H. C.]
3 “China is a sea that salts all the rivers that flow into it.”— P. Parrenin in Lett. Édif. XXIV. 58.
4 E.g. the Russians still call it Khitai. The pair of names, Khitai and Machin, or Cathay and China, is analogous to the other pair, Seres and Sinae. Seres was the name of the great nation in the far East as known by land, Sinae as known by sea; and they were often supposed to be diverse, just as Cathay and China were afterwards.
5 There has been much doubt about the true form of this name. Iltitmish is that sanctioned by Mr. Blochmann (see Proc. As. Soc. Bengal, 1870, p. 181).
Alleged origin of the Polos.]
13. In days when History and Genealogy were allowed to draw largely on the imagination for the origines of states and families, it was set down by one Venetian Antiquary that among the companions of King Venetus, or of Prince Antenor of Troy, when they settled on the northern shores of the Adriatic, there was one LUCIUS POLUS, who became the progenitor of our Traveller’s Family;1 whilst another deduces it from PAOLO the first Doge2 (Paulus Lucas Anafestus of Heraclea, A.D. 696).
More trustworthy traditions, recorded among the Family Histories of Venice, but still no more it is believed than traditions, represent the Family of Polo as having come from Sebenico in Dalmatia, in the 11th century.3 Before the end of the century they had taken seats in the Great Council of the Republic; for the name of Domenico Polo is said to be subscribed to a grant of 1094, that of Pietro Polo to an act of the time of the Doge Domenico Michiele in 1122, and that of a Domenico Polo to an acquittance granted by the Doge Domenico Morosini and his Council in 1153.4
The ascertained genealogy of the Traveller, however, begins only with his grandfather, who lived in the early part of the 13th century.
Two branches of the Polo Family were then recognized, distinguished by the confini or Parishes in which they lived, as Polo of S. Geremia, and Polo of S. Felice. ANDREA POLO of S. Felice was the father of three sons, MARCO, NICOLO, and MAFFEO. And Nicolo was the Father of our Marco.
Claims to be styled noble.]
14. Till quite recently it had never been precisely ascertained whether the immediate family of our Traveller belonged to the Nobles of Venice properly so called, who had seats in the Great Council and were enrolled in the Libro d’Oro. Ramusio indeed styles our Marco Nobile and Magnifico, and Rusticiano, the actual scribe of the Traveller’s recollections, calls him “sajes et noble citaiens de Venece,” but Ramusio’s accuracy and Rusticiano’s precision were scarcely to be depended on. Very recently, however, since the subject has been discussed with accomplished students of the Venice Archives, proofs have been found establishing Marco’s personal claim to nobility, inasmuch as both in judicial decisions and in official resolutions of the Great Council, he is designated Nobilis Vir, a formula which would never have been used in such documents (I am assured) had he not been technically noble.5
Marco the Elder.]
15. Of the three sons of Andrea Polo of S. Felice, Marco seems to have been the eldest, and Maffeo the youngest.6 They were all engaged in commerce, and apparently in a partnership, which to some extent held good even when the two younger had been many years absent in the Far East.7 Marco seems to have been established for a time at Constantinople,8 and also to have had a house (no doubt of business) at Soldaia, in the Crimea, where his son and daughter, Nicolo and Maroca by name, were living in 1280. This year is the date of the Elder Marco’s Will, executed at Venice, and when he was “weighed down by bodily ailment.” Whether he survived for any length of time we do not know.
Nicolo and Maffeo commence their travels.]
16. Nicolo Polo, the second of the Brothers, had two legitimate sons, MARCO, the Author of our Book, born in 1254,9 and MAFFEO, of whose place in the family we shall have a few words to say presently. The story opens, as we have said, in 1260, when we find the two brothers, Nicolo and Maffeo the Elder, at Constantinople. How long they had been absent from Venice we are not distinctly told. Nicolo had left his wife there behind him; Maffeo apparently was a bachelor. In the year named they started on a trading venture to the Crimea, whence a succession of openings and chances, recounted in the Introductory chapters of Marco’s work, carried them far north along the Volga, and thence first to Bokhara, and then to the Court of the Great Kaan Kúblái in the Far East, on or within the borders of CATHAY. That a great and civilized country so called existed in the extremity of Asia had already been reported in Europe by the Friars Plano Carpini (1246) and William Rubruquis (1253), who had not indeed reached its frontiers, but had met with its people at the Court of the Great Kaan in Mongolia; whilst the latter of the two with characteristic acumen had seen that they were identical with the Seres of classic fame.
Their intercourse with Kúblái Kaan.]
17. Kúblái had never before fallen in with European gentlemen. He was delighted with these Venetians, listened with strong interest to all that they had to tell him of the Latin world, and determined to send them back as his ambassadors to the Pope, accompanied by an officer of his own Court. His letters to the Pope, as the Polos represent them, were mainly to desire the despatch of a large body of educated missionaries to convert his people to Christianity. It is not likely that religious motives influenced Kúblái in this, but he probably desired religious aid in softening and civilizing his rude kinsmen of the Steppes, and judged, from what he saw in the Venetians and heard from them, that Europe could afford such aid of a higher quality than the degenerate Oriental Christians with whom he was familiar, or the Tibetan Lamas on whom his patronage eventually devolved when Rome so deplorably failed to meet his advances.
Their return home, and Marco’s appearance on the scene.]
18. The Brothers arrived at Acre in April,10 1269, and found that no Pope existed, for Clement IV. was dead the year before, and no new election had taken place. So they went home to Venice to see how things stood there after their absence of so many years.
The wife of Nicolo was no longer among the living, but he found his son Marco a fine lad of fifteen.
The best and most authentic MSS. tell us no more than this. But one class of copies, consisting of the Latin version made by our Traveller’s contemporary, Francesco Pipino, and of the numerous editions based indirectly upon it, represents that Nicolo had left Venice when Marco was as yet unborn, and consequently had never seen him till his return from the East in 1269.11
We have mentioned that Nicolo Polo had another legitimate son, by name Maffeo, and him we infer to have been younger than Marco, because he is named last (Marcus et Matheus) in the Testament of their uncle Marco the Elder. We do not know if they were by the same mother. They could not have been so if we are right in supposing Maffeo to have been the younger, and if Pipino’s version of the history be genuine. If however we reject the latter, as I incline to do, no ground remains for supposing that Nicolo went to the East much before we find him there viz., in 1260, and Maffeo may have been born of the same mother during the interval between 1254 and 1260. If on the other hand Pipino’s version be held to, we must suppose that Maffeo (who is named by his uncle in 1280, during his father’s second absence in the East) was born of a marriage contracted during Nicolo’s residence at home after his first journey, a residence which lasted from 1269 to 1271.12
Illustration: The Piazzetta at Venice. (From the Bodleian MS. of Polo.)
Second Journey of the Polo Brothers, accompanied by Marco.]
19. The Papal interregnum was the longest known, at least since the dark ages. Those two years passed, and yet the Cardinals at Viterbo had come to no agreement. The brothers were unwilling to let the Great Kaan think them faithless, and perhaps they hankered after the virgin field of speculation that they had discovered; so they started again for the East, taking young Mark with them. At Acre they took counsel with an eminent churchman, TEDALDO (or Tebaldo) VISCONTI, Archdeacon of Liège, whom the Book represents to have been Legate in Syria, and who in any case was a personage of much gravity and influence. From him they got letters to authenticate the causes of the miscarriage of their mission, and started for the further East. But they were still at the port of Ayas on the Gulf of Scanderoon, which was then becoming one of the chief points of arrival and departure for the inland trade of Asia, when they were overtaken by the news that a Pope was at last elected, and that the choice had fallen upon their friend Archdeacon Tedaldo. They immediately returned to Acre, and at last were able to execute the Kaan’s commission, and to obtain a reply. But instead of the hundred able teachers of science and religion whom Kúblái is said to have asked for, the new Pope, Gregory X., could supply but two Dominicans; and these lost heart and drew back when they had barely taken the first step of the journey.
Judging from certain indications we conceive it probable that the three Venetians, whose second start from Acre took place about November 1271, proceeded by Ayas and Sivas, and then by Mardin, Mosul, and Baghdad, to Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, with the view of going on by sea, but that some obstacle arose which compelled them to abandon this project and turn north again from Hormuz.13 They then traversed successively Kerman and Khorasan, Balkh and Badakhshan, whence they ascended the Panja or upper Oxus to the Plateau of Pamir, a route not known to have been since followed by any European traveller except Benedict Goës, till the spirited expedition of Lieutenant John Wood of the Indian Navy in 1838.14 Crossing the Pamir highlands the travellers descended upon Kashgar, whence they proceeded by Yarkand and Khotan, and the vicinity of Lake Lob, and eventually across the Great Gobi Desert to Tangut, the name then applied by Mongols and Persians to territory at the extreme North-west of China, both within and without the Wall. Skirting the northern frontier of China they at last reached the presence of the Kaan, who was at his usual summer retreat at Kai-ping fu, near the base of the Khingan Mountains, and nearly 100 miles north of the Great Wall at Kalgan. If there be no mistake in the time (three years and a half) ascribed to this journey in all the existing texts, the travellers did not reach the Court till about May of 1275.15
Marco’s employment by Kúblái Kaan; and his journeys.]
20. Kúblái received the Venetians with great cordiality, and took kindly to young Mark, who must have been by this time one-and-twenty. The Joenne Bacheler, as the story calls him, applied himself to the acquisition of the languages and written characters in chief use among the multifarious nationalities included in the Kaan’s Court and administration; and Kúblái after a time, seeing his discretion and ability, began to employ him in the public service. M. Pauthier has found a record in the Chinese Annals of the Mongol Dynasty, which states that in the year 1277, a certain POLO was nominated a second-class commissioner or agent attached to the Privy Council, a passage which we are happy to believe to refer to our young traveller.16
His first mission apparently was that which carried him through the provinces of Shan-si, Shen-si, and Sze-ch’wan, and the wild country on the East of Tibet, to the remote province of Yun-nan, called by the Mongols Karájàng, and which had been partially conquered by an army under Kúblái himself in 1253, before his accession to the throne.17 Mark, during his stay at court, had observed the Kaan’s delight in hearing of strange countries, their marvels, manners, and oddities, and had heard his Majesty’s frank expressions of disgust at the stupidity of his commissioners when they could speak of nothing but the official business on which they had been sent. Profiting by these observations, he took care to store his memory or his note-books with all curious facts that were likely to interest Kúblái, and related them with vivacity on his return to Court. This first journey, which led him through a region which is still very nearly a terra incognita, and in which there existed and still exists, among the deep valleys of the Great Rivers flowing down from Eastern Tibet, and in the rugged mountain ranges bordering Yun-nan and Kwei-chau, a vast Ethnological Garden, as it were, of tribes of various race and in every stage of uncivilisation, afforded him an acquaintance with many strange products and eccentric traits of manners, wherewith to delight the Emperor.
Mark rose rapidly in favour, and often served Kúblái again on distant missions, as well as in domestic administration, but we gather few details as to his employments. At one time we know that he held for three years the government of the great city of Yang-chau, though we need not try to magnify this office, as some commentators have done, into the viceroyalty of one of the great provinces of the Empire; on another occasion we find him with his uncle Maffeo, passing a year at Kan-chau in Tangut; again, it would appear, visiting Kara Korum, the old capital of the Kaans in Mongolia; on another occasion in Champa or Southern Cochin China; and again, or perhaps as a part of the last expedition, on a mission to the Indian Seas, when he appears to have visited several of the southern states of India. We are not informed whether his father and uncle shared in such employments;18 and the story of their services rendered to the Kaan in promoting the capture of the city of Siang-yang, by the construction of powerful engines of attack, is too much perplexed by difficulties of chronology to be cited with confidence. Anyhow they were gathering wealth, and after years of exile they began to dread what might follow old Kúblái’s death, and longed to carry their gear and their own grey heads safe home to the Lagoons. The aged Emperor growled refusal to all their hints, and but for a happy chance we should have lost our mediaeval Herodotus.
Circumstances of the Departure of the Polos from the Kaan’s Court.]
21. Arghún Khan of Persia, Kúblái’s great-nephew, had in 1286 lost his favourite wife the Khatun Bulughán; and, mourning her sorely, took steps to fulfil her dying injunction that her place should be filled only by a lady of her own kin, the Mongol Tribe of Bayaut. Ambassadors were despatched to the Court of Kaan-baligh to seek such a bride. The message was courteously received, and the choice fell on the lady Kokáchin, a maiden of 17, “moult bele dame et avenant.” The overland road from Peking to Tabriz was not only of portentous length for such a tender charge, but was imperilled by war, so the envoys desired to return by sea. Tartars in general were strangers to all navigation; and the envoys, much taken with the Venetians, and eager to profit by their experience, especially as Marco had just then returned from his Indian mission, begged the Kaan as a favour to send the three Firinghis in their company. He consented with reluctance, but, having done so, fitted the party out nobly for the voyage, charging the Polos with friendly messages for the potentates of Europe, including the King of England. They appear to have sailed from the port of Zayton (as the Westerns called T’swan-chau or Chin-cheu in Fo-kien) in the beginning of 1292. It was an ill-starred voyage, involving long detentions on the coast of Sumatra, and in the South of India, to which, however, we are indebted for some of the best chapters in the book; and two years or upwards passed before they arrived at their destination in Persia.19 The three hardy Venetians survived all perils, and so did the lady, who had come to look on them with filial regard; but two of the three envoys, and a vast proportion of the suite, had perished by the way.20 Arghún Khan too had been dead even before they quitted China;21 his brother Kaikhátú reigned in his stead; and his son Gházán succeeded to the lady’s hand. We are told by one who knew both the princes well that Arghún was one of the handsomest men of his time, whilst Gházán was, among all his host, one of the most insignificant in appearance. But in other respects the lady’s change was for the better. Gházán had some of the highest qualities of a soldier, a legislator and a king, adorned by many and varied accomplishments; though his reign was too short for the full development of his fame.
They pass by Persia to Venice. Their relations there.]
22. The princess, whose enjoyment of her royalty was brief, wept as she took leave of the kindly and noble Venetians. They went on to Tabriz, and after a long halt there proceeded homewards, reaching Venice, according to all the texts some time in 1295.22
We have related Ramusio’s interesting tradition, like a bit out of the Arabian Nights, of the reception that the Travellers met with from their relations, and of the means that they took to establish their position with those relations, and with Venetian society.23 Of the relations, Marco the Elder had probably been long dead;24 Maffeo the brother of our Marco was alive, and we hear also of a cousin (consanguineus) Felice Polo, and his wife Fiordelisa, without being able to fix their precise position in the family. We know also that Nicolo, who died before the end of the century, left behind him two illegitimate sons, Stefano and Zannino. It is not unlikely that these were born from some connection entered into during the long residence of the Polos in Cathay, though naturally their presence in the travelling company is not commemorated in Marco’s Prologue.25
1 Zurla, I. 42, quoting a MS. entitled Petrus Ciera S. R. E. Card, de Origine Venetorum et de Civitate Venetiarum. Cicogna says he could not find this MS. as it had been carried to England; and then breaks into a diatribe against foreigners who purchase and carry away such treasures, “not to make a serious study of them, but for mere vain-glory . . . or in order to write books contradicting the very MSS. that they have bought, and with that dishonesty and untruth which are so notorious!” (IV. 227.)
2 Campidoglio Veneto of Cappellari (MS. in St. Mark’s Lib.), quoting “the Venetian Annals of Giulio Faroldi.”
3 The Genealogies of Marco Barbaro specify 1033 as the year of the migration to Venice; on what authority does not appear (MS. copy in Museo Civico at Venice).
4 Cappellari, u.s., and Barbaro. In the same century we find (1125, 1195) indications of Polos at Torcello, and of others (1160) at Equileo, and (1179, 1206) Lido Maggiore; in 1154 a Marco Polo of Rialto. Contemporary with these is a family of Polos (1139, 1183, 1193, 1201) at Chioggia (Documents and Lists of Documents from various Archives at Venice).
5 See Appendix C, Nos. 4, 5, and 16. It was supposed that an autograph of Marco as member of the Great Council had been discovered, but this proves to be a mistake, as will be explained further on (see p. 74, note). In those days the demarcation between Patrician and non-Patrician at Venice, where all classes shared in commerce, all were (generally speaking) of one race, and where there were neither castles, domains, nor trains of horsemen, formed no wide gulf. Still it is interesting to establish the verity of the old tradition of Marco’s technical nobility.
6 Marco’s seniority rests only on the assertion of Ramusio, who also calls Maffeo older than Nicolo. But in Marco the Elder’s Will these two are always (3 times) specified as “Nicolaus et Matheus.”
7 This seems implied in the Elder Marco’s Will (1280): “Item de bonis quae me habere contingunt de fraternâ Compagniâ a suprascriptis Nicolao et Matheo Paulo,” etc.
8 In his Will he terms himself “Ego Marcus Polo quondam de Constantinopoli.”
9 There is no real ground for doubt as to this. All the extant MSS. agree in making Marco fifteen years old when his father returned to Venice in 1269.
10 Baldelli and Lazari say that the Bern MS. specifies 30th April; but this is a mistake.
11 Pipino’s version runs: “Invenit Dominus Nicolaus Paulus uxorem suam esse de functam, quae in recessu suo fuit praegnans. Invenitque filium, Marcum nomine, qui jam annos xv. habebat aetatis, qui post discessum ipsius de Venetiis natus fuerat de uxore sua praefatâ.” To this Ramusio adds the further particular that the mother died in giving birth to Mark.
The interpolation is older even than Pipino’s version, for we find in the rude Latin published by the Société de Géographie “quam cum Venetiis primo recessit praegnantem dimiserat.” But the statement is certainly an interpolation, for it does not exist in any of the older texts; nor have we any good reason for believing that it was an authorised interpolation. I suspect it to have been introduced to harmonise with an erroneous date for the commencement of the travels of the two brothers.
Lazari prints: “Messer Nicolò trovò che la sua donna era morta, e n’era rimasto un fanciullo di dodici anni per nome Marco, che il padre non avea veduto mai, perchè non era ancor nato quando egli partì.” These words have no equivalent in the French Texts, but are taken from one of the Italian MSS. in the Magliabecchian Library, and are I suspect also interpolated. The dodici is pure error (see p. 21 infra).
12 The last view is in substance, I find, suggested by Cicogna (ii. 389).
The matter is of some interest, because in the Will of the younger Maffeo, which is extant, he makes a bequest to his uncle (Avunculus) Jordan Trevisan. This seems an indication that his mother’s name may have been Trevisan. The same Maffeo had a daughter Fiordelisa. And Marco the Elder, in his Will (1280), appoints as his executors, during the absence of his brothers, the same Jordan Trevisan and his own sister-inlaw Fiordelisa (“Jordanum Trivisanum de confinio S. Antonini: et Flordelisam cognatam meam”). Hence I conjecture that this cognata Fiordelisa (Trevisan?) was the wife of the absent Nicolo, and the mother of Maffeo. In that case of course Maffeo and Marco were the sons of different mothers. With reference to the above suggestion of Nicolo’s second marriage in 1269 there is a curious variation in a fragmentary Venetian Polo in the Barberini Library at Rome. It runs, in the passage corresponding to the latter part of ch. ix. of Prologue: “i qual do fratelli steteno do anni in Veniezia aspettando la elletion de nuovo Papa, nel qual tempo Mess. Nicolo si tolse moier et si la lasò graveda.” I believe, however, that it is only a careless misrendering of Pipino’s statement about Marco’s birth.
13 [Major Sykes, in his remarkable book on Persia, ch. xxiii. pp. does not share Sir Henry Yule’s opinion regarding this itinerary, and he writes:
“To return to our travellers, who started on their second great journey in 1271, Sir Henry Yule, in his introduction,[A] makes them travel via Sivas to Mosul and Baghdád, and thence by sea to Hormuz, and this is the itinerary shown on his sketch map. This view I am unwilling to accept for more than one reason. In the first place, if, with Colonel Yule, we suppose that Ser Marco visited Baghdád, is it not unlikely that he should term the River Volga the Tigris,[B] and yet leave the river of Baghdád nameless? It may be urged that Marco believed the legend of the reappearance of the Volga in Kurdistán, but yet, if the text be read with care and the character of the traveller be taken into account, this error is scarcely explicable in any other way, than that he was never there.
“Again, he gives no description of the striking buildings of Baudas, as he terms it, but this is nothing to the inaccuracy of his supposed onward journey. To quote the text, ‘A very great river flows through the city, . . . and merchants descend some eighteen days from Baudas, and then come to a certain city called Kisi,[C] where they enter the Sea of India.’ Surely Marco, had he travelled down the Persian Gulf, would never have given this description of the route, which is so untrue as to point to the conclusion that it was vague information given by some merchant whom he met in the course of his wanderings.
“Finally, apart from the fact that Baghdád, since its fall, was rather off the main caravan route, Marco so evidently travels east from Yezd and thence south to Hormuz, that unless his journey be described backwards, which is highly improbable, it is only possible to arrive at one conclusion, namely, that the Venetians entered Persia near Tabriz, and travelled to Sultania, Kashán, and Yezd. Thence they proceeded to Kermán and Hormuz, where, probably fearing the sea voyage, owing to the manifest unseaworthiness of the ships, which he describes as ‘wretched affairs,’ the Khorasán route was finally adopted. Hormuz, in this case, was not visited again until the return from China, when it seems probable that the same route was retraced to Tabriz, where their charge, the Lady Kokachin, ‘moult bele dame et avenant,’ was married to Gházan Khán, the son of her fiancé Arghun. It remains to add that Sir Henry Yule may have finally accepted this view in part, as in the plate showing Probable View of Marco Polo’s own Geography,[D] the itinerary is not shown as running to Baghdád.”
I may be allowed to answer that when Marco Polo started for the East, Baghdád was not rather off the main caravan route. The fall of Baghdád was not immediately followed by its decay, and we have proof of its prosperity at the beginning of the 14th century. Tauris had not yet the importance it had reached when the Polos visited it on their return journey. We have the will of the Venetian Pietro Viglioni, dated from Tauris, 10th December, 1264 (Archiv. Veneto, xxvi. 161–165), which shows that he was but a pioneer. It was only under Arghún Khan (1284–1291) that Tauris became the great market for foreign, especially Genoese, merchants, as Marco Polo remarks on his return journey; with Gházán and the new city built by that prince, Tauris reached a very high degree of prosperity, and was then really the chief emporium on the route from Europe to Persia and the far East. Sir Henry Yule had not changed his views, and if in the plate showing Probable View of Marco Polo’s own Geography, the itinerary is not shown as running to Baghdád, it is mere neglect on the part of the draughtsman. — H. C.]
[A] Page 19.
[B] Vide Yule, vol. i. p. 5. It is noticeable that John of Pian de Carpine, who travelled 1245 to 1247, names it correctly.
[C] The modern name is Keis, an island lying off Linga.
[D] Vol. i. p. 110 (Introduction).
14 It is stated by Neumann that this most estimable traveller once intended to have devoted a special work to the elucidation of Marco’s chapters on the Oxus Provinces, and it is much to be regretted that this intention was never fulfilled. Pamir has been explored more extensively and deliberately, whilst this book was going through the press, by Colonel Gordon, and other officers, detached from Sir Douglas Forsyth’s Mission. [We have made use of the information given by these officers and by more recent travellers. — H. C.]
15 Half a year earlier, if we suppose the three years and a half to count from Venice rather than Acre. But at that season (November) Kúblái would not have been at Kai-ping fu (otherwise Shang-tu).
16 Pauthier, p. ix., and p. 361.
17 That this was Marco’s first mission is positively stated in the Ramusian edition; and though this may be only an editor’s gloss it seems well-founded. The French texts say only that the Great Kaan, “l’envoia en un message en une terre ou bien avoit vj. mois de chemin.” The traveller’s actual Itinerary affords to Vochan (Yung-ch’ang), on the frontier of Burma, 147 days’ journey, which with halts might well be reckoned six months in round estimate. And we are enabled by various circumstances to fix the date of the Yun-nan journey between 1277 and 1280. The former limit is determined by Polo’s account of the battle with the Burmese, near Vochan, which took place according to the Chinese Annals in 1277. The latter is fixed by his mention of Kúblái’s son, Mangalai, as governing at Kenjanfu (Si-ngan fu), a prince who died in 1280. (See vol. ii. pp. 24, 31, also 64, 80.)
18 Excepting in the doubtful case of Kan-chau, where one reading says that the three Polos were there on business of their own not necessary to mention, and another, that only Maffeo and Marco were there, “en légation.”
19 Persian history seems to fix the arrival of the lady Kokáchin in the North of Persia to the winter of 1293–1294. The voyage to Sumatra occupied three months (vol. i. p. 34); they were five months detained there (ii. 292); and the remainder of the voyage extended to eighteen more (i. 35) — twenty-six months in all.
The data are too slight for unexceptional precision, but the following adjustment will fairly meet the facts. Say that they sailed from Fo-kien in January 1292. In April they would be in Sumatra, and find the S.W. Monsoon too near to admit of their crossing the Bay of Bengal. They remain in port till September (five months), and then proceed, touching (perhaps) at Ceylon, at Kayal, and at several ports of Western India. In one of these, e.g. Kayal or Tana, they pass the S.W. Monsoon of 1293, and then proceed to the Gulf. They reach Hormuz in the winter, and the camp of the Persian Prince Gházán, the son of Arghún, in March, twenty-six months from their departure.
I have been unable to trace Hammer’s authority (not Wassáf I find), which perhaps gives the precise date of the Lady’s arrival in Persia (see infra, p. 38). From his narrative, however (Gesch. der Ilchane, ii. 20), March 1294 is perhaps too late a date. But the five months’ stoppage in Sumatra must have been in the S.W. Monsoon; and if the arrival in Persia is put earlier, Polo’s numbers can scarcely be held to. Or, the eighteen months mentioned at vol. i. p. 35, must include the five months’ stoppage. We may then suppose that they reached Hormuz about November 1293, and Gházán’s camp a month or two later.
20 The French text which forms the basis of my translation says that, excluding mariners, there were 600 souls, out of whom only 8 survived. The older MS. which I quote as G. T., makes the number 18, a fact that I had overlooked till the sheets were printed off.
21 Died 12th March, 1291.
22 All dates are found so corrupt that even in this one I do not feel absolute confidence. Marco in dictating the book is aware that Gházán had attained the throne of Persia (see vol. i. p. 36, and ii. pp. 50 and 477), an event which did not occur till October, 1295. The date assigned to it, however, by Marco (ii. 477) is 1294, or the year before that assigned to the return home.
The travellers may have stopped some time at Constantinople on their way, or even may have visited the northern shores of the Black Sea; otherwise, indeed, how did Marco acquire his knowledge of that Sea (ii. 486–488) and of events in Kipchak (ii. 496 seqq.)? If 1296 was the date of return, moreover, the six-and-twenty years assigned in the preamble as the period of Marco’s absence (p. 2) would be nearer accuracy. For he left Venice in the spring or summer of 1271.
23 Marco Barbaro, in his account of the Polo family, tells what seems to be the same tradition in a different and more mythical version:—
“From ear to ear the story has past till it reached mine, that when the three Kinsmen arrived at their home they were dressed in the most shabby and sordid manner, insomuch that the wife of one of them gave away to a beggar that came to the door one of those garments of his, all torn, patched, and dirty as it was. The next day he asked his wife for that mantle of his, in order to put away the jewels that were sewn up in it; but she told him she had given it away to a poor man, whom she did not know. Now, the stratagem he employed to recover it was this. He went to the Bridge of Rialto, and stood there turning a wheel, to no apparent purpose, but as if he were a madman, and to all those who crowded round to see what prank was this, and asked him why he did it, he answered: ‘He’ll come if God pleases.’ So after two or three days he recognised his old coat on the back of one of those who came to stare at his mad proceedings, and got it back again. Then, indeed, he was judged to be quite the reverse of a madman! And from those jewels he built in the contrada of S. Giovanni Grisostomo a very fine palace for those days; and the family got among the vulgar the name of the Ca’ Million, because the report was that they had jewels to the value of a million of ducats; and the palace has kept that name to the present day — viz., 1566.” (Genealogies, MS. copy in Museo Civico; quoted also by Baldelli Boni, Vita, p. xxxi.)
24 The Will of the Elder Marco, to which we have several times referred, is dated at Rialto 5th August, 1280.
The testator describes himself as formerly of Constantinople, but now dwelling in the confine of S. Severo.
His brothers Nicolo and Maffeo, if at Venice, are to be his sole trustees and executors, but in case of their continued absence he nominates Jordano Trevisano, and his sister-inlaw Fiordelisa of the confine of S. Severo.
The proper tithe to be paid. All his clothes and furniture to be sold, and from the proceeds his funeral to be defrayed, and the balance to purchase masses for his soul at the discretion of his trustees.
Particulars of money due to him from his partnership with Donato Grasso, now of Justinople (Capo d’Istria), 1200 lire in all. (Fifty-two lire due by said partnership to Angelo di Tumba of S. Severo.)
The above money bequeathed to his son Nicolo, living at Soldachia, or failing him, to his beloved brothers Nicolo and Maffeo. Failing them, to the sons of his said brothers (sic) Marco and Maffeo. Failing them, to be spent for the good of his soul at the discretion of his trustees.
To his son Nicolo he bequeaths a silver-wrought girdle of vermilion silk, two silver spoons, a silver cup without cover (or saucer? sine cembalo), his desk, two pairs of sheets, a velvet quilt, a counterpane, a feather-bed — all on the same conditions as above, and to remain with the trustees till his son returns to Venice.
Meanwhile the trustees are to invest the money at his son’s risk and benefit, but only here in Venice (investiant seu investire, faciant).
From the proceeds to come in from his partnership with his brothers Nicolo and Maffeo, he bequeaths 200 lire to his daughter Maroca.
From same source 100 lire to his natural son Antony.
Has in his desk (capsella) two hyperperae (Byzantine gold coins), and three golden florins, which he bequeaths to the sister-inlaw Fiordelisa.
Gives freedom to all his slaves and handmaidens.
Leaves his house in Soldachia to the Minor Friars of that place, reserving life-occupancy to his son Nicolo and daughter Maroca.
The rest of his goods to his son Nicolo.
25 The terms in which the younger Maffeo mentions these half-brothers in his Will (1300) seem to indicate that they were still young.
Illustration: Corte del Milione, Venice.
Illustration: Malibran Theatre Venice
Probable period of their establishment at S. Giovanni Grisostomo.]
23. We have seen that Ramusio places the scene of the story recently alluded to at the mansion in the parish of S. Giovanni Grisostomo, the court of which was known in his time as the Corte del Millioni; and indeed he speaks of the Travellers as at once on their arrival resorting to that mansion as their family residence. Ramusio’s details have so often proved erroneous that I should not be surprised if this also should be a mistake. At least we find (so far as I can learn) no previous intimation that the family were connected with that locality. The grandfather Andrea is styled of San Felice. The will of Maffeo Polo the younger, made in 1300, which we shall give hereafter in abstract, appears to be the first document that connects the family with S. Giovanni Grisostomo. It indeed styles the testator’s father “the late Nicolo Paulo of the confine of St. John Chrysostom,” but that only shows what is not disputed, that the Travellers after their return from the East settled in this locality. And the same will appears to indicate a surviving connexion with S. Felice, for the priests and clerks who drew it up and witness it are all of the church of S. Felice, and it is to the parson of S. Felice and his successor that Maffeo bequeaths an annuity to procure their prayers for the souls of his father, his mother, and himself, through after the successor the annuity is to pass on the same condition to the senior priest of S. Giovanni Grisostomo. Marco Polo the Elder is in his will described as of S. Severo, as is also his sister-inlaw Fiordelisa, and the document contains no reference to S. Giovanni. On the whole therefore it seems probable that the Palazzo in the latter parish was purchased by the Travellers after their return from the East.1
Relic of the Casa Polo in the Corte Sabbionera.]
24. The Court which was known in the 16th century as the Corte del Millioni has been generally understood to be that now known as the Corte Sabbionera, and here is still pointed out a relic of Marco Polo’s mansion. [Indeed it is called now (1899) Corte del Milione; see p. 30. — H. C.]
M. Pauthier’s edition is embellished with a good engraving which purports to represent the House of Marco Polo. But he has been misled. His engraving in fact exhibits, at least as the prominent feature, an embellished representation of a small house which exists on the west side of the Sabbionera, and which had at one time perhaps that pointed style of architecture which his engraving shows, though its present decoration is paltry and unreal. But it is on the north side of the Court, and on the foundations now occupied by the Malibran theatre, that Venetian tradition and the investigations of Venetian antiquaries concur in indicating the site of the Casa Polo. At the end of the 16th century a great fire destroyed the Palazzo,2 and under the description of “an old mansion ruined from the foundation” it passed into the hands of one Stefano Vecchia, who sold it in 1678 to Giovanni Carlo Grimani. He built on the site of the ruins a theatre which was in its day one of the largest in Italy, and was called the Theatre of S. Giovanni Grisostomo; afterwards the Teatro Emeronitio. When modernized in our own day the proprietors gave it the name of Malibran, in honour of that famous singer, and this it still bears.3
[In 1881, the year of the Venice International Geographical Congress, a Tablet was put up on the Theatre with the following inscription:—
QVI FURONO LE CASE
CHE VIAGGIÒ LE PIÙ LONTANE REGIONI DELL’ ASIA E LE DESCRISSE
PER DECRETO DEL COMUNE
There is still to be seen on the north side of the Court an arched doorway in Italo–Byzantine style, richly sculptured with scrolls, disks, and symbolical animals, and on the wall above the doorway is a cross similarly ornamented.4 The style and the decorations are those which were usual in Venice in the 13th century. The arch opens into a passage from which a similar doorway at the other end, also retaining some scantier relics of decoration, leads to the entrance of the Malibran Theatre. Over the archway in the Corte Sabbionera the building rises into a kind of tower. This, as well as the sculptured arches and cross, Signor Casoni, who gave a good deal of consideration to the subject, believed to be a relic of the old Polo House. But the tower (which Pauthier’s view does show) is now entirely modernized.5
Illustration: The site of the CA’ POLO. Fig. A. From the Diner Map A. D. 1500. Fig. B. From Map by Ludovico Ughi A.D. 1729 Scale 1 to 2500. Fig. C. From Recent Map. Scale 1 to 1315.
Other remains of Byzantine sculpture, which are probably fragments of the decoration of the same mansion, are found imbedded in the walls of neighbouring houses.6 It is impossible to determine anything further as to the form or extent of the house of the time of the Polos, but some slight idea of its appearance about the year 1500 may be seen in the extract (fig. A) which we give from the famous pictorial map of Venice attributed erroneously to Albert Dürer. The state of the buildings in the last century is shown in (fig. B) an extract from the fine Map of Ughi; and their present condition in one (fig. C) reduced from the Modern Official Map of the Municipality.
[Coming from the Church of S. G. Grisostomo to enter the calle del Teatro on the left and the passage (Sottoportico) leading to the Corte del Milione, one has in front of him a building with a door of the epoch of the Renaissance; it was the office of the provveditori of silk; on the architrave are engraved the words:
and below, above the door, is the Tablet which] in the year 1827 the Abate Zenier caused to be put up with this inscription:—
AEDES PROXIMA THALIAE CVLTVI MODO ADDICTA MARCI POLO P. V. ITINERVM FAMA PRAECLARI
JAM HABITATIO FVIT.
Illustration: Entrance to the Corte del Milione Venice
Recent corroboration as to the traditional site of the Casa Polo.]
24a. I believe that of late years some doubts have been thrown on the tradition of the site indicated as that of the Casa Polo, though I am not aware of the grounds of such doubts. But a document recently discovered at Venice by Comm. Barozzi, one of a series relating to the testamentary estate of Marco Polo, goes far to confirm the tradition. This is the copy of a technical definition of two pieces of house property adjoining the property of Marco Polo and his brother Stephen, which were sold to Marco Polo by his wife Donata7 in June 1321. Though the definition is not decisive, from the rarity of topographical references and absence of points of the compass, the description of Donata’s tenements as standing on the Rio (presumably that of S. Giovanni Grisostomo) on one side, opening by certain porticoes and stairs on the other to the Court and common alley leading to the Church of S. Giovanni Grisostomo, and abutting in two places on the Ca’ Polo, the property of her husband and Stefano, will apply perfectly to a building occupying the western portion of the area on which now stands the Theatre, and perhaps forming the western side of a Court of which Casa Polo formed the other three sides.8
We know nothing more of Polo till we find him appearing a year or two later in rapid succession as the Captain of a Venetian Galley, as a prisoner of war, and as an author.
1 Marco Barbaro’s story related at p. 25 speaks of the Ca’ Million as built by the travellers.
From a list of parchments existing in the archives of the Casa di Ricovero, or Great Poor House, at Venice, Comm. Berchet obtained the following indication:—
“No. 94. Marco Galetti invests Marco Polo S. of Nicolo with the ownership of his possessions (beni) in S. Giovanni Grisostomo; 10 September, 1319; drawn up by the Notary Nicolo, priest of S. Canciano.”
This document would perhaps have thrown light on the matter, but unfortunately recent search by several parties has failed to trace it. [The document has been discovered since: see vol. ii., Calendar, No. 6. — H. C.]
2 —“Sua casa che era posta nel confin di S. Giovanni Chrisostomo, che hor fà l’anno s’abbrugiò totalmente, con gran danno di molti.” (Doglioní, Hist. Venetiana, Ven. 1598, pp. 161–162.)
“1596. 7 Nov. Senato (Arsenal . . . ix c. 159 t).
“Essendo conveniente usar qualche ricognizione a quelli della maestranza del-l’Arsenal nostro, che prontamente sono concorsi all’ incendio occorso ultimamente a S. Zuane Grizostomo nelli stabeli detti di CA’ MILION dove per la relazion fatta nell collegio nostro dalli patroni di esso Arsenal hanno nell’ estinguere il foco prestato ogni buon servitio. . . . ”—(Comm. by Cav. Cecchetti through Comm. Berchet.)
3 See a paper by G. C. (the Engineer Giovanni Casoni) in Teatro Emeronitio Almanacco par l’Anno 1835.
4 This Cross is engraved by Mr. Ruskin in vol. ii. of the Stones of Venice: see p. 139, and Pl. xi. Fig. 4.
5 Casoni’s only doubt was whether the Corte del Millioni was what is now the Sabbionera, or the interior area of the theatre. The latter seems most probable.
One Illustration of this volume, p. 1, shows the archway in the Corte Sabbionera, and also the decorations of the soffit.
6 See Ruskin, iii. 320.
7 Comm. Barozzi writes: “Among us, contracts between husband and wife are and were very common, and recognized by law. The wife sells to the husband property not included in dowry, or that she may have inherited, just as any third person might.”
8 See Appendix C, No. 16.
Arrangement of the Rowers in Mediaeval Galleys: a separate oar to every man.]
25. And before entering on this new phase of the Traveller’s biography it may not be without interest that we say something regarding the equipment of those galleys which are so prominent in the mediaeval history of the Mediterranean.1
Eschewing that “Serbonian Bog, where armies whole have sunk” of Books and Commentators, the theory of the classification of the Biremes and Triremes of the Ancients, we can at least assert on secure grounds that in mediaeval armament, up to the middle of the 16th century or thereabouts, the characteristic distinction of galleys of different calibres, so far as such differences existed, was based on the number of rowers that sat on one bench pulling each his separate oar, but through one portella or rowlock-port.2 And to the classes of galleys so distinguished the Italians, of the later Middle Age at least, did certainly apply, rightly or wrongly, the classical terms of Bireme, Trireme, and Quinquereme, in the sense of galleys having two men and two oars to a bench, three men and three oars to a bench, and five men and five oars to a bench.3
That this was the mediaeval arrangement is very certain from the details afforded by Marino Sanudo the Elder, confirmed by later writers and by works of art. Previous to 1290, Sanudo tells us, almost all the galleys that went to the Levant had but two oars and men to a bench; but as it had been found that three oars and men to a bench could be employed with great advantage, after that date nearly all galleys adopted this arrangement, which was called ai Terzaruoli.4
Moreover experiments made by the Venetians in 1316 had shown that four rowers to a bench could be employed still more advantageously. And where the galleys could be used on inland waters, and could be made more bulky, Sanudo would even recommend five to a bench, or have gangs of rowers on two decks with either three or four men to the bench on each deck.
Change of System in the 16th century.]
26. This system of grouping the oars, and putting only one man to an oar, continued down to the 16th century, during the first half of which came in the more modern system of using great oars, equally spaced, and requiring from four to seven men each to ply them, in the manner which endured till late in the last century, when galleys became altogether obsolete. Captain Pantero Pantera, the author of a work on Naval Tactics (1616), says he had heard, from veterans who had commanded galleys equipped in the antiquated fashion, that three men to a bench, with separate oars, answered better than three men to one great oar, but four men to one great oar (he says) were certainly more efficient than four men with separate oars. The new-fashioned great oars, he tells us, were styled Remi di Scaloccio, the old grouped oars Remi a Zenzile — terms the etymology of which I cannot explain.5
It may be doubted whether the four-banked and five-banked galleys, of which Marino Sanudo speaks, really then came into practical use. A great five-banked galley on this system, built in 1529 in the Venice Arsenal by Vettor Fausto, was the subject of so much talk and excitement, that it must evidently have been something quite new and unheard of.6 So late as 1567 indeed the King of Spain built at Barcelona a galley of thirty-six benches to the side, and seven men to the bench, with a separate oar to each in the old fashion. But it proved a failure.7
Down to the introduction of the great oars the usual system appears to have been three oars to a bench for the larger galleys, and two oars for lighter ones. The fuste or lighter galleys of the Venetians, even to about the middle of the 16th century, had their oars in pairs from the stern to the mast, and single oars only from the mast forward.8
Some details of the 13th century Galleys.]
27. Returning then to the three-banked and two-banked galleys of the latter part of the 13th century, the number of benches on each side seems to have run from twenty-five to twenty-eight, at least as I interpret Sanudo’s calculations. The 100-oared vessels often mentioned (e.g. by Muntaner, p. 419) were probably two-banked vessels with twenty-five benches to a side.
The galleys were very narrow, only 15–1/2 feet in beam.9 But to give room for the play of the oars and the passage of the fighting-men, &c., this width was largely augmented by an opera-morta, or outrigger deck, projecting much beyond the ship’s sides and supported by timber brackets.10 I do not find it stated how great this projection was in the mediaeval galleys, but in those of the 17th century it was on each side as much as 2/9ths of the true beam. And if it was as great in the 13th-century galleys the total width between the false gunnels would be about 22–1/4 feet.
In the centre line of the deck ran, the whole length of the vessel, a raised gangway called the corsia, for passage clear of the oars.
The benches were arranged as in this diagram. The part of the bench next the gunnel was at right angles to it, but the other two-thirds of the bench were thrown forward obliquely, a, b, c, indicate the position of the three rowers. The shortest oar a was called Terlicchio, the middle one b Posticcio, the long oar c Piamero.11
Illustration: Galley–Fight, from a Mediaeval Fresco at Siena. (See p. 36)
I do not find any information as to how the oars worked on the gunnels. The Siena fresco (see p. 35) appears to show them attached by loops and pins, which is the usual practice in boats of the Mediterranean now. In the cut from D. Tintoretto (p. 37) the groups of oars protrude through regular ports in the bulwarks, but this probably represents the use of a later day. In any case the oars of each bench must have worked in very close proximity. Sanudo states the length of the galleys of his time (1300–1320) as 117 feet. This was doubtless length of keel, for that is specified (“da ruoda a ruoda”) in other Venetian measurements, but the whole oar space could scarcely have been so much, and with twenty-eight benches to a side there could not have been more than 4 feet gunnel-space to each bench. And as one of the objects of the grouping of the oars was to allow room between the benches for the action of cross-bowmen, &c., it is plain that the rowlock space for the three oars must have been very much compressed.12
The rowers were divided into three classes, with graduated pay. The highest class, who pulled the poop or stroke oars, were called Portolati; those at the bow, called Prodieri, formed the second class.13
Some elucidation of the arrangements that we have tried to describe will be found in our cuts. That at p. 35 is from a drawing, by the aid of a very imperfect photograph, of part of one of the frescoes of Spinello Aretini in the Municipal Palace at Siena, representing a victory of the Venetians over the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa’s fleet, commanded by his son Otho, in 1176; but no doubt the galleys, &c., are of the artist’s own age, the middle of the 14th century.14 In this we see plainly the projecting opera-morta, and the rowers sitting two to a bench, each with his oar, for these are two-banked. We can also discern the Latin rudder on the quarter. (See this volume, p. 119.) In a picture in the Uffizj, at Florence, of about the same date, by Pietro Laurato (it is in the corridor near the entrance), may be seen a small figure of a galley with the oars also very distinctly coupled.15 Casoni has engraved, after Cristoforo Canale, a pictorial plan of a Venetian trireme of the 16th century, which shows the arrangement of the oars in triplets very plainly.
The following cut has been sketched from an engraving of a picture by Domenico Tintoretto in the Doge’s palace, representing, I believe, the same action (real or imaginary) as Spinello’s fresco, but with the costume and construction of a later date. It shows, however, very plainly, the projecting opera-morta and the arrangement of the oars in fours, issuing through row-ports in high bulwarks.
Illustration: Part of a Sea Fight, after Dom. Tintoretto
28. Midships in the mediaeval galley a castle was erected, of the width of the ship, and some 20 feet in length; its platform being elevated sufficiently to allow of free passage under it and over the benches. At the bow was the battery, consisting of mangonels (see vol. ii. p. 161 seqq.) and great cross-bows with winding gear,16 whilst there were shot-ports17 for smaller cross-bows along the gunnels in the intervals between the benches. Some of the larger galleys had openings to admit horses at the stern, which were closed and caulked for the voyage, being under water when the vessel was at sea.18
It seems to have been a very usual piece of tactics, in attacking as well as in awaiting attack, to connect a large number of galleys by hawsers, and sometimes also to link the oars together, so as to render it difficult for the enemy to break the line or run aboard. We find this practised by the Genoese on the defensive at the battle of Ayas (infra, p. 43), and it is constantly resorted to by the Catalans in the battles described by Ramon de Muntaner.19
Sanudo says the toil of rowing in the galleys was excessive, almost unendurable. Yet it seems to have been performed by freely-enlisted men, and therefore it was probably less severe than that of the great-oared galleys of more recent times, which it was found impracticable to work by free enlistment, or otherwise than by slaves under the most cruel driving.20 I am not well enough read to say that war-galleys were never rowed by slaves in the Middle Ages, but the only doubtful allusion to such a class that I have met with is in one passage of Muntaner, where he says, describing the Neapolitan and Catalan fleets drawing together for action, that the gangs of the galleys had to toil like “forçats” (p. 313). Indeed, as regards Venice at least, convict rowers are stated to have been first introduced in 1549, previous to which the gangs were of galeotti assoldati.21
Crew of a Galley and Staff of a Fleet.]
29. We have already mentioned that Sanudo requires for his three-banked galley a ship’s company of 250 men. They are distributed as follows:—
|Comito or Master||1|
|In charge of stores and arms||4|
This does not include the Sopracomito, or Gentleman–Commander, who was expected to be valens homo et probus, a soldier and a gentleman, fit to be consulted on occasion by the captain-general. In the Venetian fleet he was generally a noble.23
The aggregate pay of such a crew, not including the sopracomito, amounted monthly to 60 lire de’ grossi, or 600 florins, equivalent to 280l. at modern gold value; and the cost for a year to nearly 3160l., exclusive of the victualling of the vessel and the pay of the gentleman-commander. The build or purchase of a galley complete is estimated by the same author at 15,000 florins, or 7012l.
We see that war cost a good deal in money even then.
Besides the ship’s own complement Sanudo gives an estimate for the general staff of a fleet of 60 galleys. This consists of a captain-general, two (vice) admirals, and the following:—
6 Probi homines, or gentlemen of character, forming a council to the Captain–General;
4 Commissaries of Stores;
2 Commissaries over the Arms;
5 Master Engineers and Carpenters;
15 Master Smiths;
12 Master Fletchers;
5 Cuirass men and Helmet-makers;
15 Oar-makers and Shaft-makers;
10 Stone cutters for stone shot;
10 Master Arblast-makers;
20 Orderlies, &c.
Music; and other particulars.]
30. The musicians formed an important part of the equipment. Sanudo says that in going into action every vessel should make the greatest possible display of colours; gonfalons and broad banners should float from stem to stern, and gay pennons all along the bulwarks; whilst it was impossible to have too much of noisy music, of pipes, trumpets, kettle-drums, and what not, to put heart into the crew and strike fear into the enemy.24
So Joinville, in a glorious passage, describes the galley of his kinsman, the Count of Jaffa, at the landing of St. Lewis in Egypt:—
“That galley made the most gallant figure of them all, for it was painted all over, above water and below, with scutcheons of the count’s arms, the field of which was or with a cross patée gules.25 He had a good 300 rowers in his galley, and every man of them had a target blazoned with his arms in beaten gold. And, as they came on, the galley looked to be some flying creature, with such spirit did the rowers spin it along; — or rather, with the rustle of its flags, and the roar of its nacaires and drums and Saracen horns, you might have taken it for a rushing bolt of heaven.”26
The galleys, which were very low in the water,27 could not keep the sea in rough weather, and in winter they never willingly kept the sea at night, however fair the weather might be. Yet Sanudo mentions that he had been with armed galleys to Sluys in Flanders.
I will mention two more particulars before concluding this digression. When captured galleys were towed into port it was stern foremost, and with their colours dragging on the surface of the sea.28 And the custom of saluting at sunset (probably by music) was in vogue on board the galleys of the 13th century.29
We shall now sketch the circumstances that led to the appearance of our Traveller in the command of a war-galley.
1 I regret not to have had access to Jal’s learned memoirs (Archéologie Navale, Paris, 1839) whilst writing this section, nor since, except for a hasty look at his Essay on the difficult subject of the oar arrangements. I see that he rejects so great a number of oars as I deduce from the statements of Sanudo and others, and that he regards a large number of the rowers as supplementary.
2 It seems the more desirable to elucidate this, because writers on mediaeval subjects so accomplished as Buchon and Capmany have (it would seem) entirely misconceived the matter, assuming that all the men on one bench pulled at one oar.
3 See Coronelli, Atlante Veneto, I. 139, 140. Marino Sanudo the Elder, though not using the term trireme, says it was well understood from ancient authors that the Romans employed their rowers three to a bench (p. 59).
4 “Ad terzarolos” (Secreta Fidelium Crucis, p. 57). The Catalan Worthy, Ramon de Muntaner, indeed constantly denounces the practice of manning all the galleys with terzaruoli, or tersols, as his term is. But his reason is that these thirds-men were taken from the oar when crossbowmen were wanted, to act in that capacity, and as such they were good for nothing; the crossbowmen, he insists, should be men specially enlisted for that service and kept to that. He would have some 10 or 20 per cent, only of the fleet built very light and manned in threes. He does not seem to have contemplated oars three-banked, and crossbowmen besides, as Sanudo does. (See below; and Muntaner, pp. 288, 323, 525, etc.)
In Sanudo we have a glimpse worth noting of the word soldiers advancing towards the modern sense; he expresses a strong preference for soldati (viz. paid soldiers) over crusaders (viz. volunteers), p. 74.
5 L’Armata Navale, Roma, 1616, pp. 150–151.
6 See a work to which I am indebted for a good deal of light and information, the Engineer Giovanni Casoni’s Essay: “Dei Navigli Poliremi usati nella Marina dagli Antichi Veneziani,” in “Esercitazioni dell’ Ateneo Veneto,” vol. ii. p. 338. This great Quinquereme, as it was styled, is stated to have been struck by a fire-arrow, and blown up, in January 1570.
7 Pantera, p. 22.
8 Lazarus Bayfius de Re Navali Veterum, in Gronovii Thesaurus, Ven. 1737, vol. xi. p. 581. This writer also speaks of the Quinquereme mentioned above (p. 577).
9 Marinus Sanutius, p. 65.
10 See the woodcuts opposite and at p. 37; also Pantera, p. 46 (who is here, however, speaking of the great-oared galleys), and Coronelli, i. 140.
11 Casoni, p. 324. He obtains these particulars from a manuscript work of the 16th century by Cristoforo Canale.
12 Signor Casoni (p. 324) expresses his belief that no galley of the 14th century had more than 100 oars. I differ from him with hesitation, and still more as I find M. Jal agrees in this view. I will state the grounds on which I came to a different conclusion. (1) Marino Sanudo assigns 180 rowers for a galley equipped ai Terzaruoli (p. 75). This seemed to imply something near 180 oars, for I do not find any allusion to reliefs being provided. In the French galleys of the 18th century there were no reliefs except in this way, that in long runs without urgency only half the oars were pulled. (See Mém. d’un Protestant condamné aux Galères, etc., Réimprimés, Paris, 1865, p. 447.) If four men to a bench were to be employed, then Sanudo seems to calculate for his smaller galleys 220 men actually rowing (see pp. 75–78). This seems to assume 55 benches, i.e., 28 on one side and 27 on the other, which with 3-banked oars would give 165 rowers. (2) Casoni himself refers to Pietro Martire d’Anghieria’s account of a Great Galley of Venice in which he was sent ambassador to Egypt from the Spanish Court in 1503. The crew amounted to 200, of whom 150 were for working the sails and oars, that being the number of oars in each galley, one man to each oar and three to each bench. Casoni assumes that this vessel must have been much larger than the galleys of the 14th century; but, however that may have been, Sanudo to his galley assigns the larger crew of 250, of whom almost exactly the same proportion (180) were rowers. And in he galeazza described by Pietro Martire the oars were used only as an occasional auxiliary. (See his Legationis Babylonicae Libri Tres, appended to his 3 Decads concerning the New World; Basil. 1533, f. 77 ver.) (3) The galleys of the 18th century, with their great oars 50 feet long pulled by six or seven men each, had 25 benches to the side, and only 4’ 6” (French) gunnel-space to each oar. (See Mém. d’un Protest., p. 434.) I imagine that a smaller space would suffice for the 3 light oars of the mediaeval system, so that this need scarcely be a difficulty in the face of the preceding evidence. Note also the three hundred rowers in Joinville’s description quoted at p. 40. The great galleys of the Malay Sultan of Achin in 1621 had, according to Beaulieu, from 700 to 800 rowers, but I do not know on what system.
13 Marinus Sanutius, p. 78. These titles occur also in the Documenti d’Amore of Fr. Barberino referred to at p. 117 of this volume:—
“Convienti qui manieri
Portolatti e prodieri
E presti galeotti
Aver, e forti e dotti.”
14 Spinello’s works, according to Vasari, extended from 1334 till late in the century. A religious picture of his at Siena is assigned to 1385, so the frescoes may probably be of about the same period. Of the battle represented I can find no record.
15 Engraved in Jal, i. 330; with other mediaeval illustrations of the same points.
16 To these Casoni adds Sifoni for discharging Greek fire; but this he seems to take from the Greek treatise of the Emperor Leo. Though I have introduced Greek fire in the cut at p. 49, I doubt if there is evidence of its use by the Italians in the thirteenth century. Joinville describes it like something strange and new.
In after days the artillery occupied the same position, at the bow of the galley.
Great beams, hung like battering rams, are mentioned by Sanudo, as well as iron crow’s-feet with fire attached, to shoot among the rigging, and jars of quick-lime and soft soap to fling in the eyes of the enemy. The lime is said to have been used by Doria against the Venetians at Curzola (infra, p. 48), and seems to have been a usual provision. Francesco Barberini specifies among the stores for his galley: “Calcina, con lancioni, Pece, pietre, e ronconi” (p. 259.) And Christine de Pisan, in her Faiz du Sage Roy Charles (V. of France), explains also the use of the soap: “Item, on doit avoir pluseurs vaisseaulx legiers à rompre, comme poz plains de chauls ou pouldre, et gecter dedens; et, par ce, seront comme avuglez, au brisier des poz. Item, on doit avoir autres poz de mol savon et gecter es nefzs des adversaires, et quant les vaisseaulx brisent, le savon est glissant, si ne se peuent en piez soustenir et chiéent en l’eaue” (pt. ii. ch. 38).
17 Balislariae, whence no doubt Balistrada and our Balustrade.
Wedgwood’s etymology is far-fetched. And in his new edition (1872), though he has shifted his ground, he has not got nearer the truth.
18 Sanutius, p. 53; Joinville, p. 40; Muntaner, 316, 403.
19 See pp. 270, 288, 324, and especially 346.
20 See the Protestant, cited above, p. 441, et seqq.
21 Venezia e le sue Lagune, ii. 52.
22 Mar. Sanut. p. 75.
23 Mar. Sanut., p. 30.
24 The Catalan Admiral Roger de Loria, advancing at daybreak to attack the Provençal Fleet of Charles of Naples (1283) in the harbour of Malta, “did a thing which should be reckoned to him rather as an act of madness,” says Muntaner, “than of reason. He said, ‘God forbid that I should attack them, all asleep as they are! Let the trumpets and nacaires sound to awaken them, and I will tarry till they be ready for action. No man shall have it to say, if I beat them, that it was by catching them asleep.’” (Munt. p. 287.) It is what Nelson might have done!
The Turkish admiral Sidi ‘Ali, about to engage a Portuguese squadron in the Straits of Hormuz, in 1553, describes the Franks as “dressing their vessels with flags and coming on.” (J. As. ix. 70.)
25 A cross patée, is one with the extremities broadened out into feet as it were.
26 Page 50.
27 The galley at p. 49 is somewhat too high; and I believe it should have had no shrouds.
28 See Muntaner, passim, e.g. 271, 286, 315, 349.
29 Ibid. 346.
Growing jealousies and outbreaks between the Republics.]
31. Jealousies, too characteristic of the Italian communities, were, in the case of the three great trading republics of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, aggravated by commercial rivalries, whilst, between the two first of those states, and also between the two last, the bitterness of such feelings had been augmenting during the whole course of the 13th century.1
The brilliant part played by Venice in the conquest of Constantinople (1204), and the preponderance she thus acquired on the Greek shores, stimulated her arrogance and the resentment of her rivals. The three states no longer stood on a level as bidders for the shifting favour of the Emperor of the East. By treaty, not only was Venice established as the most important ally of the empire and as mistress of a large fraction of its territory, but all members of nations at war with her were prohibited from entering its limits. Though the Genoese colonies continued to exist, they stood at a great disadvantage, where their rivals were so predominant and enjoyed exemption from duties, to which the Genoese remained subject. Hence jealousies and resentments reached a climax in the Levantine settlements, and this colonial exacerbation reacted on the mother States.
A dispute which broke out at Acre in 1255 came to a head in a war which lasted for years, and was felt all over Syria. It began in a quarrel about a very old church called St. Sabba’s, which stood on the common boundary of the Venetian and Genoese estates in Acre,2 and this flame was blown by other unlucky occurrences. Acre suffered grievously.3 Venice at this time generally kept the upper hand, beating Genoa by land and sea, and driving her from Acre altogether. + Four ancient porphyry figures from St. Sabba’s were sent in triumph to Venice, and with their strange devices still stand at the exterior corner of St. Mark’s, towards the Ducal Palace.4
But no number of defeats could extinguish the spirit of Genoa, and the tables were turned when in her wrath she allied herself with Michael Palaeologus to upset the feeble and tottering Latin Dynasty, and with it the preponderance of Venice on the Bosphorus. The new emperor handed over to his allies the castle of their foes, which they tore down with jubilations, and now it was their turn to send its stones as trophies to Genoa. Mutual hate waxed fiercer than ever; no merchant fleet of either state could go to sea without convoy, and wherever their ships met they fought.5 It was something like the state of things between Spain and England in the days of Drake.
Illustration: Figures from St. Sabba’s, sent to Venice.
The energy and capacity of the Genoese seemed to rise with their success, and both in seamanship and in splendour they began almost to surpass their old rivals. The fall of Acre (1291), and the total expulsion of the Franks from Syria, in great measure barred the southern routes of Indian trade, whilst the predominance of Genoa in the Euxine more or less obstructed the free access of her rival to the northern routes by Trebizond and Tana.
Battle in Bay of Ayas in 1294.]
32. Truces were made and renewed, but the old fire still smouldered. In the spring of 1294 it broke into flame, in consequence of the seizure in the Grecian seas of three Genoese vessels by a Venetian fleet. This led to an action with a Genoese convoy which sought redress. The fight took place off Ayas in the Gulf of Scanderoon,6 and though the Genoese were inferior in strength by one-third they gained a signal victory, capturing all but three of the Venetian galleys, with rich cargoes, including that of Marco Basilio (or Basegio), the commodore.
This victory over their haughty foe was in its completeness evidently a surprise to the Genoese, as well as a source of immense exultation, which is vigorously expressed in a ballad of the day, written in a stirring salt-water rhythm.7 It represents the Venetians, as they enter the bay, in arrogant mirth reviling the Genoese with very unsavoury epithets as having deserted their ships to skulk on shore. They are described as saying:—
“‘Off they’ve slunk! and left us nothing;
We shall get nor prize nor praise;
Nothing save those crazy timbers
Only fit to make a blaze.’”
So they advance carelessly —
“On they come! But lo their blunder!
When our lads start up anon,
Breaking out like unchained lions,
With a roar, ‘Fall on! Fall on!’"8
After relating the battle and the thoroughness of the victory, ending in the conflagration of five-and-twenty captured galleys, the poet concludes by an admonition to the enemy to moderate his pride and curb his arrogant tongue, harping on the obnoxious epithet porci leproxi, which seems to have galled the Genoese.9 He concludes:—
“Nor can I at all remember
Ever to have heard the story
Of a fight wherein the Victors
Reaped so rich a meed of glory!”10
The community of Genoa decreed that the victory should be commemorated by the annual presentation of a golden pall to the monastery of St. German’s, the saint on whose feast (28th May) it had been won.11
The startling news was received at Venice with wrath and grief, for the flower of their navy had perished, and all energies were bent at once to raise an overwhelming force.12 The Pope (Boniface VIII.) interfered as arbiter, calling for plenipotentiaries from both sides. But spirits were too much inflamed, and this mediation came to nought.
Further outrages on both sides occurred in 1296. The Genoese residences at Pera were fired, their great alum works on the coast of Anatolia were devastated, and Caffa was stormed and sacked; whilst on the other hand a number of the Venetians at Constantinople were massacred by the Genoese, and Marco Bembo, their Bailo, was flung from a house-top. Amid such events the fire of enmity between the cities waxed hotter and hotter.
Lamba Doria’s Expedition to the Adriatic.]
33. In 1298 the Genoese made elaborate preparations for a great blow at the enemy, and fitted out a powerful fleet which they placed under the command of LAMBA DORIA, a younger brother of Uberto of that illustrious house, under whom he had served fourteen years before in the great rout of the Pisans at Meloria.
The rendezvous of the fleet was in the Gulf of Spezia, as we learn from the same pithy Genoese poet who celebrated Ayas. This time the Genoese were bent on bearding St. Mark’s Lion in his own den; and after touching at Messina they steered straight for the Adriatic:—
“Now, as astern Otranto bears,
Pull with a will! and, please the Lord,
Let them who bragged, with fire and sword,
To waste our homesteads, look to theirs!”13
On their entering the gulf a great storm dispersed the fleet The admiral with twenty of his galleys got into port at Antivari on the Albanian coast, and next day was rejoined by fifty-eight more, with which he scoured the Dalmatian shore, plundering all Venetian property. Some sixteen of his galleys were still missing when he reached the island of Curzola, or Scurzola as the more popular name seems to have been, the Black Corcyra of the Ancients — the chief town of which, a rich and flourishing place, the Genoese took and burned.14 Thus they were engaged when word came that the Venetian fleet was in sight.
Venice, on first hearing of the Genoese armament, sent Andrea Dandolo with a large force to join and supersede Maffeo Quirini, who was already cruising with a squadron in the Ionian sea; and, on receiving further information of the strength of the hostile expedition, the Signory hastily equipped thirty-two more galleys in Chioggia and the ports of Dalmatia, and despatched them to join Dandolo, making the whole number under his command up to something like ninety-five. Recent drafts had apparently told heavily upon the Venetian sources of enlistment, and it is stated that many of the complements were made up of rustics swept in haste from the Euganean hills. To this the Genoese poet seems to allude, alleging that the Venetians, in spite of their haughty language, had to go begging for men and money up and down Lombardy. “Did we do like that, think you?” he adds:—
“Beat up for aliens? We indeed?
When lacked we homeborn Genoese?
Search all the seas, no salts like these,
For Courage, Seacraft, Wit at need.”15
Of one of the Venetian galleys, probably in the fleet which sailed under Dandolo’s immediate command, went Marco Polo as Sopracomito or Gentleman–Commander.16
The Fleets come in sight of each other at Curzola.]
34. It was on the afternoon of Saturday the 6th September that the Genoese saw the Venetian fleet approaching, but, as sunset was not far off, both sides tacitly agreed to defer the engagement.17
The Genoese would appear to have occupied a position near the eastern end of the Island of Curzola, with the Peninsula of Sabbioncello behind them, and Meleda on their left, whilst the Venetians advanced along the south side of Curzola. (See map on p. 50).
According to Venetian accounts the Genoese were staggered at the sight of the Venetian armaments, and sent more than once to seek terms, offering finally to surrender galleys and munitions of war, if the crews were allowed to depart. This is an improbable story, and that of the Genoese ballad seems more like truth. Doria, it says, held a council of his captains in the evening at which they all voted for attack, whilst the Venetians, with that overweening sense of superiority which at this time is reflected in their own annals as distinctly as in those of their enemies, kept scout-vessels out to watch that the Genoese fleet, which they looked on as already their own, did not steal away in the darkness. A vain imagination, says the poet:—
“Blind error of vainglorious men
To dream that we should seek to flee
After those weary leagues of sea
Crossed, but to hunt them in their den!”18
The Venetians defeated, and Marco Polo a prisoner.]
35. The battle began early on Sunday and lasted till the afternoon. The Venetians had the wind in their favour, but the morning sun in their eyes. They made the attack, and with great impetuosity, capturing ten Genoese galleys; but they pressed on too wildly, and some of their vessels ran aground. One of their galleys too, being taken, was cleared of her crew and turned against the Venetians. These incidents caused confusion among the assailants; the Genoese, who had begun to give way, took fresh heart, formed a close column, and advanced boldly through the Venetian line, already in disorder. The sun had begun to decline when there appeared on the Venetian flank the fifteen or sixteen missing galleys of Doria’s fleet, and fell upon it with fresh force. This decided the action. The Genoese gained a complete victory, capturing all but a few of the Venetian galleys, and including the flagship with Dandolo. The Genoese themselves lost heavily, especially in the early part of the action, and Lamba Doria’s eldest son Octavian is said to have fallen on board his father’s vessel.19 The number of prisoners taken was over 7000, and among these was Marco Polo.20
Illustration: Marco Polo’s Galley going into action at Curzola.
“il sembloit que la galie volast, par les nageurs qui la contreingnoient aux avirons, et sembloit que foudre cheist des ciex, au bruit que les pennoncians menoient, et que les nacaues les tabours et les cors sarrazinnois menoient, qui estoient en sa galie”
(Joinville, vide ante, p. 40)
Illustration: Scene of the Battle of Curzola.
The prisoners, even of the highest rank, appear to have been chained. Dandolo, in despair at his defeat, and at the prospect of being carried captive into Genoa, refused food, and ended by dashing his head against a bench.21 A Genoese account asserts that a noble funeral was given him after the arrival of the fleet at Genoa, which took place on the evening of the 16th October.22 It was received with great rejoicing, and the City voted the annual presentation of a pallium of gold brocade to the altar of the Virgin in the Church of St. Matthew, on every 8th of September, the Madonna’s day, on the eve of which the Battle had been won. To the admiral himself a Palace was decreed. It still stands, opposite the Church of St. Matthew, though it has passed from the possession of the Family. On the striped marble façades, both of the Church and of the Palace, inscriptions of that age, in excellent preservation, still commemorate Lamba’s achievement.23 Malik al Mansúr, the Mameluke Sultan of Egypt, as an enemy of Venice, sent a complimentary letter to Doria accompanied by costly presents.24
Illustration: Church of San Matteo, Genoa
The latter died at Savona 17th October, 1323, a few months before the most illustrious of his prisoners, and his bones were laid in a sarcophagus which may still be seen forming the sill of one of the windows of S. Matteo (on the right as you enter). Over this sarcophagus stood the Bust of Lamba till 1797, when the mob of Genoa, in idiotic imitation of the French proceedings of that age, threw it down. All of Lamba’s six sons had fought with him at Meloria. In 1291 one of them, Tedisio, went forth into the Atlantic in company with Ugolino Vivaldi on a voyage of discovery, and never returned. Through Caesar, the youngest, this branch of the Family still survives, bearing the distinctive surname of Lamba–Doria.25
As to the treatment of the prisoners, accounts differ; a thing usual in such cases. The Genoese Poet asserts that the hearts of his countrymen were touched, and that the captives were treated with compassionate courtesy. Navagiero the Venetian, on the other hand, declares that most of them died of hunger.26
Marco Polo in prison dictates his book to Rusticiano of Pisa. Release of Venetian prisoners.]
36. Howsoever they may have been treated, here was Marco Polo one of those many thousand prisoners in Genoa; and here, before long, he appears to have made acquaintance with a man of literary propensities, whose destiny had brought him into the like plight, by name RUSTICIANO or RUSTICHELLO of Pisa. It was this person perhaps who persuaded the Traveller to defer no longer the reduction to writing of his notable experiences; but in any case it was he who wrote down those experiences at Marco’s dictation; it is he therefore to whom we owe the preservation of this record, and possibly even that of the Traveller’s very memory. This makes the Genoese imprisonment so important an episode in Polo’s biography.
To Rusticiano we shall presently recur. But let us first bring to a conclusion what may be gathered as to the duration of Polo’s imprisonment.
It does not appear whether Pope Boniface made any new effort for accommodation between the Republics; but other Italian princes did interpose, and Matteo Visconti, Captain–General of Milan, styling himself Vicar–General of the Holy Roman Empire in Lombardy, was accepted as Mediator, along with the community of Milan. Ambassadors from both States presented themselves at that city, and on the 25th May, 1299, they signed the terms of a Peace.
These terms were perfectly honourable to Venice, being absolutely equal and reciprocal; from which one is apt to conclude that the damage to the City of the Sea was rather to her pride than to her power; the success of Genoa, in fact, having been followed up by no systematic attack upon Venetian commerce.27 Among the terms was the mutual release of prisoners on a day to be fixed by Visconti after the completion of all formalities. This day is not recorded, but as the Treaty was ratified by the Doge of Venice on the 1st July, and the latest extant document connected with the formalities appears to be dated 18th July, we may believe that before the end of August Marco Polo was restored to the family mansion in S. Giovanni Grisostomo.
Grounds on which the story of Marco Polo’s capture at Curzola rests.]
37. Something further requires to be said before quitting this event in our Traveller’s life. For we confess that a critical reader may have some justification in asking what evidence there is that Marco Polo ever fought at Curzola, and ever was carried a prisoner to Genoa from that unfortunate action?
A learned Frenchman, whom we shall have to quote freely in the immediately ensuing pages, does not venture to be more precise in reference to the meeting of Polo and Rusticiano than to say of the latter: “In 1298, being in durance in the Prison of Genoa, he there became acquainted with Marco Polo, whom the Genoese had deprived of his liberty from motives equally unknown.”28
To those who have no relish for biographies that round the meagre skeleton of authentic facts with a plump padding of what might have been, this sentence of Paulin Paris is quite refreshing in its stern limitation to positive knowledge. And certainly no contemporary authority has yet been found for the capture of our Traveller at Curzola. Still I think that the fact is beyond reasonable doubt.
Ramusio’s biographical notices certainly contain many errors of detail; and some, such as the many years’ interval which he sets between the Battle of Curzola and Marco’s return, are errors which a very little trouble would have enabled him to eschew. But still it does seem reasonable to believe that the main fact of Marco’s command of a galley at Curzola, and capture there, was derived from a genuine tradition, if not from documents.
Let us then turn to the words which close Rusticiano’s preamble (see post, p. 2):—“Lequel (Messire Marc) puis demorant en le charthre de Jene, fist retraire toutes cestes chouses a Messire Rustacians de Pise que en celle meissme charthre estoit, au tens qu’il avoit 1298 anz que Jezu eut vesqui.” These words are at least thoroughly consistent with Marco’s capture at Curzola, as regards both the position in which they present him, and the year in which he is thus presented.
There is however another piece of evidence, though it is curiously indirect.
The Dominican Friar Jacopo of Acqui was a contemporary of Polo’s, and was the author of a somewhat obscure Chronicle called Imago Mundi.29 Now this Chronicle does contain mention of Marco’s capture in action by the Genoese, but attributes it to a different action from Curzola, and one fought at a time when Polo could not have been present. The passage runs as follows in a manuscript of the Ambrosian Library, according to an extract given by Baldelli Boni:—
“In the year of Christ MCCLXXXXVI, in the time of Pope Boniface VI., of whom we have spoken above, a battle was fought in Arminia, at the place called Layaz, between xv. galleys of Genoese merchants and xxv. of Venetian merchants; and after a great fight the galleys of the Venetians were beaten, and (the crews) all slain or taken; and among them was taken Messer Marco the Venetian, who was in company with those merchants, and who was called Milono, which is as much as to say ‘a thousand thousand pounds,’ for so goes the phrase in Venice. So this Messer Marco Milono the Venetian, with the other Venetian prisoners, is carried off to the prison of Genoa, and there kept for a long time. This Messer Marco was a long time with his father and uncle in Tartary, and he there saw many things, and made much wealth, and also learned many things, for he was a man of ability. And so, being in prison at Genoa, he made a Book concerning the great wonders of the World, i.e., concerning such of them as he had seen. And what he told in the Book was not as much as he had really seen, because of the tongues of detractors, who, being ready to impose their own lies on others, are over hasty to set down as lies what they in their perversity disbelieve, or do not understand. And because there are many great and strange things in that Book, which are reckoned past all credence, he was asked by his friends on his death-bed to correct the Book by removing everything that went beyond the facts. To which his reply was that he had not told one-half of what he had really seen!”30
This statement regarding the capture of Marco at the Battle of Ayas is one which cannot be true, for we know that he did not reach Venice till 1295, travelling from Persia by way of Trebizond and the Bosphorus, whilst the Battle of Ayas of which we have purposely given some detail, was fought in May, 1294. The date MCCLXXXXVI assigned to it in the preceding extract has given rise to some unprofitable discussion. Could that date be accepted, no doubt it would enable us also to accept this, the sole statement from the Traveller’s own age of the circumstances which brought him into a Genoese prison; it would enable us to place that imprisonment within a few months of his return from the East, and to extend its duration to three years, points which would thus accord better with the general tenor of Ramusio’s tradition than the capture of Curzola. But the matter is not open to such a solution. The date of the Battle of Ayas is not more doubtful than that of the Battle of the Nile. It is clearly stated by several independent chroniclers, and is carefully established in the Ballad that we have quoted above.31 We shall see repeatedly in the course of this Book how uncertain are the transcriptions of dates in Roman numerals, and in the present case the LXXXXVI is as certainly a mistake for LXXXXIV as is Boniface VI. in the same quotation a mistake for Boniface VIII.
But though we cannot accept the statement that Polo was taken prisoner at Ayas, in the spring of 1294, we may accept the passage as evidence from a contemporary source that he was taken prisoner in some sea-fight with the Genoese, and thus admit it in corroboration of the Ramusian Tradition of his capture in a sea-fight at Curzola in 1298, which is perfectly consistent with all other facts in our possession.
1 In this part of these notices I am repeatedly indebted to Heyd. (See supra, p. 9.)
2 On or close to the Hill called Monjoie; see the plan from Marino Sanudo at p. 18.
3 “Throughout that year there were not less than 40 machines all at work upon the city of Acre, battering its houses and its towers, and smashing and overthrowing everything within their range. There were at least ten of those engines that shot stones so big and heavy that they weighed a good 1500 lbs. by the weight of Champagne; insomuch that nearly all the towers and forts of Acre were destroyed, and only the religious houses were left. And there were slain in this same war good 20,000 men on the two sides, but chiefly of Genoese and Spaniards.” (Lettre de Jean Pierre Sarrasin, in Michel’s Joinville, p. 308.)
4 The origin of these columns is, however, somewhat uncertain. [See Cicogna, I. p. 379.]
5 In 1262, when a Venetian squadron was taken by the Greek fleet in alliance with the Genoese, the whole of the survivors of the captive crews were blinded by order of Palaeologus. (Roman. ii. 272.)
6 See pp. 16, 41, and Plan of Ayas at beginning of Bk. I.
7 See Archivio Storico Italiano, Appendice, tom. iv.
8 Niente ne resta a prender
Se no li corpi de li legni:
Preixi som senza difender;
De bruxar som tute degni!
* * * *
Como li fom aproximai
Queli si levan lantor
Como leon descaenai
Tuti criando “Alor! Alor!”
This Alor! Alor! (“Up, Boys, and at ’em”), or something similar, appears to have been the usual war-cry of both parties. So a trumpet-like poem of the Troubadour warrior Bertram de Born, whom Dante found in such evil plight below (xxviii. 118 seqq.), in which he sings with extraordinary spirit the joys of war:—
“Le us die que tan no m’a sabor
Manjars, ni beure, ni dormir,
Cum a quant ang cridar, ALOR!
D’ambas la partz; et aug agnir
Cavals voits per l’ombratge. . . . ”
“I tell you a zest far before
Aught of slumber, or drink, or of food,
I snatch when the shouts of ALOR
Ring from both sides: and out of the wood
Comes the neighing of steeds dimly seen. . . . ”
In a galley fight at Tyre in 1258, according to a Latin narrative, the Genoese shout “Ad arma, ad arma! ad ipsos, ad ipsos!” The cry of the Venetians before engaging the Greeks is represented by Martino da Canale, in his old French, as “or à yaus! or à yaus!” that of the Genoese on another occasion as Aur! Aur! and this last is the shout of the Catalans also in Ramon de Muntaner. (Villemain, Litt. du Moyen Age, i. 99; Archiv. Stor. Ital. viii. 364, 506; Pertz, Script. xviii. 239; Muntaner, 269, 287.) Recently in a Sicilian newspaper, narrating an act of gallant and successful reprisal (only too rare) by country folk on a body of the brigands who are such a scourge to parts of the island, I read that the honest men in charging the villains raised a shout of “Ad iddi! Ad iddi!”
9 A phrase curiously identical, with a similar sequence, is attributed to an Austrian General at the battle of Skalitz in 1866. (Stoffel’s Letters.)
10 E no me posso aregordar
Dalcuno romanzo vertadé
Donde oyse uncha cointar
Alcun triumfo si sobré!
11 Stella in Muratori, xvii. 984.
12 Dandulo, Ibid. xii. 404–405.
13 Or entram con gran vigor,
En De sperando aver triumpho,
Queli zerchando inter lo Gorfo
Chi menazeram zercha lor!
And in the next verse note the pure Scotch use of the word bra:—
Sichè da Otranto se partim
Quella bra compagnia,
Per assar in Ihavonia,
D’Avosto a vinte nove di.
14 The island of Curzola now counts about 4000 inhabitants; the town half the number. It was probably reckoned a dependency of Venice at this time. The King of Hungary had renounced his claims on the Dalmatian coasts by treaty in 1244. (Romanin, ii. 235.) The gallant defence of the place against the Algerines in 1571 won for Curzola from the Venetian Senate the honourable title in all documents of fedelissima. (Paton’s Adriatic, I. 47.)
15 Ma sé si gran colmo avea
Perchè andava mendigando
Per terra de Lombardia
Peccunia, gente a sodi?
Pone mente tu che l’odi
Se noi tegnamo questa via?
No, ma più! ajamo omi nostrar
Destri, valenti, e avisti,
Che mai par de lor n’ o visti
In tuti officj de mar.
16 In July 1294, a Council of Thirty decreed that galleys should be equipped by the richest families in proportion to their wealth. Among the families held to equip one galley each, or one galley among two or more, in this list, is the CA’ POLO. But this was before the return of the travellers from the East, and just after the battle of Ayas. (Romanin, ii. 332; this author misdates Ayas, however.) When a levy was required in Venice for any expedition the heads of each contrada divided the male inhabitants, between the ages of twenty and sixty, into groups of twelve each, called duodene. The dice were thrown to decide who should go first on service. He who went received five lire a month from the State, and one lira from each of his colleagues in the duodena. Hence his pay was sixteen lire a month, about 2s. a day in silver value, if these were lire ai grossi, or 1s. 4d. if lire dei piccoli. (See Romanin, ii. 393–394.)
Money on such occasions was frequently raised by what was called an Estimo or Facion, which was a force loan levied on the citizens in proportion to their estimated wealth; and for which they were entitled to interest from the State.
17 Several of the Italian chroniclers, as Ferreto of Vicenza and Navagiero, whom Muratori has followed in his “Annals,” say the battle was fought on the 8th September, the so-called Birthday of the Madonna. But the inscription on the Church of St. Matthew at Genoa, cited further on, says the 7th, and with this agree both Stella and the Genoese poet. For the latter, though not specifying the day of the month, says it was on a Sunday:—
“Lo di de Domenga era
Passa prima en l’ora bona
Stormezam fin provo nona
Con bataio forte e fera.”
Now the 7th September, 1298, fell on a Sunday.
18 Ma li pensavam grande error
Che in fuga se fussem tuti metui
Che de si lonzi eram vegnui
Per cerchali a casa lor.
19 “Note here that the Genoese generally, commonly, and by nature, are the most covetous of Men, and the Love of Gain spurs them to every Crime. Yet are they deemed also the most valiant Men in the World. Such an one was Lampa, of that very Doria family, a man of an high Courage truly. For when he was engaged in a Sea–Fight against the Venetians, and was standing on the Poop of his Galley, his Son, fighting valiantly at the Forecastle, was shot by an Arrow in the Breast, and fell wounded to the Death; a Mishap whereat his Comrades were sorely shaken, and Fear came upon the whole Ship’s Company. But Lampa, hot with the Spirit of Battle, and more mindful of his Country’s Service and his own Glory than of his Son, ran forward to the spot, loftily rebuked the agitated Crowd, and ordered his Son’s Body to be cast into the Deep, telling them for their Comfort that the Land could never have afforded his Boy a nobler Tomb. And then, renewing the Fight more fiercely than ever, he achieved the Victory.” (Benvenuto of Imola, in Comment. on Dante. in Muratori, Antiq. i. 1146.)
(“Yet like an English General will I die,
And all the Ocean make my spacious Grave;
Women and Cowards on the Land may lie,
The Sea’s the Tomb that’s proper for the Brave!”
20 The particulars of the battle are gathered from Ferretus Vicentinus, in Murat. ix. 985 seqq.; And. Dandulo, in xii. 407–408; Navagiero, in xxiii. 1009–1010; and the Genoese Poem as before.
21 Navagiero, u.s. Dandulo says, “after a few days he died of grief”; Ferretus, that he was killed in the action and buried at Curzola.
22 For the funeral, a MS. of Cibo Recco quoted by Jacopo Doria in La Chiesa di San Matteo descritta, etc., Genova, 1860, p. 26. For the date of arrival the poem so often quoted:—
“De Oitover, a zoia, a seze di
Lo nostro ostel, con gran festa
En nostro porto, a or di sesta
Domine De restitui.”
23 S. Matteo was built by Martin Doria in 1125, but pulled down and rebuilt by the family in a slightly different position in 1278. On this occasion is recorded a remarkable anticipation of the feats of American engineering: “As there was an ancient and very fine picture of Christ upon the apse of the Church, it was thought a great pity that so fine a work should be destroyed. And so they contrived an ingenious method by which the apse bodily was transported without injury, picture and all, for a distance of 25 ells, and firmly set upon the foundations where it now exists.” (Jacopo de Varagine in Muratori, vol. ix. 36.)
The inscription on S. Matteo regarding the battle is as follows:—“Ad Honorem Dei et Beate Virginis Marie Anno MCCLXXXXVIII Die Dominico VII Septembris iste Angelus captus fuit in Gulfo Venetiarum in Civitate Scursole et ibidem fuit prelium Galearum LXXVI Januensium cum Galeis LXXXXVI Veneciarum. Capte fuerunt LXXXIIII per Nobilem Virum Dominum Lambam Aurie Capitaneum et Armiratum tunc Comunis et Populi Janue cum omnibus existentibus in eisdem, de quibus conduxit Janue homines vivos carceratos VII cccc et Galeas XVIII, reliquas LXVI fecit cumburi in dicto Gulfo Veneciarum. Qui obiit Sagone I. MCCCXXIII.” It is not clear to what the Angelus refers.
24 Rampoldi, Ann. Musulm. ix. 217.
25 Jacopo Doria, p. 280.
26 Murat. xxiii. 1010. I learn from a Genoese gentleman, through my friend Professor Henry Giglioli (to whose kindness I owe the transcript of the inscription just given), that a faint tradition exists as to the place of our traveller’s imprisonment. It is alleged to have been a massive building, standing between the Grazie and the Mole, and bearing the name of the Malapaga, which is now a barrack for Doganieri, but continued till comparatively recent times to be used as a civil prison. “It is certain,” says my informant, “that men of fame in arms who had fallen into the power of the Genoese were imprisoned there, and among others is recorded the name of the Corsican Giudice dalla Rocca and Lord of Cinarca, who died there in 1312;” a date so near that of Marco’s imprisonment as to give some interest to the hypothesis, slender as are its grounds. Another Genoese, however, indicates as the scene of Marco’s captivity certain old prisons near the Old Arsenal, in a site still known as the Vico degli Schiavi. (Celesia, Dante in Liguria, 1865, p. 43.) [Was not the place of Polo’s captivity the basement of the Palazzo del Capitan del Popolo, afterwards Palazzo del Comune al Mare, where the Customs (Dogana) had their office, and from the 15th century the Casa or Palazzo di S. Giorgio? — H. C.]
27 The Treaty and some subsidiary documents are printed in the Genoese Liber Jurium, forming a part of the Monumenta Historiae Patriae, published at Turin. (See Lib. Jur. II. 344, seqq.) Muratori in his Annals has followed John Villani (Bk. VIII. ch. 27) in representing the terms as highly unfavourable to Venice. But for this there is no foundation in the documents. And the terms are stated with substantial accuracy in Navagiero. (Murat. Script. xxiii. 1011.)
28 Paulin Paris, Les Manuscrits François de la Bibliothèque du Roi, ii. 355.
29 Though there is no precise information as to the birth or death of this writer, who belonged to a noble family of Lombardy, the Bellingeri, he can be traced with tolerable certainty as in life in 1289, 1320, and 1334. (See the Introduction to his Chronicle in the Turin Monumentà, Scriptores III.)
30 There is another MS. of the Imago Mundi at Turin, which has been printed in the Monumenta. The passage about Polo in that copy differs widely in wording, is much shorter, and contains no date. But it relates his capture as having taken place at Là Glazà, which I think there can be no doubt is also intended for Ayas (sometimes called Giàzza), a place which in fact is called Glaza in three of the MSS. of which various readings are given in the edition of the Société de Géographie (p. 535).
31 “E per meio esse aregordenti
De si grande scacho mato
Correa mille duxenti
Zonto ge novanta e quatro.”
The Armenian Prince Hayton or Héthum has put it under 1293. (See Langlois, Mém. sur les Relations de Gênes avec la Petite–Arménie.)
38. We have now to say something of that Rusticiano to whom all who value Polo’s book are so much indebted.
Rusticiano, perhaps a prisoner from Meloria.]
The relations between Genoa and Pisa had long been so hostile that it was only too natural in 1298 to find a Pisan in the gaol of Genoa. An unhappy multitude of such prisoners had been carried thither fourteen years before, and the survivors still lingered there in vastly dwindled numbers. In the summer of 1284 was fought the battle from which Pisa had to date the commencement of her long decay. In July of that year the Pisans, at a time when the Genoese had no fleet in their own immediate waters, had advanced to the very port of Genoa and shot their defiance into the proud city in the form of silver-headed arrows, and stones belted with scarlet.1 They had to pay dearly for this insult. The Genoese, recalling their cruisers, speedily mustered a fleet of eighty-eight galleys, which were placed under the command of another of that illustrious House of Doria, the Scipios of Genoa as they have been called, Uberto, the elder brother of Lamba. Lamba himself with his six sons, and another brother, was in the fleet, whilst the whole number of Dorias who fought in the ensuing action amounted to 250, most of them on board one great galley bearing the name of the family patron, St. Matthew.2
The Pisans, more than one-fourth inferior in strength, came out boldly, and the battle was fought off the Porto Pisano, in fact close in front of Leghorn, where a lighthouse on a remarkable arched basement still marks the islet of MELORIA, whence the battle got its name. The day was the 6th of August, the feast of St. Sixtus, a day memorable in the Pisan Fasti for several great victories. But on this occasion the defeat of Pisa was overwhelming. Forty of their galleys were taken or sunk, and upwards of 9000 prisoners carried to Genoa. In fact so vast a sweep was made of the flower of Pisan manhood that it was a common saying then: “Che vuol veder Pisa, vada a Genova!” Many noble ladies of Pisa went in large companies on foot to Genoa to seek their husbands or kinsmen: “And when they made enquiry of the Keepers of the Prisons, the reply would be, ‘Yesterday there died thirty of them, today there have died forty; all of whom we have cast into the sea; and so it is daily.’"3
Illustration: Seal of the Pisan Prisoners.
A body of prisoners so numerous and important naturally exerted themselves in the cause of peace, and through their efforts, after many months of negotiation, a formal peace was signed (15th April, 1288). But through the influence, as was alleged, of Count Ugolino (Dante’s) who was then in power at Pisa, the peace became abortive; war almost immediately recommenced, and the prisoners had no release.4 And, when the 6000 or 7000 Venetians were thrown into the prisons of Genoa in October 1298, they would find there the scanty surviving remnant of the Pisan Prisoners of Meloria, and would gather from them dismal forebodings of the fate before them.
It is a fair conjecture that to that remnant Rusticiano of Pisa may have belonged.
We have seen Ramusio’s representation of the kindness shown to Marco during his imprisonment by a certain Genoese gentleman who also assisted him to reduce his travels to writing. We may be certain that this Genoese gentleman is only a distorted image of Rusticiano, the Pisan prisoner in the gaol of Genoa, whose name and part in the history of his hero’s book Ramusio so strangely ignores. Yet patriotic Genoese writers in our own times have striven to determine the identity of this their imaginary countryman!5
Rusticiano, a person known from other sources.]
39. Who, then, was Rusticiano, or, as the name actually is read in the oldest type of MS., “Messire Rustacians de Pise”?
Our knowledge of him is but scanty. Still something is known of him besides the few words concluding his preamble to our Traveller’s Book, which you may read at pp. 1–2 of the body of this volume.
In Sir Walter Scott’s “Essay on Romance,” when he speaks of the new mould in which the subjects of the old metrical stories were cast by the school of prose romancers which arose in the 13th century, we find the following words:—
“Whatever fragments or shadows of true history may yet remain hidden under the mass of accumulated fable which had been heaped upon them during successive ages, must undoubtedly be sought in the metrical romances. . . . But those prose authors who wrote under the imaginary names of RUSTICIEN DE PISE, Robert de Borron, and the like, usually seized upon the subject of some old minstrel; and recomposing the whole narrative after their own fashion, with additional character and adventure, totally obliterated in that operation any shades which remained of the original and probably authentic tradition,” &c.6
Evidently, therefore, Sir Walter regarded Rustician of Pisa as a person belonging to the same ghostly company as his own Cleishbothams and Dryasdusts. But in this we see that he was wrong.
In the great Paris Library and elsewhere there are manuscript volumes containing the stories of the Round Table abridged and somewhat clumsily combined from the various Prose Romances of that cycle, such as Sir Tristan, Lancelot, Palamedes, Giron le Courtois, &c., which had been composed, it would seem, by various Anglo–French gentlemen at the court of Henry III., styled, or styling themselves, Gasses le Blunt, Luces du Gast, Robert de Borron, and Hélis de Borron. And these abridgments or recasts are professedly the work of Le Maistre Rusticien de Pise. Several of them were printed at Paris in the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th centuries as the works of Rusticien de Pise; and as the preambles and the like, especially in the form presented in those printed editions, appear to be due sometimes to the original composers (as Robert and Hélis de Borron) and sometimes to Rusticien de Pise the recaster, there would seem to have been a good deal of confusion made in regard to their respective personalities.
From a preamble to one of those compilations which undoubtedly belongs to Rustician, and which we shall quote at length by and bye, we learn that Master Rustician “translated” (or perhaps transferred?) his compilation from a book belonging to King Edward of England, at the time when that prince went beyond seas to recover the Holy Sepulchre. Now Prince Edward started for the Holy Land in 1270, spent the winter of that year in Sicily, and arrived in Palestine in May 1271. He quitted it again in August, 1272, and passed again by Sicily, where in January, 1273, he heard of his father’s death and his own consequent accession. Paulin Paris supposes that Rustician was attached to the Sicilian Court of Charles of Anjou, and that Edward “may have deposited with that king the Romances of the Round Table, of which all the world was talking, but the manuscripts of which were still very rare, especially those of the work of Helye de Borron7 . . . whether by order, or only with permission of the King of Sicily, our Rustician made haste to read, abridge, and re-arrange the whole, and when Edward returned to Sicily he recovered possession of the book from which the indefatigable Pisan had extracted the contents.”
But this I believe is, in so far as it passes the facts stated in Rustician’s own preamble, pure hypothesis, for nothing is cited that connects Rustician with the King of Sicily. And if there be not some such confusion of personality as we have alluded to, in another of the preambles, which is quoted by Dunlop as an utterance of Rustician’s, that personage would seem to claim to have been a comrade in arms of the two de Borrons. We might, therefore, conjecture that Rustician himself had accompanied Prince Edward to Syria.8
Character of Rustician’s Romance compilations.]
40. Rustician’s literary work appears from the extracts and remarks of Paulin Paris to be that of an industrious simple man, without method or much judgment. “The haste with which he worked is too perceptible; the adventures are told without connection; you find long stories of Tristan followed by adventures of his father Meliadus.” For the latter derangement of historical sequence we find a quaint and ingenuous apology offered in Rustician’s epilogue to Giron le Courtois:—
“Cy fine le Maistre Rusticien de Pise son conte en louant et regraciant le Père le Filz et le Saint Esperit, et ung mesme Dieu, Filz de la Benoiste Vierge Marie, de ce qu’il m’a doné grace, sens, force, et mémoire, temps et lieu, de me mener à fin de si haulte et si noble matière come ceste-cy dont j’ay traicté les faiz et proesses recitez et recordez à mon livre. Et se aucun me demandoit pour quoy j’ay parlé de Tristan avant que de son père le Roy Meliadus, le respons que ma matière n’estoist pas congneue. Car je ne puis pas scavoir tout, ne mettre toutes mes paroles par ordre. Et ainsi fine mon conte. Amen.”9
In a passage of these compilations the Emperor Charlemagne is asked whether in his judgment King Meliadus or his son Tristan were the better man? The Emperor’s answer is: “I should say that the King Meliadus was the better man, and I will tell you why I say so. As far as I can see, everything that Tristan did was done for Love, and his great feats would never have been done but under the constraint of Love, which was his spur and goad. Now that never can be said of King Meliadus! For what deeds he did, he did them not by dint of Love, but by dint of his strong right arm. Purely out of his own goodness he did good, and not by constraint of Love.” “It will be seen,” remarks on this Paulin Paris, “that we are here a long way removed from the ordinary principles of Round Table Romances. And one thing besides will be manifest, viz., that Rusticien de Pise was no Frenchman!”10
The same discretion is shown even more prominently in a passage of one of his compilations, which contains the romances of Arthur, Gyron, and Meliadus (No. 6975 — see last note but one):—
“No doubt,” Rustician says, “other books tell the story of the Queen Ginevra and Lancelot differently from this; and there were certain passages between them of which the Master, in his concern for the honour of both those personages, will say not a word.” Alas, says the French Bibliographer, that the copy of Lancelot, which fell into the hands of poor Francesca of Rimini, was not one of those expurgated by our worthy friend Rustician!11
Identity of the Romance Compiler with Polo’s fellow-prisoner.]
41. A question may still occur to an attentive reader as to the identity of this Romance-compiler Rusticien de Pise with the Messire Rustacians de Pise, of a solitary MS. of Polo’s work (though the oldest and most authentic), a name which appears in other copies as Rusta Pisan, Rasta Pysan, Rustichelus Civis Pisanus, Rustico, Restazio da Pisa, Stazio da Pisa, and who is stated in the preamble to have acted as the Traveller’s scribe at Genoa.
M. Pauthier indeed12 asserts that the French of the MS. Romances of Rusticien de Pise is of the same barbarous character as that of the early French MS. of Polo’s Book to which we have just alluded, and which we shall show to be the nearest presentation of the work as originally dictated by the Traveller. The language of the latter MS. is so peculiar that this would be almost perfect evidence of the identity of the writers, if it were really the fact. A cursory inspection which I have made of two of those MSS. in Paris, and the extracts which I have given and am about to give, do not, however, by any means support M. Pauthier’s view. Nor would that view be consistent with the judgment of so competent an authority as Paulin Paris, implied in his calling Rustician a nom recommandable in old French literature, and his speaking of him as “versed in the secrets of the French Romance Tongue.”13 In fact the difference of language in the two cases would really be a difficulty in the way of identification, if there were room for doubt. This, however, Paulin Paris seems to have excluded finally, by calling attention to the peculiar formula of preamble which is common to the Book of Marco Polo and to one of the Romance compilations of Rusticien de Pise.
The former will be found in English at pp. 1, 2, of our Translation; but we give a part of the original below14 for comparison with the preamble to the Romances of Meliadus, Tristan, and Lancelot, as taken from MS. 6961 (Fr. 340) of the Paris Library:—
“Seigneurs Empereurs et Princes, Ducs et Contes et Barons et Chevaliers et Vavasseurs et Bourgeois, et tous les preudommes de cestui monde qui avez talent de vous deliter en rommans, si prenez cestui (livre) et le faites lire de chief en chief, si orrez toutes les grans aventure qui advindrent entre les Chevaliers errans du temps au Roy Uter Pendragon, jusques à le temps au Roy Artus son fils, et des compaignons de la Table Ronde. Et sachiez tout vraiment que cist livres fust translatez du livre Monseigneur Edouart le Roy d’Engleterre en cellui temps qu’il passa oultre la mer au service nostre Seigneur Damedieu pour conquester le Sant Sepulcre, et Maistre Rusticiens de Pise, lequel est ymaginez yci dessus,15 compila ce rommant, car il en translata toutes les merveilleuses nouvelles et aventures qu’il trouva en celle livre et traita tout certainement de toutes les aventures du monde, et si sachiez qu’il traitera plus de Monseigneur Lancelot du Lac, et Mons’r Tristan le fils au Roy Meliadus de Leonnoie que d’autres, porcequ’ilz furent sans faille les meilleurs chevaliers qui à ce temps furent en terre; et li Maistres en dira de ces deux pluseurs choses et pluseurs nouvelles que l’en treuvera escript en tous les autres livres; et porce que le Maistres les trouva escript au Livre d’Engleterre.”
Illustration: Palazzo di S Giorgio Genoa
“Certainly,” Paulin Paris observes, “there is a singular analogy between these two prefaces. And it must be remarked that the formula is not an ordinary one with translators, compilers, or authors of the 13th and 14th centuries. Perhaps you would not find a single other example of it.”16
This seems to place beyond question the identity of the Romance-compiler of Prince Edward’s suite in 1270, and the Prisoner of Genoa in 1298.
Further particulars concerning Rustician.]
42. In Dunlop’s History of Fiction a passage is quoted from the preamble of Meliadus, as set forth in the Paris printed edition of 1528, which gives us to understand that Rusticien de Pise had received as a reward for some of his compositions from King Henry III. the prodigal gift of two chateaux. I gather, however, from passages in the work of Paulin Paris that this must certainly be one of those confusions of persons to which I have referred before, and that the recipient of the chateaux was in reality Helye de Borron, the author of some of the originals which Rustician manipulated.17 This supposed incident in Rustician’s scanty history must therefore be given up.
We call this worthy Rustician or Rusticiano, as the nearest probable representation in Italian form of the Rusticien of the Round–Table MSS. and the Rustacians of the old text of Polo. But it is highly probable that his real name was Rustichello, as is suggested by the form Rustichelus in the early Latin version published by the Société de Géographie. The change of one liquid for another never goes for much in Italy,18 and Rustichello might easily Gallicize himself as Rusticien. In a very long list of Pisan officials during the Middle Ages I find several bearing the name of Rustichello or Rustichelli, but no Rusticiano or Rustigiano.19
Respecting him we have only to add that the peace between Genoa and Venice was speedily followed by a treaty between Genoa and Pisa. On the 31st July, 1299, a truce for twenty-five years was signed between those two Republics. It was a very different matter from that between Genoa and Venice, and contained much that was humiliating and detrimental to Pisa. But it embraced the release of prisoners; and those of Meloria, reduced it is said to less than one tithe of their original number, had their liberty at last. Among the prisoners then released no doubt Rustician was one. But we hear of him no more.
1 B. Marangone, Croniche della C. di Pisa, in Rerum Ital. Script. of Tartini, Florence, 1748, i. 563; Dal Borgo, Dissert. sopra l’Istoria Pisana, ii. 287.
2 The list of the whole number is preserved in the Doria archives, and has been published by Sign. Jacopo D’Oria. Many of the Baptismal names are curious, and show how far sponsors wandered from the Church Calendar. Assan, Alton, Turco, Soldan seem to come of the constant interest in the East. Alaone, a name which remained in the family for several generations, I had thought certainly borrowed from the fierce conqueror of the Khalif (infra, p. 63). But as one Alaone, present at this battle, had a son also there, he must surely have been christened before the fame of Hulaku could have reached Genoa. (See La Chiesa di S. Matteo, pp. 250, seqq.)
In documents of the kingdom of Jerusalem there are names still more anomalous, e.g., Gualterius Baffumeth, Joannes Mahomet. (See Cod. Dipl. del Sac. Milit. Ord. Gerosol. I. 2–3, 62.)
3 Memorial. Potestat. Regiens. in Muratori, viii. 1162.
4 See Fragm. Hist. Pisan. in Muratori, xxiv. 651, seqq.; and Caffaro, id. vi. 588, 594–595. The cut in the text represents a striking memorial of those Pisan Prisoners, which perhaps still survives, but which at any rate existed last century in a collection at Lucca. It is the seal of the prisoners as a body corporate: SIGILLUM UNIVERSITATIS CARCERATORUM PISANORUM JANUE DETENTORUM, and was doubtless used in their negotiations for peace with the Genoese Commissioners. It represents two of the prisoners imploring the Madonna, Patron of the Duomo at Pisa. It is from Manni, Osserv. Stor. sopra Sigilli Antichi, etc., Firenze, 1739, tom. xii. The seal is also engraved in Dal Borgo, op. cit. ii. 316.
5 The Abate Spotorno in his Storia Letteraria della Liguria, II. 219, fixes on a Genoese philosopher called Andalo del Negro, mentioned by Boccaccio.
6 I quote from Galignani’s ed. of Prose Works, v. 712. This has “Rusticien de Puise.” In this view of the fictitious character of the names of Rusticien and the rest, Sir Walter seems to have been following Ritson, as I gather from a quotation in Dunlop’s H. of Fiction. (Liebrecht’s German Version, p. 63.)
7 Giron le Courtois, and the conclusion of Tristan.
8 The passage runs thus as quoted (from the preamble of the Meliadus — I suspect in one of the old printed editions):—
“Aussi Luces du Gau (Gas) translata en langue Françoise une partie de l’Hystoire de Monseigneur Tristan, et moins assez qu’il ne deust. Moult commença bien son livre et si ny mist tout les faicts de Tristan, ains la greigneur partie. Après s’en entremist Messire Gasse le Blond, qui estoit parent au Roy Henry, et divisa l’Hystoire de Lancelot du Lac, et d’autre chose ne parla il mye grandement en son livre. Messire Robert de Borron s’en entremist et Helye de Borron, par la prière du dit Robert de Borron, et pource que compaignons feusmes d’armes longuement, je commencay mon livre,” etc. (Liebrecht’s Dunlop, p. 80.) If this passage be authentic it would set beyond doubt the age of the de Borrons and the other writers of Anglo–French Round Table Romances, who are placed by the Hist. Littéraire de la France, and apparently by Fr. Michel, under Henry II. I have no means of pursuing the matter, and have preferred to follow Paulin Paris, who places them under Henry III. I notice, moreover, that the Hist. Litt. (xv. p. 498) puts not only the de Borrons but Rustician himself under Henry II.; and, as the last view is certainly an error, the first is probably so too.
9 Transc. from MS. 6975 (now Fr. 355) of Paris Library.
10 MSS. François, iii. 60–61.
11 Ibid. 56–59.
12 Introd. pp. lxxxvi.-vii. note.
13 See Jour. As. sér. II. tom. xii. p. 251.
14 “Seignors Enperaor, & Rois, Dux & Marquois, Cuens, Chevaliers & Bargions [for Borgiois] & toutes gens qe uoles sauoir les deuerses jenerasions des homes, & les deuersités des deuerses region dou monde, si prennés cestui lire & le feites lire & chi trouerés toutes les grandismes meruoilles,” etc.
15 The portrait of Rustician here referred to would have been a precious illustration for our book. But unfortunately it has not been transferred to MS. 6961, nor apparently to any other noticed by Paulin Paris.
16 Jour. As. as above.
17 See Liebrecht’s Dunlop, p. 77; and MSS. François, II. 349, 353.
The alleged gift to Rustician is also put forth by D’Israeli the Elder in his Amenities of Literature, 1841, I. p. 103.
18 E.g. Geronimo, Girolamo; and garofalo, garofano; Cristoforo, Cristovalo; gonfalone, gonfanone, etc.
19 See the List in Archivio Stor. Ital. VI. p. 64, seqq.
43. A few very disconnected notices are all that can be collected of matter properly biographical in relation to the quarter century during which Marco Polo survived the Genoese captivity.
Death of Marco’s Father before 1300. Will of his brother Maffeo.]
We have seen that he would probably reach Venice in the course of August, 1299. Whether he found his aged father alive is not known; but we know at least that a year later (31st August, 1300) Messer Nicolo was no longer in life.
This we learn from the Will of the younger Maffeo, Marco’s brother, which bears the date just named, and of which we give an abstract below.1 It seems to imply strong regard for the testator’s brother Marco, who is made inheritor of the bulk of the property, failing the possible birth of a son. I have already indicated some conjectural deductions from this document. I may add that the terms of the second clause, as quoted in the note, seem to me to throw considerable doubt on the genealogy which bestows a large family of sons upon this brother Maffeo. If he lived to have such a family it seems improbable that the draft which he thus left in the hands of a notary, to be converted into a Will in the event of his death (a curious example of the validity attaching to all acts of notaries in those days), should never have been superseded, but should actually have been so converted after his death, as the existence of the parchment seems to prove. But for this circumstance we might suppose the Marcolino mentioned in the ensuing paragraph to have been a son of the younger Maffeo.
Messer Maffeo, the uncle, was, we see, alive at this time. We do not know the year of his death. But it is alluded to by Friar Pipino in the Preamble to his Translation of the Book, supposed to have been executed about 1315–1320; and we learn from a document in the Venetian archives (see p. 77) that it must have been previous to 1318, and subsequent to February 1309, the date of his last Will. The Will itself is not known to be extant, but from the reference to it in this document we learn that he left 1000 lire of public debt2 (? imprestitorum) to a certain Marco Polo, called Marcolino. The relationship of this Marco to old Maffeo is not stated, but we may suspect him to have been an illegitimate son. [Marcolino was a son of Nicolo, son of Marco the Elder; see vol. ii., Calendar, No. 6. — H. C.]
Documentary notices of Polo at this time. The sobriquet of Milione.]
44. In 1302 occurs what was at first supposed to be a glimpse of Marco as a citizen, slight and quaint enough; being a resolution on the Books of the Great Council to exempt the respectable Marco Polo from the penalty incurred by him on account of the omission to have his water-pipe duly inspected. But since our Marco’s claims to the designation of Nobilis Vir have been established, there is a doubt whether the providus vir or prud’-homme here spoken of may not have been rather his namesake Marco Polo of Cannareggio or S. Geremia, of whose existence we learn from another entry of the same year.3 It is, however, possible that Marco the Traveller was called to the Great Council after the date of the document in question.
We have seen that the Traveller, and after him his House and his Book, acquired from his contemporaries the surname, or nickname rather, of Il Milione. Different writers have given different explanations of the origin of this name; some, beginning with his contemporary Fra Jacopo d’Acqui, (supra, p. 54), ascribing it to the family’s having brought home a fortune of a million of lire, in fact to their being millionaires. This is the explanation followed by Sansovino, Marco Barbaro, Coronelli, and others.4 More far-fetched is that of Fontanini, who supposes the name to have been given to the Book as containing a great number of stories, like the Cento Novelle or the Thousand and One Nights! But there can be no doubt that Ramusio’s is the true, as it is the natural, explanation; and that the name was bestowed on Marco by the young wits of his native city, because of his frequent use of a word which appears to have been then unusual, in his attempts to convey an idea of the vast wealth and magnificence of the Kaan’s Treasury and Court.5 Ramusio has told us that he had seen Marco styled by this sobriquet in the Books of the Signory; and it is pleasant to be able to confirm this by the next document which we cite. This is an extract from the Books of the Great Council under both April, 1305, condoning the offence of a certain Bonocio of Mestre in smuggling wine, for whose penalty one of the sureties had been the NOBILIS VIR MARCHUS PAULO MILIONI.6
It is alleged that long after our Traveller’s death there was always, in the Venetian Masques, one individual who assumed the character of Marco Milioni, and told Munchausenlike stories to divert the vulgar. Such, if this be true, was the honour of our prophet among the populace of his own country.7
45. A little later we hear of Marco once more, as presenting a copy of his Book to a noble Frenchman in the service of Charles of Valois.
Polo’s relations with Thibault de Cepoy.]
This Prince, brother of Philip the Fair, in 1301 had married Catharine, daughter and heiress of Philip de Courtenay, titular Emperor of Constantinople, and on the strength of this marriage had at a later date set up his own claim to the Empire of the East. To this he was prompted by Pope Clement V., who in the beginning of 1306 wrote to Venice, stimulating that Government to take part in the enterprise. In the same year, Charles and his wife sent as their envoys to Venice, in connection with this matter, a noble knight called THIBAULT DE CEPOY, along with an ecclesiastic of Chartres called Pierre le Riche, and these two succeeded in executing a treaty of alliance with Venice, of which the original, dated 14th December, 1306, exists at Paris. Thibault de Cepoy eventually went on to Greece with a squadron of Venetian Galleys, but accomplished nothing of moment, and returned to his master in 1310.8
Illustration: Miracle of S. Lorenzo
During the stay of Thibault at Venice he seems to have made acquaintance with Marco Polo, and to have received from him a copy of his Book. This is recorded in a curious note which appears on two existing MSS. of Polo’s Book, viz., that of the Paris Library (10,270 or Fr. 5649), and that of Bern, which is substantially identical in its text with the former, and is, as I believe, a copy of it.9 The note runs as follows:—
“Here you have the Book of which My Lord THIEBAULT, Knight and LORD OF CEPOY, (whom may God assoil!) requested a copy from SIRE MARC POL, Burgess and Resident of the City of Venice. And the said Sire Marc Pol, being a very honourable Person, of high character and respect in many countries, because of his desire that what he had witnessed should be known throughout the World, and also for the honour and reverence he bore to the most excellent and puissant Prince my Lord CHARLES, Son of the King of France and COUNT OF VALOIS, gave and presented to the aforesaid Lord of Cepoy the first copy (that was taken) of his said Book after he had made the same. And very pleasing it was to him that his Book should be carried to the noble country of France and there made known by so worthy a gentleman. And from that copy which the said Messire Thibault, Sire de Cepoy above-named, did carry into France, Messire John, who was his eldest son and is the present Sire de Cepoy,10 after his Father’s decease did have a copy made, and that very first copy that was made of the Book after its being carried into France he did present to his very dear and dread Lord Monseigneur de Valois. Thereafter he gave copies of it to such of his friends as asked for them.
“And the copy above-mentioned was presented by the said Sire Marc Pol to the said Lord de Cepoy when the latter went to Venice, on the part of Monseigneur de Valois and of Madame the Empress his wife, as Vicar General for them both in all the Territories of the Empire of Constantinople. And this happened in the year of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ one thousand three hundred and seven, and in the month of August.”
Of the bearings of this memorandum on the literary history of Polo’s Book we shall speak in a following section.
His marriage and his daughters. Marco as a merchant.]
46. When Marco married we have not been able to ascertain, but it was no doubt early in the 14th century, for in 1324, we find that he had two married daughters besides one unmarried. His wife’s Christian name was Donata, but of her family we have as yet found no assurance. I suspect, however, that her name may have been Loredano (vide infra, p. 77).
Under 1311 we find a document which is of considerable interest, because it is the only one yet discovered which exhibits Marco under the aspect of a practical trader. It is the judgment of the Court of Requests upon a suit brought by the NOBLE MARCO POLO of the parish of S. Giovanni Grisostomo against one Paulo Girardo of S. Apollinare. It appears that Marco had entrusted to the latter as a commission agent for sale, on an agreement for half profits, a pound and a half of musk, priced at six lire of grossi (about 22l. 10s. in value of silver) the pound. Girardo had sold half-a-pound at that rate, and the remaining pound which he brought back was deficient of a saggio, or, one-sixth of an ounce, but he had accounted for neither the sale nor the deficiency. Hence Marco sues him for three lire of Grossi, the price of the half-pound sold, and for twenty grossi as the value of the saggio. And the Judges cast the defendant in the amount with costs, and the penalty of imprisonment in the common gaol of Venice if the amounts were not paid within a suitable term.11
Again in May, 1323, probably within a year of his death, Ser Marco appears (perhaps only by attorney), before the Doge and his judicial examiners, to obtain a decision respecting a question touching the rights to certain stairs and porticoes in contact with his own house property, and that obtained from his wife, in S. Giovanni Grisostomo. To this allusion has been already made (supra, p. 31).
Marco Polo’s Last Will and Death.]
47. We catch sight of our Traveller only once more. It is on the 9th of January, 1324; he is labouring with disease, under which he is sinking day by day; and he has sent for Giovanni Giustiniani, Priest of S. Proculo and Notary, to make his Last Will and Testament. It runs thus:—
Illustration: MARCO POLO’S LAST WILL
SLIGHTLY REDUCED FROM A PHOTOGRAPH SPECIALLY TAKEN IN ST. MARK’S LIBRARY BY SIGNOR BERTANI.
“IN THE NAME OF THE ETERNAL GOD AMEN!
“In the year from the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ 1323, on the 9th day of the month of January, in the first half of the 7th Indiction,12 at Rialto.
“It is the counsel of Divine Inspiration as well as the judgment of a provident mind that every man should take thought to make a disposition of his property before death become imminent, lest in the end it should remain without any disposition:
“Wherefore I MARCUS PAULO of the parish of St. John Chrysostom, finding myself to grow daily feebler through bodily ailment, but being by the grace of God of a sound mind, and of senses and judgment unimpaired, have sent for JOHN GIUSTINIANI, Priest of S. Proculo and Notary, and have instructed him to draw out in complete form this my Testament:
“Whereby I constitute as my Trustees DONATA my beloved wife, and my dear daughters FANTINA, BELLELA, and MORETA,13 in order that after my decease they may execute the dispositions and bequests which I am about to make herein.
“Viz., 20 soldi of Venice grossi to the Monastery of St. Lawrence where I desire to be buried.
“Also 300 lire of Venice denari to my sister-inlaw YSABETA QUIRINO,16 that she owes me.
“Also 40 soldi to each of the Monasteries and Hospitals all the way from Grado to Capo d’Argine.17
“Also I bequeath to the Convent of SS. Giovanni and Paolo, of the Order of Preachers, that which it owes me, and also 10 lire to Friar RENIER, and 5 lire to Friar BENVENUTO the Venetian, of the Order of Preachers, in addition to the amount of his debt to me.
“I also bequeath 5 lire to every Congregation in Rialto, and 4 lire to every Guild or Fraternity of which I am a member.18
“Also I bequeath 20 soldi of Venetian grossi to the Priest Giovanni Giustiniani the Notary, for his trouble about this my Will, and in order that he may pray the Lord in my behalf.
“Also I release PETER the Tartar, my servant, from all bondage, as completely as I pray God to release mine own soul from all sin and guilt. And I also remit him whatever he may have gained by work at his own house; and over and above I bequeath him 100 lire of Venice denari.19
“And the residue of the said 2000 lire free of tithe, I direct to be distributed for the good of my soul, according to the discretion of my trustees.
“Out of my remaining property I bequeath to the aforesaid Donata, my Wife and Trustee, 8 lire of Venetian grossi annually during her life, for her own use, over and above her settlement, and the linen and all the household utensils,20 with 3 beds garnished.
“And all my other property movable and immovable that has not been disposed of [here follow some lines of mere technicality] I specially and expressly bequeath to my aforesaid Daughters Fantina, Bellela, and Moreta, freely and absolutely, to be divided equally among them. And I constitute them my heirs as regards all and sundry my property movable and immovable, and as regards all rights and contingencies tacit and expressed, of whatsoever kind as hereinbefore detailed, that belong to me or may fall to me. Save and except that before division my said daughter Moreta shall receive the same as each of my other daughters hath received for dowry and outfit [here follow many lines of technicalities, ending]
“And if any one shall presume to infringe or violate this Will, may he incur the malediction of God Almighty, and abide bound under the anathema of the 318 Fathers; and farthermore he shall forfeit to my Trustees aforesaid five pounds of gold;21 and so let this my Testament abide in force. The signature of the above named Messer Marco Paulo who gave instructions for this deed.
“* I Peter Grifon, Priest, Witness.
“* I Humfrey Barberi, Witness.
“* I John Giustiniani, Priest of S. Proculo, and Notary, have completed and authenticated (this testament).”22
We do not know, as has been said, how long Marco survived the making of this will, but we know, from a scanty series of documents commencing in June of the following year (1325), that he had then been some time dead.23
Place of Sepulture. Professed Portraits of Polo.]
48. He was buried, no doubt, according to his declared wish, in the Church of S. Lorenzo; and indeed Sansovino bears testimony to the fact in a confused notice of our Traveller.24 But there does not seem to have been any monument to Marco, though the sarcophagus which had been erected to his father Nicolo, by his own filial care, existed till near the end of the 16th century in the porch or corridor leading to the old Church of S. Lorenzo, and bore the inscription: “SEPULTURA DOMINI NICOLAI PAULO DE CONTRATA S. IOANNIS GRISOSTEMI.” The church was renewed from its foundations in 1592, and then, probably, the sarcophagus was cast aside and lost, and with it all certainty as to the position of the tomb.25
Illustration: Pavement in front of San Lorenzo, Venice.
Illustration: S. Lorenzo as it was in the 15th century
There is no portrait of Marco Polo in existence with any claim to authenticity. The quaint figure which we give in the Bibliography, vol. ii. p. 555, extracted from the earliest printed edition of his book, can certainly make no such pretension. The oldest one after this is probably a picture in the collection of Monsignor Badia at Rome, of which I am now able, by the owner’s courtesy, to give a copy. It is set down in the catalogue to Titian, but is probably a work of 1600, or thereabouts, to which the aspect and costume belong. It is inscribed “Marcus Polvs Venetvs Totivs Orbis et Indie Peregrator Primus.” Its history unfortunately cannot be traced, but I believe it came from a collection at Urbino. A marble statue was erected in his honour by a family at Venice in the 17th century, and is still to be seen in the Palazzo Morosini–Gattemburg in the Campo S. Stefano in that city. The medallion portrait on the wall of the Sala dello Scudo in the ducal palace, and which was engraved in Bettom’s “Collection of Portraits of Illustrious Italians,” is a work of imagination painted by Francesco Griselini in 1761.26 From this, however, was taken the medal by Fabris, which was struck in 1847 in honour of the last meeting of the Italian Congresso Scientifico; and from the medal again is copied, I believe, the elegant woodcut which adorns the introduction to M. Pauthier’s edition, though without any information as to its history. A handsome bust, by Augusto Gamba, has lately been placed among the illustrious Venetians in the inner arcade of the Ducal Palace.27 There is also a mosaic portrait of Polo, opposite the similar portrait of Columbus in the Municipio at Genoa.
Further History of the Polo Family.]
49. From the short series of documents recently alluded to,28 we gather all that we know of the remaining history of Marco Polo’s immediate family. We have seen in his will an indication that the two elder daughters, Fantina and Bellela, were married before his death. In 1333 we find the youngest, Moreta, also a married woman, and Bellela deceased. In 1336 we find that their mother Donata had died in the interval. We learn, too, that Fantina’s husband was MARCO BRAGADINO, and Moreta’s, RANUZZO DOLFINO.29 The name of Bellela’s husband does not appear.
Fantina’s husband is probably the Marco Bragadino, son of Pietro, who in 1346 is mentioned to have been sent as Provveditore–Generale to act against the Patriarch of Acquileia.30 And in 1379 we find Donna Fantina herself, presumably in widowhood, assessed as a resident of S. Giovanni Grisostomo, on the Estimo or forced loan for the Genoese war, at 1300 lire, whilst Pietro Bragadino of the same parish — her son as I imagine — is assessed at 1500 lire.31 [See vol. ii., Calendar.]
The documents show a few other incidents which may be briefly noted. In 1326 we have the record of a charge against one Zanino Grioni for insulting Donna Moreta in the Campo of San Vitale; a misdemeanour punished by the Council of Forty with two months’ imprisonment.
Illustration: Mosaic Portrait of Marco Polo at Genoa
Illustration: The Pseudo Marco Polo at Canton
In March, 1328, Marco Polo, called Marcolino, of St. John Chrysostom (see p. 66), represents before the Domini Advocatores of the Republic that certain imprestita that had belonged to the late Maffeo Polo the Elder, had been alienated and transferred in May 1318, by the late Marco Polo of St. John Chrysostom and since his death by his heirs, without regard to the rights of the said Marcolino, to whom the said Messer Maffeo had bequeathed 1000 lire by his will executed on 6th February, 1308 (i.e. 1309). The Advocatores find that the transfer was to that extent unjust and improper, and they order that to the same extent it should be revoked and annulled. Two months later the Lady Donata makes rather an unpleasant figure before the Council of Forty. It would seem that on the claim of Messer Bertuccio Quirino a mandate of sequestration had been issued by the Court of Requests affecting certain articles in the Ca’ Polo; including two bags of money which had been tied and sealed, but left in custody of the Lady Donata. The sum so sealed was about 80 lire of grossi (300l. in silver value), but when opened only 45 lire and 22 grossi (about 170l.) were found therein, and the Lady was accused of abstracting the balance non bono modo. Probably she acted, as ladies sometimes do, on a strong sense of her own rights, and a weak sense of the claims of law. But the Council pronounced against her, ordering restitution, and a fine of 200 lire over and above “ut ceteris transeat in exemplum.”32
It will have been seen that there is nothing in the amounts mentioned in Marco’s will to bear out the large reports as to his wealth, though at the same time there is no positive ground for a deduction to the contrary.33
The mention in two of the documents of Agnes Loredano as the sister of the Lady Donata suggests that the latter may have belonged to the Loredano family, but as it does not appear whether Agnes was maid or wife this remains uncertain.34
Respecting the further history of the family there is nothing certain, nor can we give unhesitating faith to Ramusio’s statement that the last male descendant of the Polos of S. Giovanni Grisostomo was Marco, who died Castellano of Verona in 1417 (according to others, 1418, or 1425),35 and that the family property then passed to Maria (or Anna, as she is styled in a MS. statement furnished to me from Venice), who was married in 1401 to Benedetto Cornaro, and again in 1414 to Azzo Trevisan. Her descendant in the fourth generation by the latter was Marc Antonio Trevisano,36 who was chosen Doge in 1553.
Illustration: Arms of the Trevisan family.
The genealogy recorded by Marco Barbaro, as drawn up from documents by Ramusio, makes the Castellano of Verona a grandson of our Marco by a son Maffeo, whom we may safely pronounce not to have existed, and makes Maria the daughter of Maffeo, Marco’s brother — that is to say, makes a lady marry in 1414 and have children, whose father was born in 1271 at the very latest! The genealogy is given in several other ways, but as I have satisfied myself that they all (except perhaps this of Barbaro’s, which we see to be otherwise erroneous) confound together the two distinct families of Polo of S. Geremia and Polo of S. Giov. Grisostomo, I reserve my faith, and abstain from presenting them. Assuming that the Marco or Marcolino Polo, spoken of in the preceding page, was a near relation (as is probable, though perhaps an illegitimate one), he is the only male descendant of old Andrea of San Felice whom we can indicate as having survived Marco himself; and from a study of the links in the professed genealogies I think it not unlikely that both Marco the Castellano of Verona and Maria Trevisan belonged to the branch of S. Geremia.37 [See vol. ii., App. C, p. 510.]
[49. bis. — It is interesting to note some of the reliques left by our traveller.
I. The unfortunate Doge of Venice, Marino Faliero, seems to have possessed many souvenirs of Marco Polo, and among them two manuscripts, one in the handwriting of his celebrated fellow-citizen(?), and one adorned with miniatures. M. Julius von Schlosser has reprinted (Die ältesten Medaillen und die Antike, Bd. XVIII., Jahrb. d. Kunsthist. Samml. d. Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, Vienna, 1897, pp. 42–43) from the Bulletino di arti, industrie e curiosità veneziane, III., 1880–81, p. 101,38 the inventory of the curiosities kept in the “Red Chamber” of Marino Faliero’s palace in the Parish of the SS. Apostles; we give the following abstract of it:—
Anno ab incarnacione domini nostri Jesu Christi 1351° indictione sexta mensis aprilis. Inuentarium rerum qui sunt in camera rubea domi habitationis clarissimi domini MARINI FALETRO de confinio SS. Apostolorum, scriptum per me Johannem, presbiterum, dicte ecclesie.
Item alia capsaleta cum ogiis auri et argenti, inter quos unum anulum con inscriptione que dicit: Ciuble Can Marco Polo, et unum torques cum multis animalibus Tartarorum sculptis, que res donum dedit predictus MARCUS cuidam Faletrorum.
Item 2 capsalete de corio albo cum variis rebus auri et argenti, quas habuit praedictus MARCUS a Barbarorum rege.
Item 1 ensem mirabilem, qui habet 3 enses simul, quem habuit in suis itineribus praedictus MARCUS.
Item 1 tenturam de pannis indicis, quam habuit praedictus MARCUS.
Item de itineribus MARCI praedicti liber in corio albo cum multis figuris.
Item aliud volumen quod vocatur de locis mirabilibus Tartarorum, scriptum manu praedicti MARCI.
II. There is kept at the Louvre, in the very valuable collection of China Ware given by M. Ernest Grandidier, a white porcelain incense-burner said to come from Marco Polo. This incense-burner, which belonged to Baron Davillier, who received it, as a present, from one of the keepers of the Treasury of St. Mark’s at Venice, is an octagonal ting from the Fo-kien province, and of the time of the Sung Dynasty. By the kind permission of M. P. Grandidier, we reproduce it from Pl. II. 6, of the Céramique chinoise, Paris, 1894, published by this learned amateur. — H. C.]
1 1. The Will is made in prospect of his voyage to Crete.
2. He had drafted his will with his own hand, sealed the draft, and made it over to Pietro Pagano, priest of S. Felice and Notary, to draw out a formal testament in faithful accordance therewith in case of the Testator’s death; and that which follows is the substance of the said draft rendered from the vernacular into Latin. (“Ego Matheus Paulo . . . volens ire in Cretam, ne repentinus casus hujus vite fragilis me subreperet intestatum, mea propria manu meum scripsi et condidi testamentum, rogans Petrum Paganum ecclesie Scti. Felicis presbiterum et Notarium, sana mente et integro consilio, ut, secundum ipsius scripturam quam sibi tunc dedi meo sigillo munitam, meum scriberet testamentum, si me de hoc seculo contigeret pertransire; cujus scripture tenor translato vulgari in latinum per omnia talis est.”)
3. Appoints as Trustees Messer Maffeo Polo his uncle, Marco Polo his brother, Messer Nicolo Secreto (or Sagredo) his father-inlaw, and Felix Polo his cousin (consanguineum).
4. Leaves 20 soldi to each of the Monasteries from Grado to Capo d’Argine; and 150 lire to all the congregations of Rialto, on condition that the priests of these maintain an annual service in behalf of the souls of his father, mother, and self.
5. To his daughter Fiordelisa 2000 lire to marry her withal. To be invested in safe mortgages in Venice, and the interest to go to her.
Also leaves her the interest from 1000 lire of his funds in Public Debt (? de meis imprestitis) to provide for her till she marries. After her marriage this 1000 lire and its interest shall go to his male heir if he has one, and failing that to his brother Marco.
6. To his wife Catharine 400 lire and all her clothes as they stand now. To the Lady Maroca 100 lire.
7. To his natural daughter Pasqua 400 lire to marry her withal. Or, if she likes to be a nun, 200 lire shall go to her convent and the other 200 shall purchase securities for her benefit. After her death these shall come to his male heir, or failing that be sold, and the proceeds distributed for the good of the souls of his father, mother, and self.
8. To his natural brothers Stephen and Giovannino he leaves 500 lire. If one dies the whole to go to the other. If both die before marrying, to go to his male heir; failing such, to his brother Marco or his male heir.
9. To his uncle Giordano Trevisano 200 lire. To Marco de Tumba 100. To Fiordelisa, wife of Felix Polo, 100. To Maroca, the daughter of the late Pietro Trevisano, living at Negropont, 100. To Agnes, wife of Pietro Lion, 100; and to Francis, son of the late Pietro Trevisano, in Negropont, 100.
10. To buy Public Debt producing an annual 20 lire ai grossi to be paid yearly to Pietro Pagano, Priest of S. Felice, who shall pray for the souls aforesaid: on death of said Pietro the income to go to Pietro’s cousin Lionardo, Clerk of S. Felice; and after him always to the senior priest of S. Giovanni Grisostomo with the same obligation.
11. Should his wife prove with child and bear a son or sons they shall have his whole property not disposed of. If a daughter, she shall have the same as Fiordelisa.
12. If he have no male heir his Brother Marco shall have the Testator’s share of his Father’s bequest, and 2000 lire besides. Cousin Nicolo shall have 500 lire, and Uncle Maffeo 500.
13. Should Daughter Fiordelisa die unmarried her 2000 lire and interest to go to his male heir, and failing such to Brother Marco and his male heir. But in that case Marco shall pay 500 lire to Cousin Nicolo or his male heir.
14. Should his wife bear him a male heir or heirs, but these should die under age, the whole of his undisposed property shall go to Brother Marco or his male heir. But in that case 500 lire shall be paid to Cousin Nicolo.
15. Should his wife bear a daughter and she die unmarried, her 2000 lire and interest shall go to Brother Marco, with the same stipulation in behalf of Cousin Nicolo.
16. Should the whole amount of his property between cash and goods not amount to 10,000 lire (though he believes he has fully as much), his bequests are to be ratably diminished, except those to his own children which he does not wish diminished. Should any legatee die before receiving the bequest, its amount shall fall to the Testator’s heir male, and failing such, the half to go to Marco or his male heir, and the other half to be distributed for the good of the souls aforesaid.
The witnesses are Lionardo priest of S. Felice, Lionardo clerk of the same, and the Notary Pietro Pagano priest of the same.
2 According to Romanin (I. 321) the lira dei grossi was also called Lira d’imprestidi, and if the lire here are to be so taken, the sum will be 10,000 ducats, the largest amount by far that occurs in any of these Polo documents, unless, indeed, the 1000 lire in § 5 of Maffeo Junior’s Will be the like; but I have some doubt if such lire are intended in either case.
3 “(Resolved) That grace be granted to the respectable MARCO PAULO, relieving him of the penalty he has incurred for neglecting to have his water-pipe examined, seeing that he was ignorant of the order on that subject.” (See Appendix C. No. 3.) The other reference, to M. Polo, of S. Geremia, runs as follows:—
[MCCCII. indic. XV. die VIII. Macii q fiat gra Guillo aurifici q ipe absolvat a pena i qua dicit icurisse p uno spotono sibi iueto veuiedo de Mestre ppe domu Maci Pauli de Canareglo ui descenderat ad bibendu.]
“That grace be granted to William the Goldsmith, relieving him of the penalty which he is stated to have incurred on account of a spontoon (spontono, a loaded bludgeon) found upon him near the house of MARCO PAULO of Cannareggio, where he had landed to drink on his way from Mestre.” (See Cicogna, V. p. 606.)
4 Sansovino, Venezia, Città Nobilissima e Singolare, Descritta, etc., Ven. 1581, f. 236 v.; Barbaro, Alberi; Coronelli, Allante Veneto, I. 19.
5 The word Millio occurs several times in the Chronicle of the Doge Andrea Dandolo, who wrote about 1342; and Milion occurs at least once (besides the application of the term to Polo) in the History of Giovanni Villani; viz. when he speaks of the Treasury of Avignon:— “diciotto milioni di fiorini d’oro ec. che ogni milione è mille migliaja di fiorini d’ oro la valuta.” (xi. 20, § 1; Ducange, and Vocab. Univ. Ital.). But the definition, thought necessary by Villani, in itself points to the use of the word as rare. Domilion occurs in the estimated value of houses at Venice in 1367, recorded in the Cronaca Magna in St. Mark’s Library. (Romanin, III. 385).
6 “Also; that Pardon be granted to Bonocio of Mestre for that 152 lire in which he stood condemned by the Captains of the Posts, on account of wine smuggled by him, in such wise: to wit, that he was to pay the said fine in 4 years by annual instalments of one fourth, to be retrenched from the pay due to him on his journey in the suite of our ambassadors, with assurance that anything then remaining deficient of his instalments should be made good by himself or his securities. And his securities are the Nobles Pietro Morosini and MARCO PAULO MILION.” Under Milion is written in an ancient hand “mortuus.” (See Appendix C, No. 4.)
7 Humboldt tells this (Examen, II. 221), alleging Jacopo d’Acqui as authority; and Libri (H. des Sciences Mathématiques, II. 149), quoting Doglioni, Historia Veneziana. But neither authority bears out the citations. The story seems really to come from Amoretti’s commentary on the Voyage du Cap. L. F. Maldonado, Plaisance, 1812, p. 67. Amoretti quotes as authority Pignoria, Degli Dei Antichi.
An odd revival of this old libel was mentioned to me recently by Mr. George Moffatt. When he was at school it was common among the boys to express incredulity by the phrase: “Oh, what a Marco Polo!”
8 Thibault, according to Ducange, was in 1307 named Grand Master of the Arblasteers of France; and Buchon says his portrait is at Versailles among the Admirals (No. 1170). Ramon de Muntaner fell in with the Seigneur de Cepoy in Greece, and speaks of him as “but a Captain of the Wind, as his Master was King of the Wind.” (See Ducange, H. de l’Empire de Const. sous les Emp. François, Venice ed. 1729, pp. 109, 110; Buchon, Chroniques Etrangères, pp. lv. 467–470.)
9 The note is not found in the Bodleian MS., which is the third known one of this precise type.
10 Messire Jean, the son of Thibault, is mentioned in the accounts of the latter in the Chambre des Comptes at Paris, as having been with his Father in Romania. And in 1344 he commanded a confederate Christian armament sent to check the rising power of the Turks, and beat a great Turkish fleet in the Greek seas. (Heyd. I. 377; Buchon, 468.)
11 The document is given in Appendix C, No. 5. It was found by Comm. Barozzi, the Director of the Museo Civico, when he had most kindly accompanied me to aid in the search for certain other documents in the archives of the Casa di Ricovero, or Poor House of Venice. These archives contain a great mass of testamentary and other documents, which probably have come into that singular depository in connection with bequests to public charities.
The document next mentioned was found in as strange a site, viz., the Casa degli Esposti or Foundling Hospital, which possesses similar muniments. This also I owe to Comm. Barozzi, who had noted it some years before, when commencing an arrangement of the archives of the Institution.
12 The Legal Year at Venice began on the 1st of March. And 1324 was 7th of the Indiction. Hence the date is, according to the modern Calendar, 1324.
13 Marsden says of Moreta and Fantina, the only daughters named by Ramusio, that these may be thought rather familiar terms of endearment than baptismal names. This is a mistake however. Fantina is from one of the parochial saints of Venice, S. Fantino, and the male name was borne by sundry Venetians, among others by a son of Henry Dandolo’s. Moreta is perhaps a variation of Maroca, which seems to have been a family name among the Polos. We find also the male name of Bellela, written Bellello, Bellero, Belletto.
14 The Decima went to the Bishop of Castello (eventually converted into Patriarch of Venice) to divide between himself, the Clergy, the Church, and the Poor. It became a source of much bad feeling, which came to a head after the plague of 1348, when some families had to pay the tenth three times within a very short space. The existing Bishop agreed to a composition, but his successor Paolo Foscari (1367) claimed that on the death of every citizen an exact inventory should be made, and a full tithe levied. The Signory fought hard with the Bishop, but he fled to the Papal Court and refused all concession. After his death in 1376 a composition was made for 5500 ducats yearly. (Romanin, II. 406; III. 161, 165.)
15 There is a difficulty about estimating the value of these sums from the variety of Venice pounds or lire. Thus the Lira dei piccoli was reckoned 3 to the ducat or zecchin, the Lira ai grossi 2 to the ducat, but the Lira dei grossi or Lira d’imprestidi was equal to 10 ducats, or (allowing for higher value of silver then) about 3l. 15s.; a little more than the equivalent of the then Pound sterling. This last money is specified in some of the bequests, as in the 20 soldi (or 1 lira) to St. Lorenzo, and in the annuity of 8 lire to Polo’s wife; but it seems doubtful what money is meant when libra only or libra denariorum venetorum is used. And this doubt is not new. Gallicciolli relates that in 1232 Giacomo Menotto left to the Church of S. Cassiano as an annuity libras denariorum venetorum quatuor. Till 1427 the church received the income as of lire dei piccoli, but on bringing a suit on the subject it was adjudged that lire ai grossi were to be understood. (Delle Mem. Venet. Ant. II. 18.) This story, however, cuts both ways, and does not decide our doubt.
16 The form of the name Ysabeta aptly illustrates the transition that seems so strange from Elizabeth into the Isabel that the Spaniards made of it.
17 I.e. the extent of what was properly called the Dogado, all along the Lagoons from Grado on the extreme east to Capo d’Argine (Cavarzere at the mouth of the Adige) on the extreme west.
18 The word rendered Guilds is “Scholarum.” The crafts at Venice were united in corporations called Fraglie or Scholae, each of which had its statutes, its head called the Gastald, and its place of meeting under the patronage of some saint. These acted as societies of mutual aid, gave dowries to poor girls, caused masses to be celebrated for deceased members, joined in public religious processions, etc., nor could any craft be exercised except by members of such a guild. (Romanin, I. 390.)
19 A few years after Ser Marco’s death (1328) we find the Great Council granting to this Peter the rights of a natural Venetian, as having been a long time at Venice, and well-conducted. (See App. C, Calendar of Documents, No. 13.) This might give some additional colour to M. Pauthier’s supposition that this Peter the Tartar was a faithful servant who had accompanied Messer Marco from the East 30 years before. But yet the supposition is probably unfounded. Slavery and slave-trade were very prevalent at Venice in the Middle Ages, and V. Lazari, a writer who examined a great many records connected therewith, found that by far the greater number of slaves were described as Tartars. There does not seem to be any clear information as to how they were imported, but probably from the factories on the Black Sea, especially Tana after its establishment.
A tax of 5 ducats per head was set on the export of slaves in 1379, and as the revenue so received under the Doge Tommaso Mocenigo (1414–1423) amounted (so says Lazari) to 50,000 ducats, the startling conclusion is that 10,000 slaves yearly were exported! This it is difficult to accept. The slaves were chiefly employed in domestic service, and the records indicate the women to have been about twice as numerous as the men. The highest price recorded is 87 ducats paid for a Russian girl sold in 1429. All the higher prices are for young women; a significant circumstance. With the existence of this system we may safely connect the extraordinary frequence of mention of illegitimate children in Venetian wills and genealogies. (See Lazari, Del Traffico degli Schiavi in Venezia, etc., in Miscellanea di Storia Italiana, I. 463 seqq.) In 1308 the Khan Toktai of Kipchak (see Polo, II. 496), hearing that the Genoese and other Franks were in the habit of carrying off Tartar children to sell, sent a force against Caffa, which was occupied without resistance, the people taking refuge in their ships. The Khan also seized the Genoese property in Sarai. (Heyd. II. 27.)
20 “Stracium et omne capud massariciorum”; in Scotch phrase “napery and plenishing.” A Venetian statute of 1242 prescribes that a bequest of massariticum shall be held to carry to the legatee all articles of common family use except those of gold and silver plate or jeweller’s work. (See Ducange, sub voce.) Stracci is still used technically in Venice for “household linen.”
21 In the original aureas libras quinque. According to Marino Sanudo the Younger (Vite dei Dogi in Muratori xxii. 521) this should be pounds or lire of aureole, the name of a silver coin struck by and named after the Doge Aurio Mastropietro (1178–1192): “Ancora fu fatta una Moneta d’argento che si chiamava Aureola per la casata del Doge; è quella Moneta che i Notai de Venezia mettevano di pena sotto i loro instrumenti.” But this was a vulgar error. An example of the penalty of 5 pounds of gold is quoted from a decree of 960; and the penalty is sometimes expressed “auri purissimi librae 5.” A coin called the lira d’oro or redonda is alleged to have been in use before the ducat was introduced. (See Gallicciolli, II. 16.) But another authority seems to identify the lira a oro with the lira dei grossi. (See Zanetti, Nuova Racc. delle Monete &c. d’Italia, 1775. I. 308)
22 We give a photographic reduction of the original document. This, and the other two Polo Wills already quoted, had come into the possession of the Noble Filippo Balbi, and were by him presented in our own time to the St. Mark’s Library. They are all on parchment, in writing of that age, and have been officially examined and declared to be originals. They were first published by Cicogna, Iscrizioni Veneziane, III. 489–493. We give Marco’s in the original language, line for line with the facsimile, in Appendix C.
There is no signature, as may be seen, except those of the Witnesses and the Notary. The sole presence of a Notary was held to make a deed valid, and from about the middle of the 13th century in Italy it is common to find no actual signature (even of witnesses) except that of the Notary. The peculiar flourish before the Notary’s name is what is called the Tabellionato, a fanciful distinctive monogram which each Notary adopted. Marco’s Will is unfortunately written in a very cramp hand with many contractions. The other two Wills (of Marco the Elder and Maffeo) are in beautiful and clear Gothic penmanship.
23 We have noticed formerly (pp. 14–15, note) the recent discovery of a document bearing what was supposed to be the autograph signature of our Traveller. The document in question is the Minute of a Resolution of the Great Council, attested by the signatures of three members, of whom the last is MARCUS PAULLO. But the date alone, 11th March, 1324, is sufficient to raise the gravest doubts as to this signature being that of our Marco. And further examination, as I learn from a friend at Venice, has shown that the same name occurs in connection with analogous entries on several subsequent occasions up to the middle of the century. I presume that this Marco Polo is the same that is noticed in our Appendix B, II. as a voter in the elections of the Doges Marino Faliero and Giovanni Gradenigo. I have not been able to ascertain his relation to either branch of the Polo family; but I suspect that he belonged to that of S. Geremia, of which there was certainly a Marco about the middle of the century.
24 “Under the angiporta (of S. Lorenzo) [see plate] is buried that Marco Polo surnamed Milione, who wrote the Travels in the New World, and who was the first before Christopher Columbus to discover new countries. No faith was put in him because of the extravagant things that he recounted; but in the days of our Fathers Columbus augmented belief in him, by discovering that part of the world which eminent men had heretofore judged to be uninhabited.” (Venezia . . . Descritta, etc., f. 23 v.) Marco Barbaro attests the same inscription in his Genealogies (copy in Museo Civico at Venice).
25 Cicogna, II. 385.
26 Lazari, xxxi.
27 In the first edition I noticed briefly a statement that had reached me from China that, in the Temple at Canton vulgarly called “of the 500 gods,” there is a foreign figure which from the name attached had been supposed to represent Marco Polo! From what I have heard from Mr. Wylie, a very competent authority, this is nonsense. The temple contains 500 figures of Arhans or Buddhist saints, and one of these attracts attention from having a hat like a sailor’s straw hat. Mr. Wylie had not remarked the name. [A model of this figure was exhibited at Venice at the international Geographical Congress, in 1881. I give a reproduction of this figure and of the Temple of 500 Genii (Fa Lum Sze) at Canton, from drawings by Félix Régamey made after photographs sent to me by my late friend, M. Camille Imbault Huart, French Consul at Canton. — H. C.]
28 These documents are noted in Appendix C, Nos. 9–12, 14, 17, 18.
29 I can find no Ranuzzo Dolfino among the Venetian genealogies, but several Reniers. And I suspect Ranuzzo may be a form of the latter name.
30 Cappellari (see p. 77, footnote) under Bragadino.
31 Ibid. and Gallicciolli, II. 146.
32 The lire of the fine are not specified; but probably ai grossi, which would be = 37l. 10s.; not, we hope, dei grossi!
33 Yet, if the family were so wealthy as tradition represents, it is strange that Marco’s brother Maffeo, after receiving a share of his father’s property, should have possessed barely 10,000 lire, probably equivalent to 5000 ducats at most. (See p. 65, supra.)
34 An Agnes Loredano, Abbess of S. Maria delle Vergini, died in 1397. Cicogna, V. 91 and 629.) The interval of 61 years makes it somewhat improbable that it should be the same.
35 In the Museo Civico (No. 2271 of the Cicogna collection) there is a addressed by the Doge Michiel Steno in 1408, “Nobili Viro Marcho Paulo,” nominating him Podestà of Arostica (a Castello of the Vicentino). This is probably the same Marco.
36 The descent runs: (1) Azzo = Maria Polo; (2) Febo, Captain at Padua; (3) Zaccaria, Senator; (4) Domenico, Procurator of St. Mark’s; (5) Marc’ Antonio, Doge (Cappellari, Campidoglio Veneto, MS. St. Mark’s Lib.).
Marc’ Antonio nolebat ducari and after election desired to renounce. His friends persuaded him to retain office, but he lived scarcely a year after. (Cicogna, IV. 566.) [See p. 8.]
37 In Appendix B will be found tabulated all the facts that seem to be positively ascertained as to the Polo genealogies.
In the Venetian archives occurs a procuration executed by the Doge in favour of the Nobilis Vir SER MARCO PAULO that he may present himself before the king of Sicily; under date, Venice 9th November, 1342. And some years later we have in the Sicilian Archives an order by King Lewis of Sicily, directed to the Maestri Procuratori of Messina, which grants to MARCO POLO of Venice, on account of services rendered to the king’s court, the privilege of free import and export at the port of Messina, without payment of customs of goods to the amount annually of 20 ounces. Dated in Catania 13th January, 1346 (1347?).
For the former notice I am indebted to the courtesy of Signor B. Cecchetti of the Venetian Archives, who cites it as “transcribed in the Commemor. IV. p. 5”; for the latter to that of the Abate Carini of the Reale Archivio at Palermo; it is in Archivio della Regia Cancellaria 1343–1357, f. 58.
The mission of this MARCO POLO is mentioned also in a rescript of the Sicilian king Peter II., dated Messina, 14th November, 1340, in reference to certain claims of Venice, about which the said Marco appeared as the Doge’s ambassador. This is printed in F. TESTA, De Vitâ et Rebus Gestis Federici II., Siciliae Regis, Panormi, 1775, pp. 267 seqq. The Sicilian Antiquary Rosario Gregorio identifies the Envoy with our Marco, dead long before. (See Opere scelte del Canon Ros. Gregorio, Palermo, 1845, 3za ediz., p. 352.)
It is possible that this Marco, who from the latter notice seems to have been engaged in mercantile affairs, may have been the Marcolino above mentioned, but it is perhaps on the whole more probable that this nobilis vir is the Marco spoken of in the note at p. 74.
38 La Collezione del Doge Marin Faliero e i Tesori di Marco Polo, pp. 98–103. I have seen this article. — H. C.
Illustration: Porcelain Incense Burner, from the Louvre
General statement of what the Book contains.]
50. The Book itself consists essentially of Two Parts. First, of a Prologue, as it is termed, the only part which is actual personal narrative, and which relates, in a very interesting but far too brief manner, the circumstances which led the two elder Polos to the Kaan’s Court, and those of their second journey with Mark, and of their return to Persia through the Indian Seas. Secondly, of a long series of chapters of very unequal length, descriptive of notable sights and products, of curious manners and remarkable events, relating to the different nations and states of Asia, but, above all, to the Emperor Kúblái, his court, wars, and administration. A series of chapters near the close treats in a verbose and monotonous manner of sundry wars that took place between the various branches of the House of Chinghiz in the latter half of the 13th century. This last series is either omitted or greatly curtailed in all the copies and versions except one; a circumstance perfectly accounted for by the absence of interest as well as value in the bulk of these chapters. Indeed, desirous though I have been to give the Traveller’s work complete, and sharing the dislike that every man who uses books must bear to abridgments, I have felt that it would be sheer waste and dead-weight to print these chapters in full.
Illustration: Temple of 500 Genii at Canton after a Drawing by FELIX REGAMEY
This second and main portion of the Work is in its oldest forms undivided, the chapters running on consecutively to the end.1 In some very early Italian or Venetian version, which Friar Pipino translated into Latin, it was divided into three Books, and this convenient division has generally been adhered to. We have adopted M. Pauthier’s suggestion in making the final series of chapters, chiefly historical, into a Fourth.
Language of the original Work.]
51. As regards the language in which Marco’s Book was first committed to writing, we have seen that Ramusio assumed, somewhat arbitrarily, that it was Latin; Marsden supposed it to have been the Venetian dialect; Baldelli Boni first showed, in his elaborate edition (Florence, 1827), by arguments that have been illustrated and corroborated by learned men since, that it was French.
That the work was originally written in some Italian dialect was a natural presumption, and slight contemporary evidence can be alleged in its favour; for Fra Pipino, in the Latin version of the work, executed whilst Marco still lived, describes his task as a translation de vulgari. And in one MS. copy of the same Friar Pipino’s Chronicle, existing in the library at Modena, he refers to the said version as made “ex vulgari idiomate Lombardico.” But though it may seem improbable that at so early a date a Latin version should have been made at second hand, I believe this to have been the case, and that some internal evidence also is traceable that Pipino translated not from the original but from an Italian version of the original.
The oldest MS. (it is supposed) in any Italian dialect is one in the Magliabecchian Library at Florence, which is known in Italy as L’Ottima, on account of the purity of its Tuscan, and as Della Crusca from its being one of the authorities cited by that body in their Vocabulary.2 It bears on its face the following note in Italian:—
“This Book called the Navigation of Messer Marco Polo, a noble Citizen of Venice, was written in Florence by Michael Ormanni my great grandfather by the Mother’s side, who died in the Year of Grace One Thousand Three Hundred and Nine; and my mother brought it into our Family of Del Riccio, and it belongs to me Pier del Riccio and to my Brother; 1452.”
As far as I can learn, the age which this note implies is considered to be supported by the character of the MS. itself.3 If it be accepted, the latter is a performance going back to within eleven years at most of the first dictation of the Travels. At first sight, therefore, this would rather argue that the original had been written in pure Tuscan. But when Baldelli came to prepare it for the press he found manifest indications of its being a Translation from the French. Some of these he has noted; others have followed up the same line of comparison. We give some detailed examples in a note.4
Old French Text published by the Société de Géographie.]
52. The French Text that we have been quoting, published by the Geographical Society of Paris in 1824, affords on the other hand the strongest corresponding proof that it is an original and not a Translation. Rude as is the language of the manuscript (Fr. 1116, formerly No. 7367, of Paris Library), it is, in the correctness of the proper names, and the intelligible exhibition of the itineraries, much superior to any form of the Work previously published.
The language is very peculiar. We are obliged to call it French, but it is not “Frenche of Paris.” “Its style,” says Paulin Paris, “is about as like that of good French authors of the age, as in our day the natural accent of a German, an Englishman, or an Italian, is like that of a citizen of Paris or Blois.” The author is at war with all the practices of French grammar; subject and object, numbers, moods, and tenses, are in consummate confusion. Even readers of his own day must at times have been fain to guess his meaning. Italian words are constantly introduced, either quite in the crude or rudely Gallicized.5 And words also, we may add, sometimes slip in which appear to be purely Oriental, just as is apt to happen with Anglo–Indians in these days.6 All this is perfectly consistent with the supposition that we have in this MS. a copy at least of the original words as written down by Rusticiano a Tuscan, from the dictation of Marco an Orientalized Venetian, in French, a language foreign to both.
But the character of the language as French is not its only peculiarity. There is in the style, apart from grammar or vocabulary, a rude angularity, a rough dramatism like that of oral narrative; there is a want of proportion in the style of different parts, now over curt, now diffuse and wordy, with at times even a hammering reiteration; a constant recurrence of pet colloquial phrases (in which, however, other literary works of the age partake); a frequent change in the spelling of the same proper names, even when recurring within a few lines, as if caught by ear only; a literal following to and fro of the hesitations of the narrator; a more general use of the third person in speaking of the Traveller, but an occasional lapse into the first. All these characteristics are strikingly indicative of the unrevised product of dictation, and many of them would necessarily disappear either in translation or in a revised copy.
Of changes in representing the same proper name, take as an example that of the Kaan of Persia whom Polo calls Quiacatu (Kaikhátú), but also Acatu, Catu, and the like.
As an example of the literal following of dictation take the following:—
“Let us leave Rosia, and I will tell you about the Great Sea (the Euxine), and what provinces and nations lie round about it, all in detail; and we will begin with Constantinople — First, however, I should tell you about a province, etc. . . . There is nothing more worth mentioning, so I will speak of other subjects — but there is one thing more to tell you about Rosia that I had forgotten. . . . Now then let us speak of the Great Sea as I was about to do. To be sure many merchants and others have been here, but still there are many again who know nothing about it, so it will be well to include it in our Book. We will do so then, and let us begin first with the Strait of Constantinople.
“At the Straits leading into the Great Sea, on the West Side, there is a hill called the Faro. — But since beginning on this matter I have changed my mind, because so many people know all about it, so we will not put it in our description but go on to something else.” (See vol. ii. p. 487 seqq.)
And so on.
As a specimen of tautology and hammering reiteration the following can scarcely be surpassed. The Traveller is speaking of the Chughi, i.e. the Indian Jogis:—
“And there are among them certain devotees, called Chughi; these are longer-lived than the other people, for they live from 150 to 200 years; and yet they are so hale of body that they can go and come wheresoever they please, and do all the service needed for their monastery or their idols, and do it just as well as if they were younger; and that comes of the great abstinence that they practise, in eating little food and only what is wholesome; for they use to eat rice and milk more than anything else. And again I tell you that these Chughi who live such a long time as I have told you, do also eat what I am going to tell you, and you will think it a great matter. For I tell you that they take quicksilver and sulphur, and mix them together, and make a drink of them, and then they drink this, and they say that it adds to their life; and in fact they do live much longer for it; and I tell you that they do this twice every month. And let me tell you that these people use this drink from their infancy in order to live longer, and without fail those who live so long as I have told you use this drink of sulphur and quicksilver.” (See G. T. p. 213.)
Such talk as this does not survive the solvent of translation; and we may be certain that we have here the nearest approach to the Traveller’s reminiscences as they were taken down from his lips in the prison of Genoa.
Conclusive proof that the Old French Text is the source of all the others.]
53. Another circumstance, heretofore I believe unnoticed, is in itself enough to demonstrate the Geographic Text to be the source of all other versions of the Work. It is this.
In reviewing the various classes or types of texts of Polo’s Book, which we shall hereafter attempt to discriminate, there are certain proper names which we find in the different texts to take very different forms, each class adhering in the main to one particular form.
Thus the names of the Mongol ladies introduced at pp. 32 and 36 of this volume, which are in proper Oriental form Bulughán and Kukáchin, appear in the class of MSS. which Pauthier has followed as Bolgara and Cogatra; in the MSS. of Pipino’s version, and those founded on it, including Ramusio, the names appear in the correcter forms Bolgana or Balgana and Cogacin. Now all the forms Bolgana, Balgana, Bolgara, and Cogatra, Cocacin appear in the Geographic Text.
Kaikhátú Kaan appears in the Pauthier MSS. as Chiato, in the Pipinian as Acatu, in the Ramusian as Chiacato. All three forms, Chiato, Achatu, and Quiacatu are found in the Geographic Text.
The city of Koh-banan appears in the Pauthier MSS. as Cabanant, in the Pipinian and Ramusian editions as Cobinam or Cobinan. Both forms are found in the Geographic Text.
The city of the Great Kaan (Khanbalig) is called in the Pauthier MSS. Cambaluc, in the Pipinian and Ramusian less correctly Cambalu. Both forms appear in the Geographic Text.
The aboriginal People on the Burmese Frontier who received from the Western officers of the Mongols the Persian name (translated from that applied by the Chinese) of Zardandán, or Gold–Teeth, appear in the Pauthier MSS. most accurately as Zardandan, but in the Pipinian as Ardandan (still further corrupted in some copies into Arcladam). Now both forms are found in the Geographic Text. Other examples might be given, but these I think may suffice to prove that this Text was the common source of both classes.
In considering the question of the French original too we must remember what has been already said regarding Rusticien de Pise and his other French writings; and we shall find hereafter an express testimony borne in the next generation that Marco’s Book was composed in vulgari Gallico.
Greatly diffused employment of French in that age.]
54. But, after all, the circumstantial evidence that has been adduced from the texts themselves is the most conclusive. We have then every reason to believe both that the work was written in French, and that an existing French Text is a close representation of it as originally committed to paper. And that being so we may cite some circumstances to show that the use of French or quasi-French for the purpose was not a fact of a very unusual or surprising nature. The French language had at that time almost as wide, perhaps relatively a wider, diffusion than it has now. It was still spoken at the Court of England, and still used by many English writers, of whom the authors or translators of the Round Table Romances at Henry III.‘s Court are examples.7 In 1249 Alexander III. King of Scotland, at his coronation spoke in Latin and French; and in 1291 the English Chancellor addressing the Scotch Parliament did so in French. At certain of the Oxford Colleges as late as 1328 it was an order that the students should converse colloquio latino vel saltern gallico.8 Late in the same century Gower had not ceased to use French, composing many poems in it, though apologizing for his want of skill therein:—
“Et si jeo nai de Francois la faconde
* * * * *
Jeo suis Englois; si quier par tiele voie
Indeed down to nearly 1385, boys in the English grammar-schools were taught to construe their Latin lessons into French.10 St. Francis of Assisi is said by some of his biographers to have had his original name changed to Francesco because of his early mastery of that language as a qualification for commerce. French had been the prevalent tongue of the Crusaders, and was that of the numerous Frank Courts which they established in the East, including Jerusalem and the states of the Syrian coast, Cyprus, Constantinople during the reign of the Courtenays, and the principalities of the Morea. The Catalan soldier and chronicler Ramon de Muntaner tells us that it was commonly said of the Morean chivalry that they spoke as good French as at Paris.11 Quasi–French at least was still spoken half a century later by the numerous Christians settled at Aleppo, as John Marignolli testifies;12 and if we may trust Sir John Maundevile the Soldan of Egypt himself and four of his chief Lords “spak Frensche righte wel!”13 Gházán Kaan, the accomplished Mongol Sovereign of Persia, to whom our Traveller conveyed a bride from Cambaluc, is said by the historian Rashiduddin to have known something of the Frank tongue, probably French.14 Nay, if we may trust the author of the Romance of Richard Coeur-deLion, French was in his day the language of still higher spheres!15
Nor was Polo’s case an exceptional one even among writers on the East who were not Frenchmen. Maundevile himself tells us that he put his book first “out of Latyn into Frensche,” and then out of French into English.16 The History of the East which the Armenian Prince and Monk Hayton dictated to Nicolas Faulcon at Poictiers in 1307 was taken down in French. There are many other instances of the employment of French by foreign, and especially by Italian authors of that age. The Latin chronicle of the Benedictine Amato of Monte Cassino was translated into French early in the 13th century by another monk of the same abbey, at the particular desire of the Count of Militrée (or Malta), “Pour ce qu’il set lire et entendre fransoize et s’en delitte.”17 Martino da Canale, a countryman and contemporary of Polo’s, during the absence of the latter in the East wrote a Chronicle of Venice in the same language, as a reason for which he alleges its general popularity.18 The like does the most notable example of all, Brunetto Latini, Dante’s master, who wrote in French his encyclopaedic and once highly popular work Li Tresor.19 Other examples might be given, but in fact such illustration is superfluous when we consider that Rusticiano himself was a compiler of French Romances.
But why the language of the Book as we see it in the Geographic Text should be so much more rude, inaccurate, and Italianized than that of Rusticiano’s other writings, is a question to which I can suggest no reply quite satisfactory to myself. Is it possible that we have in it a literal representation of Polo’s own language in dictating the story — a rough draft which it was intended afterwards to reduce to better form, and which was so reduced (after a fashion) in French copies of another type, regarding which we shall have to speak presently?20 And, if this be the true answer, why should Polo have used a French jargon in which to tell his story? Is it possible that his own mother Venetian, such as he had carried to the East with him and brought back again, was so little intelligible to Rusticiano that French of some kind was the handiest medium of communication between the two? I have known an Englishman and a Hollander driven to converse in Malay; Chinese Christians of different provinces are said sometimes to take to English as the readiest means of intercommunication; and the same is said even of Irish-speaking Irishmen from remote parts of the Island.
It is worthy of remark how many notable narratives of the Middle Ages have been dictated instead of being written by their authors, and that in cases where it is impossible to ascribe this to ignorance of writing. The Armenian Hayton, though evidently a well-read man, possibly could not write in Roman characters. But Joinville is an illustrious example. And the narratives of four of the most famous Mediaeval Travellers21 seem to have been drawn from them by a kind of pressure, and committed to paper by other hands. I have elsewhere remarked this as indicating how little diffused was literary ambition or vanity; but it would perhaps be more correct to ascribe it to that intense dislike which is still seen on the shores of the Mediterranean to the use of pen and ink. On certain of those shores at least there is scarcely any inconvenience that the majority of respectable and good-natured people will not tolerate — inconvenience to their neighbours be it understood — rather than put pen to paper for the purpose of preventing it.
1 232 chapters in the oldest French which we quote as the Geographic
Text (or G. T.), 200 in Pauthier’s Text, 183 in the Crusca Italian.
2 The MS. has been printed by Baldelli as above, and again by Bartoli in
3 This is somewhat peculiar. I traced a few lines of it, which with Del
Riccio’s note were given in facsimile in the First Edition.
4 The Crusca is cited from Bartoli’s edition.
French idioms are frequent, as l’uomo for the French on; quattro-vinti instead of ottanta; etc.
We have at p. 35, “Questo piano è molto cavo,” which is nonsense, but is explained by reference to the French (G. T.) “Voz di qu’il est celle plaingne mout chaue” (chaude).
The bread in Kerman is bitter, says the G. T. “por ce que l’eive hi est amer,” because the water there is bitter. The Crusca mistakes the last word and renders (p. 40) “e questi è per lo mare che vi viene.”
“Sachiés de voir qe endementiers,” know for a truth that whilst — — by some misunderstanding of the last word becomes (p. 129) “Sappiate di vero sanza mentire.”
“Mès de sel font-il monoie”—“They make money of salt,” becomes (p. 168) “ma fannole da loro,” sel being taken for a pronoun, whilst in another place sel is transferred bodily without translation.
“Chevoil,” “hair” of the old French, appears in the Tuscan (p. 20) as cavagli, “horses.”—“La Grant Provence Jereraus,” the great general province, appears (p. 68) as a province whose proper name is Ienaraus. In describing Kúblái’s expedition against Mien or Burma, Polo has a story of his calling on the Jugglers at his court to undertake the job, promising them a Captain and other help, “Cheveitain et aide.” This has fairly puzzled the Tuscan, who converts these (p. 186) into two Tartar tribes, “quegli d’ Aide e quegli di Caveità.”
So also we have lievre for hare transferred without change; lait, milk, appearing as laido instead of latte; très, rendered as “three”; bue, “mud,” Italianised as buoi, “oxen,” and so forth. Finally, in various places when Polo is explaining Oriental terms we find in the Tuscan MS. “cioè a dire in Francesco.”
The blunders mentioned are intelligible enough as in a version from the French; but in the description of the Indian pearl-fishery we have a startling one not so easy to account for. The French says, “the divers gather the sea-oysters (hostrige de Mer), and in these the pearls are found.” This appears in the Tuscan in the extraordinary form that the divers catch those fishes called Herrings (Aringhe), and in those Herrings are found the Pearls!
5 As examples of these Italianisms: “Et ont del olio de la lanpe dou sepolchro de Crist”; “L’Angel ven en vision pour mesajes de Deu à un Veschevo qe mout estoient home de sante vite”; “E certes il estoit bien beizongno”; “ne trop caut ne trop fredo”; “la crense” (credenza); “remort” for noise (rumore) “inverno”; “jorno”; “dementiqué” (dimenticato); “enferme” for sickly; “leign” (legno); “devisce” (dovizia); “ammalaide” (ammalato), etc. etc.
Professor Bianconi points out that there are also traces of Venetian dialect, as Pare for père; Mojer for wife; Zabater, cobbler; cazaor, huntsman, etc.
I have not been able to learn to what extent books in this kind of mixed language are extant. I have observed one, a romance in verse called Macaire (Altfranzosische Gedichte aus Venez. Handschriften, von Adolf Mussafia, Wien, 1864), the language of which is not unlike this jargon of Rustician’s, e.g.:—
“‘Dama,’ fait-il, ‘molto me poso merviler
De ves enfant quant le fi batecer
De un signo qe le vi sor la spal’a droiturer
Qe non ait nul se no filz d’inperer.’"—(p. 41)
6 As examples of such Orientalisms: Bonus, “ebony,” and calamanz, “pencases,” seem to represent the Persian abnús and kalamdàn; the dead are mourned by les mères et les Araines, the Harems; in speaking of the land of the Ismaelites or Assassins, called Mulhete, i.e. the Arabic Muláhidah, “Heretics,” he explains this term as meaning “des Aram” (Harám, “the reprobate”). Speaking of the Viceroys of Chinese Provinces, we are told that they rendered their accounts yearly to the Safators of the Great Kaan. This is certainly an Oriental word. Sir H. Rawlinson has suggested that it stands for dafátir (“registers or public books”), pl. of daftar. This seems probable, and in that case the true reading may have been dafators.
7 Luces du Gast, one of the first of these, introduces himself thus:—
“Je Luces, Chevaliers et Sires du Chastel du Gast, voisins prochain de Salebieres, comme chevaliers amoureus enprens à translater du Latin en François une partie de cette estoire, non mie pour ce que je sache gramment de François, ainz apartient plus ma langue et ma parleure à la manière de l’Engleterre que à celle de France, comme cel qui fu en Engleterre nez, mais tele est ma volentez et mon proposement, que je en langue françoise le translaterai.” (Hist. Litt. de La France, xv. 494.)
8 Hist. Litt. de la France, xv. 500.
9 Ibid. 508.
10 Tyrwhitt’s Essay on Lang., etc., of Chaucer, p. xxii. (Moxon’s Ed. 1852.)
11 Chroniques Etrangères, p. 502.
12 “Loquuntur linguam quasi Gallicam, scilicet quasi de Cipro.” (See Cathay p. 332.)
13 Page 138.
14 Hammers Ilchan, II. 148.
15 After the capture of Acre, Richard orders 60,000 Saracen prisoners to be executed:—
“They wer brought out off the toun,
Save twenty, he heeld to raunsoun.
They wer led into the place ful evene:
Ther they herden Aungeles off Hevene:
They sayde: ‘SEYNYORS, TUEZ, TUEZ!
‘Spares hem nought! Behedith these!’
Kyng Rychard herde the Aungelys voys,
And thankyd God, and the Holy Croys.”
Weber, II. 144.
Note that, from the rhyme, the Angelic French was apparently pronounced “Too-eese! Too-eese!”
16 [Refer to the edition of Mr. George F. Warner, 1889, for the Roxburghe Club, and to my own paper in the T’oung Pao, Vol. II., No. 4, regarding the compilation published under the name of Maundeville. Also App. L. 13 — H. C.]
17 L’Ystoire de li Normand, etc., edited by M. Champollion–Figeac, Paris, 1835, p. v.
18 “Porce que lengue Frenceise cort parmi le monde, et est la plus delitable à lire et à oir que nule autre, me sui-je entremis de translater l’ancien estoire des Veneciens de Latin en Franceis.” (Archiv. Stor. Ital. viii. 268.)
19 “Et se aucuns demandoit por quoi cist livres est escriz en Romans,
selonc le langage des Francois, puisque nos somes Ytaliens, je diroie que ce est por. ij. raisons: l’une, car nos somes en France; et l’autre porce que la parleure est plus delitable et plus commune à toutes gens.” (Li Livres dou Tresor, p. 3.)
20 It is, however, not improbable that Rusticiano’s hasty and abbreviated original was extended by a scribe who knew next to nothing of French; otherwise it is hard to account for such forms as perlinage (pelerinage), peseries (espiceries), proque (see vol. ii. p. 370), oisi (G.T. p. 208), thochere (toucher), etc. (See Bianconi, 2nd Mem. pp. 30–32.)
21 Polo, Friar Odoric, Nicolo Conti, Ibn Batuta.
Four Principal Types of Text. First, that of the Geographic, or oldest French.]
55. In treating of the various Texts of Polo’s Book we must necessarily go into some irksome detail.
Those Texts that have come down to us may be classified under Four principal Types.
I. The First Type is that of the Geographic Text of which we have already said so much. This is found nowhere complete except in the unique MS. of the Paris Library, to which it is stated to have come from the old Library of the French Kings at Blois. But the Italian Crusca, and the old Latin version (No. 3195 of the Paris Library) published with the Geographic Text, are evidently derived entirely from it, though both are considerably abridged. It is also demonstrable that neither of these copies has been translated from the other, for each has passages which the other omits, but that both have been taken, the one as a copy more or less loose, the other as a translation, from an intermediate Italian copy.1 A special difference lies in the fact that the Latin version is divided into three Books, whilst the Crusca has no such division. I shall show in a tabular form the filiation of the texts which these facts seem to demonstrate (see Appendix G).
There are other Italian MSS. of this type, some of which show signs of having been derived independently from the French;2 but I have not been able to examine any of them with the care needful to make specific deductions regarding them.
Second; the remodelled French Text, followed by Pauthier.]
56. II. The next Type is that of the French MSS. on which M. Pauthier’s Text is based, and for which he claims the highest authority, as having had the mature revision and sanction of the Traveller. There are, as far as I know, five MSS. which may be classed together under this type, three in the Great Paris Library, one at Bern, and one in the Bodleian.
The high claims made by Pauthier on behalf of this class of MSS. (on the first three of which his Text is formed) rest mainly upon the kind of certificate which two of them bear regarding the presentation of a copy by Marco Polo to Thibault de Cepoy, which we have already quoted (supra p. 69). This certificate is held by Pauthier to imply that the original of the copies which bear it, and of those having a general correspondence with them, had the special seal of Marco’s revision and approval. To some considerable extent their character is corroborative of such a claim, but they are far from having the perfection which Pauthier attributes to them, and which leads him into many paradoxes.
It is not possible to interpret rigidly the bearing of this so-called certificate, as if no copies had previously been taken of any form of the Book; nor can we allow it to impugn the authenticity of the Geographic Text, which demonstratively represents an older original, and has been (as we have seen) the parent of all other versions, including some very old ones, Italian and Latin, which certainly owe nothing to this revision.
The first idea apparently entertained by d’Avezac and Paulin Paris was that the Geographic Text was itself the copy given to the Sieur de Cepoy, and that the differences in the copies of the class which we describe as Type II. merely resulted from the modifications which would naturally arise in the process of transcription into purer French. But closer examination showed the differences to be too great and too marked to admit of this explanation. These differences consist not only in the conversion of the rude, obscure, and half Italian language of the original into good French of the period. There is also very considerable curtailment, generally of tautology, but also extending often to circumstances of substantial interest; whilst we observe the omission of a few notably erroneous statements or expressions; and a few insertions of small importance. None of the MSS. of this class contain more than a few of the historical chapters which we have formed into Book IV.
The only addition of any magnitude is that chapter which in our translation forms chapter xxi. of Book II. It will be seen that it contains no new facts, but is only a tedious recapitulation of circumstances already stated, though scattered over several chapters. There are a few minor additions. I have not thought it worth while to collect them systematically here, but two or three examples are given in a note.3
There are also one or two corrections of erroneous statements in the G. T. which seem not to be accidental and to indicate some attempt at revision. Thus a notable error in the account of Aden, which seems to conceive of the Red Sea as a river, disappears in Pauthier’s MSS. A and B.4 And we find in these MSS. one or two interesting names preserved which are not found in the older Text.5
But on the other hand this class of MSS. contains many erroneous readings of names, either adopting the worse of two forms occurring in the G. T. or originating blunders of its own.6
M. Pauthier lays great stress on the character of these MSS. as the sole authentic form of the work, from their claim to have been specially revised by Marco Polo. It is evident, however, from what has been said, that this revision can have been only a very careless and superficial one, and must have been done in great measure by deputy, being almost entirely confined to curtailment and to the improvement of the expression, and that it is by no means such as to allow an editor to dispense with a careful study of the Older Text.
The Bern MS. and two others form a sub-class of this Type.]
57. There is another curious circumstance about the MSS. of this type, viz., that they clearly divide into two distinct recensions, of which both have so many peculiarities and errors in common that they must necessarily have been both derived from one modification of the original text, whilst at the same time there are such differences between the two as cannot be set down to the accidents of transcription. Pauthier’s MSS. A and B (Nos. 16 and 15 of the List in App. F) form one of these subdivisions: his C (No. 17 of List), Bern (No. 56), and Oxford (No. 6), the other. Between A and B the differences are only such as seem constantly to have arisen from the whims of transcribers or their dialectic peculiarities. But between A and B on the one side, and C on the other, the differences are much greater. The readings of proper names in C are often superior, sometimes worse; but in the latter half of the work especially it contains a number of substantial passages7 which are to be found in the G. T., but are altogether absent from the MSS. A and B; whilst in one case at least (the history of the Siege of Saianfu, vol. ii. p. 159) it diverges considerably from the G. T. as well as from A and B.8
I gather from the facts that the MS. C represents an older form of the work than A and B. I should judge that the latter had been derived from that older form, but intentionally modified from it. And as it is the MS. C, with its copy at Bern, that alone presents the certificate of derivation from the Book given to the Sieur de Cepoy, there can be no doubt that it is the true representative of that recension.
Third; Friar Pipino’s Latin.]
58. III. The next Type of Text is that found in Friar Pipino’s Latin version. It is the type of which MSS. are by far the most numerous. In it condensation and curtailment are carried a good deal further than in Type II. The work is also divided into three Books. But this division does not seem to have originated with Pipino, as we find it in the ruder and perhaps older Latin version of which we have already spoken under Type I. And we have demonstrated that this ruder Latin is a translation from an Italian copy. It is probable therefore that an Italian version similarly divided was the common source of what we call the Geographic Latin and of Pipino’s more condensed version.9
Pipino’s version appears to have been executed in the later years of Polo’s life.10 But I can see no ground for the idea entertained by Baldelli–Boni and Professor Bianconi that it was executed with Polo’s cognizance and retouched by him.
The Latin of Grynaeus a translation at fifth hand.]
59. The absence of effective publication in the Middle Ages led to a curious complication of translation and retranslation. Thus the Latin version published by Grynaeus in the Novus Orbis (Basle, 1532) is different from Pipino’s, and yet clearly traceable to it as a base. In fact it is a retranslation into Latin from some version (Marsden thinks the printed Portuguese one) of Pipino. It introduces many minor modifications, omitting specific statements of numbers and values, generalizing the names and descriptions of specific animals, exhibiting frequent sciolism and self-sufficiency in modifying statements which the Editor disbelieved.11 It is therefore utterly worthless as a Text, and it is curious that Andreas Müller, who in the 17th century devoted himself to the careful editing of Polo, should have made so unfortunate a choice as to reproduce this fifth-hand Translation. I may add that the French editions published in the middle of the 16th century are translations from Grynaeus. Hence they complete this curious and vicious circle of translation: French — Italian — Pipino’s Latin — Portuguese? — Grynaeus’s Latin — French!12
Fourth; Ramusio’s Italian.]
60. IV. We now come to a Type of Text which deviates largely from any of those hitherto spoken of, and the history and true character of which are involved in a cloud of difficulty. We mean that Italian version prepared for the press by G. B. Ramusio, with most interesting, though, as we have seen, not always accurate preliminary dissertations, and published at Venice two years after his death, in the second volume of the Navigationi e Viaggi.13
The peculiarities of this version are very remarkable. Ramusio seems to imply that he used as one basis at least the Latin of Pipino; and many circumstances, such as the division into Books, the absence of the terminal historical chapters and of those about the Magi, and the form of many proper names, confirm this. But also many additional circumstances and anecdotes are introduced, many of the names assume a new shape, and the whole style is more copious and literary in character than in any other form of the work.
Whilst some of the changes or interpolations seem to carry us further from the truth, others contain facts of Asiatic nature or history, as well as of Polo’s own experiences, which it is extremely difficult to ascribe to any hand but the Traveller’s own. This was the view taken by Baldelli, Klaproth, and Neumann;14 but Hugh Murray, Lazari, and Bartoli regard the changes as interpolations by another hand; and Lazari is rash enough to ascribe the whole to a rifacimento of Ramusio’s own age, asserting it to contain interpolations not merely from Polo’s own contemporary Hayton, but also from travellers of later centuries, such as Conti, Barbosa, and Pigafetta. The grounds for these last assertions have not been cited, nor can I trace them. But I admit to a certain extent indications of modern tampering with the text, especially in cases where proper names seem to have been identified and more modern forms substituted. In days, however, where an Editor’s duties were ill understood, this was natural.
Injudicious tamperings in Ramusio.]
61. Thus we find substituted for the Bastra (or Bascra) of the older texts the more modern and incorrect Balsora, dear to memories of the Arabian Nights; among the provinces of Persia we have Spaan (Ispahan) where older texts read Istanit; for Cormos we have Ormus; for Herminia and Laias, Armenia and Giazza; Coulam for the older Coilum; Socotera for Scotra. With these changes may be classed the chapter-headings, which are undisguisedly modern, and probably Ramusio’s own. In some other cases this editorial spirit has been over-meddlesome and has gone astray. Thus Malabar is substituted wrongly for Maabar in one place, and by a grosser error for Dalivar in another. The age of young Marco, at the time of his father’s first return to Venice, has been arbitrarily altered from 15 to 19, in order to correspond with a date which is itself erroneous. Thus also Polo is made to describe Ormus as on an Island, contrary to the old texts and to the fact; for the city of Hormuz was not transferred to the island, afterwards so famous, till some years after Polo’s return from the East. It is probably also the editor who in the notice of the oil-springs of Caucasus (i. p. 46) has substituted camel-loads for ship-loads, in ignorance that the site of those alluded to was probably Baku on the Caspian.
Other erroneous statements, such as the introduction of window-glass as one of the embellishments of the palace at Cambaluc, are probably due only to accidental misunderstanding.
Genuine statements peculiar to Ramusio.]
62. Of circumstances certainly genuine, which are peculiar to this edition of Polo’s work, and which it is difficult to assign to any one but himself, we may note the specification of the woods east of Yezd as composed of date trees (vol. i pp. 88–89); the unmistakable allusion to the subterranean irrigation channels of Persia (p. 123); the accurate explanation of the term Mulehet applied to the sect of Assassins (pp. 139–142); the mention of the Lake (Sirikul?) on the plateau of Pamer, of the wolves that prey on the wild sheep, and of the piles of wild rams’ horns used as landmarks in the snow (pp. 171–177). To the description of the Tibetan Yak, which is in all the texts, Ramusio’s version alone adds a fact probably not recorded again till the present century, viz., that it is the practice to cross the Yak with the common cow (p. 274). Ramusio alone notices the prevalence of goître at Yarkand, confirmed by recent travellers (i. p. 187); the vermilion seal of the Great Kaan imprinted on the paper-currency, which may be seen in our plate of a Chinese note (p. 426); the variation in Chinese dialects (ii. p. 236); the division of the hulls of junks into water-tight compartments (ii. p. 249); the introduction into China from Egypt of the art of refining sugar (ii. p. 226). Ramusio’s account of the position of the city of Sindafu (Ch’eng-tu fu) encompassed and intersected by many branches of a great river (ii. p. 40), is much more just than that in the old text, which speaks of but one river through the middle of the city. The intelligent notices of the Kaan’s charities as originated by his adoption of “idolatry” or Buddhism; of the astrological superstitions of the Chinese, and of the manners and character of the latter nation, are found in Ramusio alone. To whom but Marco himself, or one of his party, can we refer the brief but vivid picture of the delicious atmosphere and scenery of the Badakhshan plateaux (ip. 158), and of the benefit that Messer Marco’s health derived from a visit to them? In this version alone again we have an account of the oppressions exercised by Kúblái’s Mahomedan Minister Ahmad, telling how the Cathayans rose against him and murdered him, with the addition that Messer Marco was on the spot when all this happened. Now not only is the whole story in substantial accordance with the Chinese Annals, even to the name of the chief conspirator,15 but those annals also tell of the courageous frankness of “Polo, assessor of the Privy Council,” in opening the Kaan’s eyes to the truth.
Many more such examples might be adduced, but these will suffice. It is true that many of the passages peculiar to the Ramusian version, and indeed the whole version, show a freer utterance and more of a literary faculty than we should attribute to Polo, judging from the earlier texts. It is possible, however, that this may be almost, if not entirely, due to the fact that the version is the result of a double translation, and probably of an editorial fusion of several documents; processes in which angularities of expression would be dissolved.16
Hypothesis of the sources of the Ramusian Version.]
63. Though difficulties will certainly remain,17 the most probable explanation of the origin of this text seems to me to be some such hypothesis as the following:— I suppose that Polo in his latter years added with his own hand supplementary notes and reminiscences, marginally or otherwise, to a copy of his book; that these, perhaps in his lifetime, more probably after his death, were digested and translated into Latin;18 and that Ramusio, or some friend of his, in retranslating and fusing them with Pipino’s version for the Navigationi, made those minor modifications in names and other matters which we have already noticed. The mere facts of digestion from memoranda and double translation would account for a good deal of unintentional corruption.
That more than one version was employed in the composition of Ramusio’s edition we have curious proof in at least one passage of the latter. We have pointed out at p. 410 of this volume a curious example of misunderstanding of the old French Text, a passage in which the term Roi des Pelaines, or “King of Furs,” is applied to the Sable, and which in the Crusca has been converted into an imaginary Tartar phrase Leroide pelame, or as Pipino makes it Rondes (another indication that Pipino’s Version and the Crusca passed through a common medium). But Ramusio exhibits both the true reading and the perversion: “E li Tartari la chiamano Regina delle pelli” (there is the true reading), “E gli animali si chiamano Rondes” (and there the perverted one).
We may further remark that Ramusio’s version betrays indications that one of its bases either was in the Venetian dialect, or had passed through that dialect; for a good many of the names appear in Venetian forms, e.g., substituting the z for the sound of ch, j, or soft g, as in Goza, Zorzania, Zagatay, Gonza (for Giogiu), Quenzanfu, Coiganzu, Tapinzu, Zipangu, Ziamba.
Summary in regard to Text of Polo.]
64. To sum up. It is, I think, beyond reasonable dispute that we have, in what we call the Geographic Text, as nearly as may be an exact transcript of the Traveller’s words as originally taken down in the prison of Genoa. We have again in the MSS. of the second type an edition pruned and refined, probably under instructions from Marco Polo, but not with any critical exactness. And lastly, I believe, that we have, imbedded in the Ramusian edition, the supplementary recollections of the Traveller, noted down at a later period of his life, but perplexed by repeated translation, compilation, and editorial mishandling.
And the most important remaining problem in regard to the text of Polo’s work is the discovery of the supplemental manuscript from which Ramusio derived those passages which are found only in his edition. It is possible that it may still exist, but no trace of it in anything like completeness has yet been found; though when my task was all but done I discovered a small part of the Ramusian peculiarities in a MS. at Venice.19
65. Whilst upon this subject of manuscripts of our Author, I will give some particulars regarding a very curious one, containing a version in the Irish language.
Notice of a curious Irish Version of Polo.]
This remarkable document is found in the Book of Lismore, belonging to the Duke of Devonshire. That magnificent book, finely written on vellum of the largest size, was discovered in 1814, enclosed in a wooden box, along with a superb crozier, on opening a closed doorway in the castle of Lismore. It contained Lives of the Saints, the (Romance) History of Charlemagne, the History of the Lombards, histories and tales of Irish wars, etc., etc., and among the other matter this version of Marco Polo. A full account of the Book and its mutilations will be found in O’Curry’s Lectures on the MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History, p. 196 seqq., Dublin, 1861. The Book of Lismore was written about 1460 for Finghin MacCarthy and his wife Catharine Fitzgerald, daughter of Gerald, Eighth Earl of Desmond.
The date of the Translation of Polo is not known, but it may be supposed to have been executed about the above date, probably in the Monastery of Lismore (county of Waterford).
From the extracts that have been translated for me, it is obvious that the version was made, with an astounding freedom certainly, from Friar Francesco Pipino’s Latin.
Both beginning and end are missing. But what remains opens thus; compare it with Friar Pipino’s real prologue as we give it in the Appendix!20
“[Irish uncial text: riguib ocus tassech na cathar sin. bai bratair rigui anaibit san fnses inn cathr intansin. ba eoluc dano ss’ nahilberlaib fransiscus aainm. bhur iarum du ambant na maste ucut ocus cuingst fair inleabor doclod fcula otengaid natartaired cg inteng laitanda].” &c.
—“Kings and chieftains of that city. There was then in the city a princely Friar in the habit of St. Francis, named Franciscus, who was versed in many languages. He was brought to the place where those nobles were, and they requested of him to translate the book from the Tartar (!) into the Latin language. ‘It is an abomination to me,’ said he, ‘to devote my mind or labour to works of Idolatry and Irreligion.’ They entreated him again. ‘It shall be done,’ said he; ‘for though it be an irreligious narrative that is related therein, yet the things are miracles of the True God; and every one who hears this much against the Holy Faith shall pray fervently for their conversion. And he who will not pray shall waste the vigour of his body to convert them.’ I am not in dread of this Book of Marcus, for there is no lie in it. My eyes beheld him bringing the relics of the holy Church with him, and he left [his testimony], whilst tasting of death, that it was true. And Marcus was a devout man. What is there in it, then, but that Franciscus translated this Book of Marcus from the Tartar into Latin; and the years of the Lord at that time were fifteen years, two score, two hundred, and one thousand” (1255).
It then describes Armein Bec (Little Armenia), Armein Mor (Great Armenia), Musul, Taurisius, Persida, Camandi, and so forth. The last chapter is that on Abaschia:—
“ABASCHIA also is an extensive country, under the government of Seven Kings, four of whom worship the true God, and each of them wears a golden cross on the forehead; and they are valiant in battle, having been brought up fighting against the Gentiles of the other three kings, who are Unbelievers and Idolaters. And the kingdom of ADEN; a Soudan rules over them.
“The king of Abaschia once took a notion to make a pilgrimage to the Sepulchre of Jesus. ‘Not at all,’ said his nobles and warriors to him, ‘for we should be afraid lest the infidels through whose territories you would have to pass, should kill you. There is a Holy Bishop with you,’ said they; ‘send him to the Sepulchre of Jesus, and much gold with him’"—
The rest is wanting.
1 In the following citations, the Geographic Text (G. T.) is quoted by page from the printed edition (1824); the Latin published in the same volume (G. L.) also by page; the Crusca, as before, from Bartoli’s edition of 1863. References in parentheses are to the present translation:—
A. Passages showing the G. L. to be a translation from the Italian, and derived from the same Italian text as the Crusca.
|(1).||G.T.||17 (I. 43).||Il hi se laborent le souran tapis dou monde.|
|Crusca,||17||.. E quivi si fanno i sovrani tappeti del mondo.|
|G.L.||311||.. Et ibi fiunt soriani et tapeti pulcriores de mundo.|
|(2).||G.T.||23 (I. 69).||Et adonc le calif mande par tuit les cristiez . . . que en sa tere estoient.|
|Crusca,||27||.. Ora mandò lo aliffo per tutti gli Cristiani ch’ erano di lá.|
|G.L.||316||.. Or misit califus pro Christianis qui erant ultra fluvium (the last words being clearly a misunderstanding of the Italian di là).|
|(3).||G.T.||198 (II. 313).||Ont sosimain (sesamum) de coi il font le olio.|
|Crusca,||253||.. Hanno sosimai onde fanno l’ olio.|
|G.L.||448||.. Habent turpes manus (taking sosimani for sozze mani “Dirty hands”!).|
|(4).||Crusca,||52 (I. 158).||Cacciare e uccellare v’ è lo migliore del mondo.|
|G.L.||332||.. Et est ibi optimum caciare et ucellare.|
|(5).||G.T.||124 (II. 36).||Adonc treuve . . . une Provence qe est encore de le confin dou Mangi.|
|Crusca,||162–3||.. L’ uomo truova una Provincia ch’ è chiamata ancora delle confine de’ Mangi.|
|G.L.||396||.. Invenit unam Provinciam quae vocatur Anchota de confinibus Mangi.|
|(6).||G.T.||146 (II. 119.)||Les dames portent as jambes et es braces, braciaus d’or et d’arjent de grandisme vailance.|
|Crusca,||189||.. Le donne portano alle braccia e alle gambe bracciali d’oro e d’ariento di gran valuta.|
|G.L.||411||.. Dominae eorum portant ad brachia et ad gambas brazalia de auro et de argento magni valoris.|
B. Passages showing additionally the errors, or other peculiarities of a translation from a French original, common to the Italian and the Latin.
|(7).||G.T.||32 (I. 97.)||Est celle plaingne mout chaue (chaude).|
|Crusca,||35||.. Questo piano è molto cavo.|
|G.L.||322||.. Ista planities est multum cava.|
|(8).||G.T.||36 (I. 110).||Avent por ce que l’eive hi est amer.|
|Crusca,||40||.. E questo è per lo mare che vi viene.|
|G.L.||324||.. Istud est propter mare quod est ibi.|
|(9).||G.T.||8 (I. 50.)||Un roi qi est apelés par tout tens Davit Melic, que veut à dir en fransois Davit Roi.|
|Crusca,||20..||Uno re il quale si chiama sempre David Melic, ciò è a dire in francesco David Re.|
|G.L.||312..||Rex qui semper vocatur David Mellic, quod sonat in gallico David Rex.|
These passages, and many more that might be quoted, seem to me to demonstrate (1) that the Latin and the Crusca have had a common original, and (2) that this original was an Italian version from the French.
2 Thus the Pucci MS. at Florence, in the passage regarding the Golden King (vol. ii. p. 17) which begins in G. T. “Lequel fist faire jadis un rois qe fu apellés le Roi Dor,” renders “Lo quale fa fare Jaddis uno re,” a mistake which is not in the Crusca nor in the Latin, and seems to imply derivation from the French directly, or by some other channel (Baldelli Boni).
3 In the Prologue (vol. i. p. 34) this class of MSS. alone names the King of England.
In the account of the Battle with Nayan (i. p. 337) this class alone speaks of the two-stringed instruments which the Tartars played whilst awaiting the signal for battle. But the circumstance appears elsewhere in the G. T. (p. 250).
In the chapter on Malabar (vol. ii. p. 390), it is said that the ships which go with cargoes towards Alexandria are not one-tenth of those that go to the further East. This is not in the older French.
In the chapter on Coilun (ii. p. 375), we have a notice of the Columbine ginger so celebrated in the Middle Ages, which is also absent from the older text.
4 See vol. ii. p. 439. It is, however, remarkable that a like mistake is made about the Persian Gulf (see i. 63, 64). Perhaps Polo thought in Persian, in which the word darya means either sea or a large river. The same habit and the ambiguity of the Persian sher led him probably to his confusion of lions and tigers (see i. 397).
5 Such are Pasciai-Dir and Ariora Kesciemur (i. p. 98.)
6 Thus the MSS. of this type have elected the erroneous readings Bolgara, Cogatra, Chiato, Cabanant, etc., instead of the correcter Bolgana, Cocacin, Quiacatu, Cobinan, where the G. T. presents both (supra, p. 86). They read Esanar for the correct Etzina; Chascun for Casvin; Achalet for Acbalec; Sardansu for Sindafu, Kayteu, Kayton, Sarcon for Zaiton or Caiton; Soucat for Locac; Falec for Ferlec, and so on, the worse instead of the better. They make the Mer Occeane into Mer Occident; the wild asses (asnes) of the Kerman Desert into wild geese (oes); the escoillez of Bengal (ii. p. 115) into escoliers; the giraffes of Africa into girofles, or cloves, etc., etc.
7 There are about five-and-thirty such passages altogether.
8 The Bern MS. I have satisfied myself is an actual copy of the Paris MS. C.
The Oxford MS. closely resembles both, but I have not made the comparison minutely enough to say if it is an exact copy of either.
9 The following comparison will also show that these two Latin versions have probably had a common source, such as is here suggested.
At the end of the Prologue the Geographic Text reads simply:—
“Or puis que je voz ai contez tot le fat dou prolegue ensi con voz avés oï, adonc (commencerai) le Livre.”
Whilst the Geographic Latin has:—
“Postquam recitavimus et diximus facta et condictiones morum, itinerum et ea quae nobis contigerunt per vias, incipiemus dicere ea quae vidimus. Et primo dicemus de Minore Hermenia.”
“Narratione facta nostri itineris, nunc ad ea narranda quae vidimus accedamus. Primo autem Armeniam Minorem describemus breviter.”
10 Friar Francesco Pipino of Bologna, a Dominican, is known also as the author of a lengthy chronicle from the time of the Frank Kings down to 1314; of a Latin Translation of the French History of the Conquest of the Holy Land, by Bernard the Treasurer; and of a short Itinerary of a Pilgrimage to Palestine in 1320. Extracts from the Chronicle, and the version of Bernard, are printed in Muratori’s Collection. As Pipino states himself to have executed the translation of Polo by order of his Superiors, it is probable that the task was set him at a general chapter of the order which was held at Bologna in 1315. (See Muratori, IX. 583; and Quétif, Script. Ord. Praed. I. 539). We do not know why Ramusio assigned the translation specifically to 1320, but he may have had grounds.
11 See Bianconi, 1st Mem. 29 seqq.
12 C. Dickens somewhere narrates the history of the equivalents for a sovereign as changed and rechanged at every frontier on a continental tour. The final equivalent received at Dover on his return was some 12 or 13 shillings; a fair parallel to the comparative value of the first and last copies in the circle of translation.
13 The Ramusios were a family of note in literature for several generations. Paolo, the father of Gian Battista, came originally from Rimini to Venice in 1458, and had a great repute as a jurist, besides being a littérateur of some eminence, as was also his younger brother Girolamo. G. B. Ramusio was born at Treviso in 1485, and early entered the public service. In 1533 he became one of the Secretaries of the Council of X. He was especially devoted to geographical studies, and had a school for such studies in his house. He retired eventually from public duties, and lived at Villa Ramusia, near Padua. He died in the latter city, 10th July, 1557, but was buried at Venice in the Church of S. Maria dell’ Orto. There was a portrait of him by Paul Veronese in the Hall of the Great Council, but it perished in the fire of 1577; and that which is now seen in the Sala dello Scudo is, like the companion portrait of Marco Polo, imaginary. Paolo Ramusio, his son, was the author of the well-known History of the Capture of Constantinople. (Cicogna, II. 310 seqq.)
14 The old French texts were unknown in Marsden’s time. Hence this question did not present itself to him.
15 Wangcheu in the Chinese Annals; Vanchu in Ramusio. I assume that Polo’s Vanchu was pronounced as in English; for in Venetian the ch very often has that sound. But I confess that I can adduce no other instance in Ramusio where I suppose it to have this sound, except in the initial sound of Chinchitalas and twice in Choiach (see II. 364).
Professor Bianconi, who has treated the questions connected with the Texts of Polo with honest enthusiasm and laborious detail, will admit nothing genuine in the Ramusian interpolations beyond the preservation of some oral traditions of Polo’s supplementary recollections. But such a theory is out of the question in face of a chapter like that on Ahmad.
16 Old Purchas appears to have greatly relished Ramusio’s comparative lucidity: “I found (says he) this Booke translated by Master Hakluyt out of the Latine (i.e. among Hakluyt’s MS. collections). But where the blind leade the blind both fall: as here the corrupt Latine could not but yeeld a corruption of truth in English. Ramusio, Secretarie to the Decemviri in Venice, found a better Copie and published the same, whence you have the worke in manner new: so renewed, that I have found the Proverbe true, that it is better to pull downe an old house and to build it anew, then to repaire it; as I also should have done, had I knowne that which in the event I found. The Latine is Latten, compared to Ramusio’s Gold. And hee which hath the Latine hath but Marco Polo’s carkasse or not so much, but a few bones, yea, sometimes stones rather then bones; things divers, averse, adverse, perverted in manner, disjoynted in manner, beyond beliefe. I have seene some Authors maymed, but never any so mangled and so mingled, so present and so absent, as this vulgar Latine of Marco Polo; not so like himselfe, as the Three Polo’s were at their returne to Venice, where none knew them. . . . Much are wee beholden to Ramusio, for restoring this Pole and Load-starre of Asia, out of that mirie poole or puddle in which he lay drouned.” (III. p. 65.)
17 Of these difficulties the following are some of the more prominent:—
1. The mention of the death of Kúblái (see note 7, p. 38 of this volume), whilst throughout the book Polo speaks of Kúblái as if still reigning.
2. Mr. Hugh Murray objects that whilst in the old texts Polo appears to look on Kúblái with reverence as a faultless Prince, in the Ramusian we find passages of an opposite tendency, as in the chapter about Ahmad.
3. The same editor points to the manner in which one of the Ramusian additions represents the traveller to have visited the Palace of the Chinese Kings at Kinsay, which he conceives to be inconsistent with Marco’s position as an official of the Mongol Government. (See vol. ii. p. 208.)
If we could conceive the Ramusian additions to have been originally notes written by old Maffeo Polo on his nephew’s book, this hypothesis would remove almost all difficulty.
One passage in Ramusio seems to bear a reference to the date at which these interpolated notes were amalgamated with the original. In the chapter on Samarkand (i. p. 191) the conversion of the Prince Chagatai is said in the old texts to have occurred “not a great while ago” (il ne a encore grament de tens). But in Ramusio the supposed event is fixed at “one hundred and twenty-five years since.” This number could not have been uttered with reference to 1298, the year of the dictation at Genoa, nor to any year of Polo’s own life. Hence it is probable that the original note contained a date or definite term which was altered by the compiler to suit the date of his own compilation, some time in the 14th century.]
18 In the first edition of Ramusio the preface contained the following passage, which is omitted from the succeeding editions; but as even the first edition was issued after Ramusio’s own death, I do not see that any stress can be laid on this:
“A copy of the Book of Marco Polo, as it was originally written in Latin, marvellously old, and perhaps directly copied from the original as it came from M. Marco’s own hand, has been often consulted by me and compared with that which we now publish, having been lent me by a nobleman of this city, belonging to the Ca’ Ghisi.”
19 For a moment I thought I had been lucky enough to light on a part of the missing original of Ramusio in the Barberini Library at Rome. A fragment of a Venetian version in that library (No. 56 in our list of MSS.) bore on the fly-leaf the title “Alcuni primi capi del Libro di S. Marco Polo, copiati dall esemplare manoscritto di PAOLO RANNUSIO.” But it proved to be of no importance. One brief passage of those which have been thought peculiar to Ramusio; viz., the reference to the Martyrdom of St. Blaize at Sebaste (see p. 43 of this volume), is found also in the Geographic Latin.
It was pointed out by Lazari, that another passage (vol. i. p. 60) of those otherwise peculiar to Ramusio, is found in a somewhat abridged Latin version in a MS. which belonged to the late eminent antiquary Emanuel Cicogna. (See List in Appendix F, No. 35.) This fact induced me when at Venice in 1870 to examine the MS. throughout, and, though I could give little time to it, the result was very curious.
I find that this MS. contains, not one only, but at least seven of the passages otherwise peculiar to Ramusio, and must have been one of the elements that went to the formation of his text. Yet of his more important interpolations, such as the chapter on Ahmad’s oppressions and the additional matter on the City of Kinsay, there is no indication. The seven passages alluded to are as follows; the words corresponding to Ramusian peculiarities are in italics, the references are to my own volumes.
1. In the chapter on Georgia:
“Mare quod dicitur Gheluchelan vel ABACU”. . . .
“Est ejus stricta via et dubia. Ab una parte est mare quod dixi de ABACU et ab aliâ nemora invia,” etc. (See I. p. 59, note 8.)
2. “Et ibi optimi austures dicti AVIGI” (I. 50).
3. After the chapter on Mosul is another short chapter, already alluded to:
“Prope hanc civitatem (est) alia provincia dicta MUS e MEREDIEN in quâ nascitur magna quantitas bombacis, et hic fiunt bocharini et alia multa, et sunt mercatores homines et artiste.” (See i. p. 60.)
4. In the chapter on Tarcan (for Carcan, i.e. Yarkand):
“Et maior pars horum habent unum ex pedibus grossum et habent gosum in gulâ; et est hic fertilis contracta.” (See i. p. 187.)
5. In the Desert of Lop:
“Homines trasseuntes appendunt bestiis suis capanullas [i.e. campanellas] ut ipsas senciant et ne deviare possint” (i. p. 197.)
6. “Ciagannor, quod sonat in Latino STAGNUM ALBUM.” (i. p. 296.)
7. “Et in medio hujus viridarii est palacium sive logia, tota super columpnas. Et in summitate cujuslibet columnae est draco magnus circundans totam columpnam, et hic substinet eorum cohoperturam cum ore et pedibus; et est cohopertura tota de cannis hoc modo,” etc. (See i. p. 299.)
20 My valued friend Sir Arthur Phayre made known to me the passage in O’Curry’s Lectures. I then procured the extracts and further particulars from Mr. J. Long, Irish Transcriber and Translator in Dublin, who took them from the Transcript of the Book of Lismore, in the possession of the Royal Irish Academy. [Cf. Anecdota Oxoniensia. Lives of the Saints from the Book of Lismore, edited with a translation . . . by Whitley Stokes, Oxford, 1890. — Marco Polo forms fo. 79 a, 1 — fo. 89 b, 2, of the MS., and is described pp. xxii.-xxiv. of Mr. Whitley Stokes’ Book, who has since published the Text in the Zeit. f. Celtische Philol. (See Bibliography, vol. ii. p. 573.)— H. C.]
Grounds of Polo’s preeminence among mediaeval travellers.]
66. That Marco Polo has been so universally recognised as the King of Mediaeval Travellers is due rather to the width of his experience, the vast compass of his journeys, and the romantic nature of his personal history, than to transcendent superiority of character or capacity.
The generation immediately preceding his own has bequeathed to us, in the Report of the Franciscan Friar William de Rubruquis,1 on the Mission with which St. Lewis charged him to the Tartar Courts, the narrative of one great journey, which, in its rich detail, its vivid pictures, its acuteness of observation and strong good sense, seems to me to form a Book of Travels of much higher claims than any one series of Polo’s chapters; a book, indeed, which has never had justice done to it, for it has few superiors in the whole Library of Travel.
Enthusiastic Biographers, beginning with Ramusio, have placed Polo on the same platform with Columbus. But where has our Venetian Traveller left behind him any trace of the genius and lofty enthusiasm, the ardent and justified previsions which mark the great Admiral as one of the lights of the human race?2 It is a juster praise that the spur which his Book eventually gave to geographical studies, and the beacons which it hung out at the Eastern extremities of the Earth helped to guide the aims, though scarcely to kindle the fire, of the greater son of the rival Republic. His work was at least a link in the Providential chain which at last dragged the New World to light.3
His true claims to glory.]
67. Surely Marco’s real, indisputable, and, in their kind, unique claims to glory may suffice! He was the first Traveller to trace a route across the whole longitude of ASIA, naming and describing kingdom after kingdom which he had seen with his own eyes; the Deserts of PERSIA, the flowering plateaux and wild gorges of BADAKHSHAN, the jade-bearing rivers of KHOTAN, the MONGOLIAN Steppes, cradle of the power that had so lately threatened to swallow up Christendom, the new and brilliant Court that had been established at CAMBALUC: The first Traveller to reveal CHINA in all its wealth and vastness, its mighty rivers, its huge cities, its rich manufactures, its swarming population, the inconceivably vast fleets that quickened its seas and its inland waters; to tell us of the nations on its borders with all their eccentricities of manners and worship; of TIBET with its sordid devotees; of BURMA with its golden pagodas and their tinkling crowns; of LAOS, of SIAM, of COCHIN CHINA, of JAPAN, the Eastern Thule, with its rosy pearls and golden-roofed palaces; the first to speak of that Museum of Beauty and Wonder, still so imperfectly ransacked, the INDIAN ARCHIPELAGO, source of those aromatics then so highly prized and whose origin was so dark; of JAVA the Pearl of Islands; of SUMATRA with its many kings, its strange costly products, and its cannibal races; of the naked savages of NICOBAR and ANDAMAN; of CEYLON the Isle of Gems with its Sacred Mountain and its Tomb of Adam; of INDIA THE GREAT, not as a dream-land of Alexandrian fables, but as a country seen and partially explored, with its virtuous Brahmans, its obscene ascetics, its diamonds and the strange tales of their acquisition, its sea-beds of pearl, and its powerful sun; the first in mediaeval times to give any distinct account of the secluded Christian Empire of ABYSSINIA, and the semi-Christian Island of SOCOTRA; to speak, though indeed dimly, of ZANGIBAR with its negroes and its ivory, and of the vast and distant MADAGASCAR, bordering on the Dark Ocean of the South, with its Ruc and other monstrosities; and, in a remotely opposite region, of SIBERIA and the ARCTIC OCEAN, of dog-sledges, white bears, and reindeer-riding Tunguses.
That all this rich catalogue of discoveries should belong to the revelations of one Man and one Book is surely ample ground enough to account for and to justify the Author’s high place in the roll of Fame, and there can be no need to exaggerate his greatness, or to invest him with imaginary attributes.4
His personal attributes seen but dimly.]
68. What manner of man was Ser Marco? It is a question hard to answer. Some critics cry out against personal detail in books of Travel; but as regards him who would not welcome a little more egotism! In his Book impersonality is carried to excess; and we are often driven to discern by indirect and doubtful indications alone, whether he is speaking of a place from personal knowledge or only from hearsay. In truth, though there are delightful exceptions, and nearly every part of the book suggests interesting questions, a desperate meagreness and baldness does extend over considerable tracts of the story. In fact his book reminds us sometimes of his own description of Khorasan:—“On chevauche par beaus plains et belles costieres, là où il a moult beaus herbages et bonne pasture et fruis assez. . . . Et aucune fois y treuve l’en un desert de soixante milles ou de mains, esquels desers ne treuve l’en point d’eaue; mais la convient porter o lui!”
Still, some shadowy image of the man may be seen in the Book; a practical man, brave, shrewd, prudent, keen in affairs, and never losing his interest in mercantile details, very fond of the chase, sparing of speech; with a deep wondering respect for Saints, even though they be Pagan Saints, and their asceticism, but a contempt for Patarins and such like, whose consciences would not run in customary grooves, and on his own part a keen appreciation of the World’s pomps and vanities. See, on the one hand, his undisguised admiration of the hard life and long fastings of Sakya Muni; and on the other how enthusiastic he gets in speaking of the great Kaan’s command of the good things of the world, but above all of his matchless opportunities of sport!5
Illustration: PROBABLE VIEW OF MARCO POLO’S OWN GEOGRAPHY
Of humour there are hardly any signs in his Book. His almost solitary joke (I know but one more, and it pertains to the [Greek: ouk anaékonta]) occurs in speaking of the Kaan’s paper-money when he observes that Kúblái might be said to have the true Philosopher’s Stone, for he made his money at pleasure out of the bark of Trees.6 Even the oddest eccentricities of outlandish tribes scarcely seem to disturb his gravity; as when he relates in his brief way of the people called Gold–Teeth on the frontier of Burma, that ludicrous custom which Mr. Tylor has so well illustrated under the name of the Couvade. There is more savour of laughter in the few lines of a Greek Epic, which relate precisely the same custom of a people on the Euxine:—
—“In the Tibarenian Land
When some good woman bears her lord a babe,
’Tis he is swathed and groaning put to bed;
Whilst she, arising, tends his baths, and serves
Nice possets for her husband in the straw.”7
Absence of scientific notions.]
69. Of scientific notions, such as we find in the unveracious Maundevile, we have no trace in truthful Marco. The former, “lying with a circumstance,” tells us boldly that he was in 33° of South Latitude; the latter is full of wonder that some of the Indian Islands where he had been lay so far to the south that you lost sight of the Pole-star. When it rises again on his horizon he estimates the Latitude by the Pole-star’s being so many cubits high. So the gallant Baber speaks of the sun having mounted spear-high when the onset of battle began at Paniput. Such expressions convey no notion at all to such as have had their ideas sophisticated by angular perceptions of altitude, but similar expressions are common among Orientals,8 and indeed I have heard them from educated Englishmen. In another place Marco states regarding certain islands in the Northern Ocean that they lie so very far to the north that in going thither one actually leaves the Pole-star a trifle behind towards the south; a statement to which we know only one parallel, to wit, in the voyage of that adventurous Dutch skipper who told Master Moxon, King Charles II.‘s Hydrographer, that he had sailed two degrees beyond the Pole!
Map constructed on Polo’s data.]
70. The Book, however, is full of bearings and distances, and I have thought it worth while to construct a map from its indications, in order to get some approximation to Polo’s own idea of the face of that world which he had traversed so extensively. There are three allusions to maps in the course of his work (II. 245, 312, 424).
In his own bearings, at least on land journeys, he usually carries us along a great general traverse line, without much caring about small changes of direction. Thus on the great outward journey from the frontier of Persia to that of China the line runs almost continuously “entre Levant et Grec” or E.N.E. In his journey from Cambaluc or Peking to Mien or Burma, it is always Ponent or W.; and in that from Peking to Zayton in Fo-kien, the port of embarkation for India, it is Sceloc or S.E. The line of bearings in which he deviates most widely from truth is that of the cities on the Arabian Coast from Aden to Hormuz, which he makes to run steadily vers Maistre or N.W., a conception which it has not been very easy to realise on the map.9
Singular omissions of Polo in regard to China; Historical inaccuracies.]
71. In the early part of the Book we are told that Marco acquired several of the languages current in the Mongol Empire, and no less than four written characters. We have discussed what these are likely to have been (i. pp. 28–29), and have given a decided opinion that Chinese was not one of them. Besides intrinsic improbability, and positive indications of Marco’s ignorance of Chinese, in no respect is his book so defective as in regard to Chinese manners and peculiarities. The Great Wall is never mentioned, though we have shown reason for believing that it was in his mind when one passage of his book was dictated.10 The use of Tea, though he travelled through the Tea districts of Fo-kien, is never mentioned;11 the compressed feet of the women and the employment of the fishing cormorant (both mentioned by Friar Odoric, the contemporary of his later years), artificial egg-hatching, printing of books (though the notice of this art seems positively challenged in his account of paper-money), besides a score of remarkable arts and customs which one would have expected to recur to his memory, are never alluded to. Neither does he speak of the great characteristic of the Chinese writing. It is difficult to account for these omissions, especially considering the comparative fulness with which he treats the manners of the Tartars and of the Southern Hindoos; but the impression remains that his associations in China were chiefly with foreigners. Wherever the place he speaks of had a Tartar or Persian name he uses that rather than the Chinese one. Thus Cathay, Cambaluc, Pulisanghin, Tangut, Chagannor, Saianfu, Kenjanfu, Tenduc, Acbalec, Carajan, Zardandan, Zayton, Kemenfu, Brius, Caramoran, Chorcha, Juju, are all Mongol, Turki, or Persian forms, though all have Chinese equivalents.12
In reference to the then recent history of Asia, Marco is often inaccurate, e.g. in his account of the death of Chinghiz, in the list of his successors, and in his statement of the relation ship between notable members of that House.13 But the most perplexing knot in the whole book lies in the interesting account which he gives of the Siege of Sayanfu or Siang-yang, during the subjugation of Southern China by Kúblái. I have entered on this matter in the notes (vol. ii. p. 167), and will only say here that M. Pauthier’s solution of the difficulty is no solution, being absolutely inconsistent with the story as told by Marco himself, and that I see none; though I have so much faith in Marco’s veracity that I am loath to believe that the facts admit of no reconciliation.
Our faint attempt to appreciate some of Marco’s qualities, as gathered from his work, will seem far below the very high estimates that have been pronounced, not only by some who have delighted rather to enlarge upon his frame than to make themselves acquainted with his work,14 but also by persons whose studies and opinions have been worthy of all respect. Our estimate, however, does not abate a jot of our intense interest in his Book and affection for his memory. And we have a strong feeling that, owing partly to his reticence, and partly to the great disadvantages under which the Book was committed to writing, we have in it a singularly imperfect image of the Man.
Was Polo’s Book materially affected by the Scribe Rusticiano?]
72. A question naturally suggests itself, how far Polo’s narrative, at least in its expression, was modified by passing under the pen of a professed littérateur of somewhat humble claims, such as Rusticiano was. The case is not a singular one, and in our own day the ill-judged use of such assistance has been fatal to the reputation of an adventurous Traveller.
We have, however, already expressed our own view that in the Geographic Text we have the nearest possible approach to a photographic impression of Marco’s oral narrative. If there be an exception to this we should seek it in the descriptions of battles, in which we find the narrator to fall constantly into a certain vein of bombastic commonplaces, which look like the stock phrases of a professed romancer, and which indeed have a strong resemblance to the actual phraseology of certain metrical romances.15 Whether this feature be due to Rusticiano I cannot say, but I have not been able to trace anything of the same character in a cursory inspection of some of his romance-compilations. Still one finds it impossible to conceive of our sober and reticent Messer Marco pacing the floor of his Genoese dungeon, and seven times over rolling out this magniloquent bombast, with sufficient deliberation to be overtaken by the pen of the faithful amanuensis!
Marco’s reading embraced the Alexandrian Romances. Examples.]
73. On the other hand, though Marco, who had left home at fifteen years of age, naturally shows very few signs of reading, there are indications that he had read romances, especially those dealing with the fabulous adventures of Alexander.
To these he refers explicitly or tacitly in his notices of the Irongate and of Gog and Magog, in his allusions to the marriage of Alexander with Darius’s daughter, and to the battle between those two heroes, and in his repeated mention of the Arbre Sol or Arbre Sec on the Khorasan frontier.
The key to these allusions is to be found in that Legendary History of Alexander, entirely distinct from the true history of the Macedonian Conqueror, which in great measure took the place of the latter in the imagination of East and West for more than a thousand years. This fabulous history is believed to be of Graeco–Egyptian origin, and in its earliest extant compiled form, in the Greek of the Pseudo–Callisthenes, can be traced back to at least about A.D. 200. From the Greek its marvels spread eastward at an early date; some part at least of their matter was known to Moses of Chorene, in the 5th century;16 they were translated into Armenian, Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac; and were reproduced in the verses of Firdusi and various other Persian Poets; spreading eventually even to the Indian Archipelago, and finding utterance in Malay and Siamese. At an early date they had been rendered into Latin by Julius Valerius; but this work had probably been lost sight of, and it was in the 10th century that they were re-imported from Byzantium to Italy by the Archpriest Leo, who had gone as Envoy to the Eastern Capital from John Duke of Campania.17 Romantic histories on this foundation, in verse and prose, became diffused in all the languages of Western Europe, from Spain to Scandinavia, rivalling in popularity the romantic cycles of the Round Table or of Charlemagne. Nor did this popularity cease till the 16th century was well advanced.
The heads of most of the Mediaeval Travellers were crammed with these fables as genuine history.18 And by the help of that community of legend on this subject which they found wherever Mahomedan literature had spread, Alexander Magnus was to be traced everywhere in Asia. Friar Odoric found Tana, near Bombay, to be the veritable City of King Porus; John Marignolli’s vainglory led him to imitate King Alexander in setting up a marble column “in the corner of the world over against Paradise,” i.e. somewhere on the coast of Travancore; whilst Sir John Maundevile, with a cheaper ambition, borrowed wonders from the Travels of Alexander to adorn his own. Nay, even in after days, when the Portuguese stumbled with amazement on those vast ruins in Camboja, which have so lately become familiar to us through the works of Mouhot, Thomson, and Garnier, they ascribed them to Alexander.19
Prominent in all these stories is the tale of Alexander’s shutting up a score of impure nations, at the head of which were Gog and Magog, within a barrier of impassable mountains, there to await the latter days; a legend with which the disturbed mind of Europe not unnaturally connected that cataclysm of unheard-of Pagans that seemed about to deluge Christendom in the first half of the 13th century. In these stories also the beautiful Roxana, who becomes the bride of Alexander, is Darius’s daughter, bequeathed to his arms by the dying monarch. Conspicuous among them again is the Legend of the Oracular Trees of the Sun and Moon, which with audible voice foretell the place and manner of Alexander’s death. With this Alexandrian legend some of the later forms of the story had mixed up one of Christian origin about the Dry Tree, L’Arbre Sec. And they had also adopted the Oriental story of the Land of Darkness and the mode of escape from it, which Polo relates at p. 484 of vol. ii.
Injustice long done to Polo. Singular modern instance.]
74. We have seen in the most probable interpretation of the nickname Milioni that Polo’s popular reputation in his lifetime was of a questionable kind; and a contemporary chronicler, already quoted, has told us how on his death-bed the Traveller was begged by anxious friends to retract his extraordinary stories.20 A little later one who copied the Book “per passare tempo e malinconia” says frankly that he puts no faith in it.21 Sir Thomas Brown is content “to carry a wary eye” in reading “Paulus Venetus”; but others of our countrymen in the last century express strong doubts whether he ever was in Tartary or China.22 Marden’s edition might well have extinguished the last sparks of scepticism.23 Hammer meant praise in calling Polo “der Vater orientalischer Hodogetik,” in spite of the uncouthness of the eulogy. But another grave German writer, ten years after Marsden’s publication, put forth in a serious book that the whole story was a clumsy imposture!24
1 M. d’Avezac has refuted the common supposition that this admirable traveller was a native of Brabant.
The form Rubruquis of the name of the traveller William de Rubruk has been habitually used in this book, perhaps without sufficient consideration, but it is the most familiar in England, from its use by Hakluyt and Purchas. The former, who first published the narrative, professedly printed from an imperfect MS. belonging to the Lord Lumley, which does not seem to be now known. But all the MSS. collated by Messrs. Francisque–Michel and Wright, in preparing their edition of the Traveller, call him simply Willelmus de Rubruc or Rubruk.
Some old authors, apparently without the slightest ground, having called him Risbroucke and the like, it came to be assumed that he was a native of Ruysbroeck, a place in South Brabant.
But there is a place still called Rubrouck in French Flanders. This is a commune containing about 1500 inhabitants, belonging to the Canton of Cassel and arrondissement of Hazebrouck, in the Department du Nord. And we may take for granted, till facts are alleged against it, that this was the place from which the envoy of St. Lewis drew his origin. Many documents of the Middle Ages, referring expressly to this place Rubrouck, exist in the Library of St. Omer, and a detailed notice of them has been published by M. Edm. Coussemaker, of Lille. Several of these documents refer to persons bearing the same name as the Traveller, e.g., in 1190, Thierry de Rubrouc; in 1202 and 1221, Gauthier du Rubrouc; in 1250, Jean du Rubrouc; and in 1258, Woutermann de Rubrouc. It is reasonable to suppose that Friar William was of the same stock. See Bulletin de la Soc. de Géographie, 2nd vol. for 1868, pp. 569–570, in which there are some remarks on the subject by M. d’Avezac; and I am indebted to the kind courtesy of that eminent geographer himself for the indication of this reference and the main facts, as I had lost a note of my own on the subject.
It seems a somewhat complex question whether a native even of French Flanders at that time should be necessarily claimable as a Frenchman;* but no doubt on this point is alluded to by M. d’Avezac, so he probably had good ground for that assumption. [See also Yule’s article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Rockhill’s Rubruck, Int., p. xxxv. — H. C.]
That cross-grained Orientalist, I. J. Schmidt, on several occasions speaks contemptuously of this veracious and delightful traveller, whose evidence goes in the teeth of some of his crotchets. But I am glad to find that Professor Peschel takes a view similar to that expressed in the text: “The narrative of Ruysbroek [Rubruquis], almost immaculate in its freedom from fabulous insertions, may be indicated on account of its truth to nature as the greatest geographical masterpiece of the Middle Ages.” (Gesch. der Erdkunde, 1865, p. 151.)
[* The County of Flanders was at this time in large part a fief of the French Crown. (See Natalis de Wailly, notes to Joinville, p. 576.) But that would not much affect the question either one way or the other.]
2 High as Marco’s name deserves to be set, his place is not beside the writer of such burning words as these addressed to Ferdinand and Isabella: “From the most tender age I went to sea, and to this day I have continued to do so. Whosoever devotes himself to this craft must desire to know the secrets of Nature here below. For 40 years now have I thus been engaged, and wherever man has sailed hitherto on the face of the sea, thither have I sailed also. I have been in constant relation with men of learning, whether ecclesiastic or secular, Latins and Greeks, Jews and Moors, and men of many a sect besides. To accomplish this my longing (to know the Secrets of the World) I found the Lord favourable to my purposes; it is He who hath given me the needful disposition and understanding. He bestowed upon me abundantly the knowledge of seamanship: and of Astronomy He gave me enough to work withal, and so with Geometry and Arithmetic. . . . In the days of my youth I studied works of all kinds, history, chronicles, philosophy, and other arts, and to apprehend these the Lord opened my understanding. Under His manifest guidance I navigated hence to the Indies; for it was the Lord who gave me the will to accomplish that task, and it was in the ardour of that will that I came before your Highnesses. All those who heard of my project scouted and derided it; all the acquirements I have mentioned stood me in no stead; and if in your Highnesses, and in you alone, Faith and Constancy endured, to Whom are due the Lights that have enlightened you as well as me, but to the Holy Spirit?” (Quoted in Humboldt’s Examen Critique, I. 17, 18.)
3 Libri, however, speaks too strongly when he says: “The finest of all the results due to the influence of Marco Polo is that of having stirred Columbus to the discovery of the New World. Columbus, jealous of Polo’s laurels, spent his life in preparing means to get to that Zipangu of which the Venetian traveller had told such great things; his desire was to reach China by sailing westward, and in his way he fell in with America.” (H. des Sciences Mathém. etc. II. 150.)
The fact seems to be that Columbus knew of Polo’s revelations only at second hand, from the letters of the Florentine Paolo Toscanelli and the like; and I cannot find that he ever refers to Polo by name. [How deep was the interest taken by Colombus in Marco Polo’s travels is shown by the numerous marginal notes of the Admiral in the printed copy of the latin version of Pipino kept at the Bib. Colombina at Seville. See Appendix H. p. 558. — H. C.] Though to the day of his death he was full of imaginations about Zipangu and the land of the Great Kaan as being in immediate proximity to his discoveries, these were but accidents of his great theory. It was the intense conviction he had acquired of the absolute smallness of the Earth, of the vast extension of Asia eastward, and of the consequent narrowness of the Western Ocean, on which his life’s project was based. This conviction he seems to have derived chiefly from the works of Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly. But the latter borrowed his collected arguments from Roger Bacon, who has stated them, erroneous as they are, very forcibly in his Opus Majus (p. 137), as Humboldt has noticed in his Examen (vol. i. p. 64). The Spanish historian Mariana makes a strange jumble of the alleged guides of Columbus, saying that some ascribed his convictions to “the information given by one Marco Polo, a Florentine Physician!” (“como otros dizen, por aviso que le dio un cierto Marco Polo, Medico Florentin;” Hist. de España, lib. xxvi. cap 3). Toscanelli is called by Columbus Maestro Paulo, which seems to have led to this mistake; see Sign. G. Uzielli, in Boll. della Soc. Geog. Ital. IX. p. 119, [Also by the same: Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli iniziatore della scoperta d’ America, Florence, 1892; Toscanelli, No. 1; Toscanelli, Vol. V. of the Raccolta Colombiana, 1894. — H. C.]
4 “C’est diminuer l’expression d’un éloge que de l’exagérer.” (Humboldt, Examen, III. 13.)
5 See vol. ii. p. 318, and vol. i. p. 404.
6 Vol. i. p. 423.
7 Vol. ii. p. 85, and Apollonius Rhodius, Argonaut. II. 1012.
8 Chinese Observers record the length of Comets’ tails by cubits!
9 The map, perhaps, gives too favourable an idea of Marco’s geographical conceptions. For in such a construction much has to be supplied for which there are no data, and that is apt to take mould from modern knowledge. Just as in the book illustrations of ninety years ago we find that Princesses of Abyssinia, damsels of Otaheite, and Beauties of Mary Stuart’s Court have all somehow a savour of the high waists, low foreheads, and tight garments of 1810.
We are told that Prince Pedro of Portugal in 1426 received from the Signory of Venice a map which was supposed to be either an original or a copy of one by Marco Polo’s own hand. (Majors P. Henry, p. 62.) There is no evidence to justify any absolute expression of disbelief; and if any map-maker with the spirit of the author of the Carta Catalana then dwelt in Venice, Polo certainly could not have gone to his grave uncatechised. But I should suspect the map to have been a copy of the old one that existed in the Sala dello Scudo of the Ducal Palace.
The maps now to be seen painted on the walls of that Hall, and on which Polo’s route is marked, are not of any great interest. But in the middle of the 15th century there was an old Descriptio Orbis sive Mappamundus in the Hall, and when the apartment was renewed in 1459 a decree of the Senate ordered that such a map should be repainted on the new walls. This also perished by a fire in 1483. On the motion of Ramusio, in the next century, four new maps were painted. These had become dingy and ragged, when, in 1762, the Doge Marco Foscarini caused them to be renewed by the painter Francesco Grisellini. He professed to have adhered closely to the old maps, but he certainly did not, as Morelli testifies. Eastern Asia looks as if based on a work of Ramusio’s age, but Western Asia is of undoubtedly modern character. (See Operetti di Iacopo Morelli, Ven. 1820, I. 299.)
10 “Humboldt confirms the opinion I have more than once expressed that too much must not be inferred from the silence of authors. He adduces three important and perfectly undeniable matters of fact, as to which no evidence is to be found where it would be most anticipated: In the archives of Barcelona no trace of the triumphal entry of Columbus into that city; in Marco Polo no allusion to the Chinese Wall; in the archives of Portugal nothing about the voyages of Amerigo Vespucci in the service of that crown.” (Varnhagen v. Ense, quoted by Hayward, Essays, 2nd Ser. I. 36.) See regarding the Chinese Wall the remarks referred to above, at p. 292 of this volume.
11 [It is a strange fact that Polo never mentions the use of Tea in China, although he travelled through the Tea districts in Fu Kien, and tea was then as generally drunk by the Chinese as it is now. It is mentioned more than four centuries earlier by the Mohammedan merchant Soleyman, who visited China about the middle of the 9th century. He states (Reinaud, Relation des Voyages faits par les Arabes et les Persans dans l’Inde et à la Chine, 1845, I. 40): “The people of China are accustomed to use as a beverage an infusion of a plant, which they call sakh, and the leaves of which are aromatic and of a bitter taste. It is considered very wholesome. This plant (the leaves) is sold in all the cities of the empire.” (Bretschneider, Hist. Bot. Disc.I. p. 5.)— H. C.]
12 It is probable that Persian, which had long been the language of Turanian courts, was also the common tongue of foreigners at that of the Mongols. Pulisanghin and Zardandán, in the preceding list, are pure Persian. So are several of the Oriental phrases noted at p. 84. See also notes on Ondanique and Vernique at pp. 93 and 384 of this volume, on Tacuin at p. 448, and a note at p. 93 supra. The narratives of Odoric, and others of the early travellers to Cathay, afford corroborative examples. Lord Stanley of Alderley, in one of his contributions to the Hakluyt Series, has given evidence from experience that Chinese Mahomedans still preserve the knowledge of numerous Persian words.
13 Compare these errors with like errors of Herodotus, e.g., regarding the conspiracy of the False Smerdis. (See Rawlinson’s Introduction, p. 55.) There is a curious parallel between the two also in the supposed occasional use of Oriental state records, as in Herodotus’s accounts of the revenues of the satrapies, and of the army of Xerxes, and in Marco Polo’s account of Kinsay, and of the Kaan’s revenues. (Vol. ii pp. 185, 216.)
14 An example is seen in the voluminous Annali Musulmani of G. B. Rampoldi, Milan, 1825. This writer speaks of the Travels of Marco Polo with his brother and uncle; declares that he visited Tipango (sic), Java, Ceylon, and the Maldives, collected all the geographical notions of his age, traversed the two peninsulas of the Indies, examined the islands of Socotra, Madagascar, Sofala, and traversed with philosophic eye the regions of Zanguebar, Abyssinia, Nubia, and Egypt! and so forth (ix. 174). And whilst Malte–Brun bestows on Marco the sounding and ridiculous title of “the Humboldt of the 13th century,” he shows little real acquaintance with his Book. (See his Précis, ed. of 1836, I. 551 seqq.)
15 See for example vol. i. p. 338, and note 4 at p. 341; also vol. ii. p. 103. The descriptions in the style referred to recur in all seven times; but most of them (which are in Book IV.) have been omitted in this translation.
16 [On the subject of Moses of Chorene and his works, I must refer to the clever researches of the late Auguste Carrière, Professor of Armenian at the École des Langues Orientales. — H. C.]
17 Zacher, Forschungen zur Critik, &c., der Alexandersage, Halle, 1867, p. 108.
18 Even so sagacious a man as Roger Bacon quotes the fabulous letter of Alexander to Aristotle as authentic. (Opus Majus, p. 137.)
19 J. As. sér. VI. tom. xviii. p. 352.
20 See passage from Jacopo d’Acqui, supra, p. 54.
21 It is the transcriber of one of the Florence MSS. who appends this terminal note, worthy of Mrs. Nickleby:—
“Here ends the Book of Messer M. P. of Venice, written with mine own hand by me Amalio Bonaguisi when Podestà of Cierreto Guidi, to get rid of time and ennui. The contents seem to me incredible things, not lies so much as miracles; and it may be all very true what he says, but I don’t believe it; though to be sure throughout the world very different things are found in different countries. But these things, it has seemed to me in copying, are entertaining enough, but not things to believe or put any faith in; that at least is my opinion. And I finished copying this at Cierreto aforesaid, 12th November, A.D. 1392.”
22 Vulgar Errors, Bk. I. ch. viii.; Astley’s Voyages, IV. 583.
23 A few years before Marsden’s publication, the Historical branch of the R. S. of Science at Göttingen appears to have put forth as the subject of a prize Essay the Geography of the Travels of Carpini, Rubruquis, and especially of Marco Polo. (See L. of M. Polo, by Zurla, in Collezione di Vite e Ritratti d’Illustri Italiani. Pad. 1816.)
24 See Städtewesen des Mittelalters, by K. D. Hüllmann, Bonn, 1829, vol. iv.
After speaking of the Missions of Pope Innocent IV. and St. Lewis, this author sketches the Travels of the Polos, and then proceeds:—
“Such are the clumsily compiled contents of this ecclesiastical fiction (Kirchengeschichtlichen Dichtung) disguised as a Book of Travels, a thing devised generally in the spirit of the age, but specially in the interests of the Clergy and of Trade. . . . This compiler’s aim was analogous to that of the inventor of the Song of Roland, to kindle enthusiasm for the conversion of the Mongols, and so to facilitate commerce through their dominions. . . . Assuredly the Poli never got further than Great Bucharia, which was then reached by many Italian Travellers. What they have related of the regions of the Mongol Empire lying further east consists merely of recollections of the bazaar and travel-talk of traders from those countries; whilst the notices of India, Persia, Arabia, and Ethiopia, are borrowed from Arabic Works. The compiler no doubt carries his audacity in fiction a long way, when he makes his hero Marcus assert that he had been seventeen years in Kúblái’s service,” etc. etc. (pp. 360–362).
In the French edition of Malcolm’s History of Persia (II. 141), Marco is styled “prêtre Venetien”! I do not know whether this is due to Sir John or to the translator.
[Polo is also called “a Venetian Priest,” in a note, vol. i., p. 409, of the original edition of London, 1815, 2 vols., 4to. — H. C.]
How far was there diffusion of his Book in his own day?]
75. But we must return for a little to Polo’s own times. Ramusio states, as we have seen, that immediately after the first commission of Polo’s narrative to writing (in Latin as he imagined), many copies of it were made, it was translated into the vulgar tongue, and in a few months all Italy was full of it.
The few facts that we can collect do not justify this view of the rapid and diffused renown of the Traveller and his Book. The number of MSS. of the latter dating from the 14th century is no doubt considerable, but a large proportion of these are of Pipino’s condensed Latin Translation, which was not put forth, if we can trust Ramusio, till 1320, and certainly not much earlier. The whole number of MSS. in various languages that we have been able to register, amounts to about eighty. I find it difficult to obtain statistical data as to the comparative number of copies of different works existing in manuscript. With Dante’s great Poem, of which there are reckoned close upon 500 MSS.,1 comparison would be inappropriate. But of the Travels of Friar Odoric, a poor work indeed beside Marco Polo’s, I reckoned thirty-nine MSS., and could now add at least three more to the list. [I described seventy-three in my edition of Odoric. — H. C.] Also I find that of the nearly contemporary work of Brunetto Latini, the Tresor, a sort of condensed Encyclopaedia of knowledge, but a work which one would scarcely have expected to approach the popularity of Polo’s Book, the Editor enumerates some fifty MSS. And from the great frequency with which one encounters in Catalogues both MSS. and early printed editions of Sir John Maundevile, I should suppose that the lying wonders of our English Knight had a far greater popularity and more extensive diffusion than the veracious and more sober marvels of Polo.2 To Southern Italy Polo’s popularity certainly does not seem at any time to have extended. I cannot learn that any MS. of his Book exists in any Library of the late Kingdom of Naples or in Sicily.3
Dante, who lived for twenty-three years after Marco’s work was written, and who touches so many things in the seen and unseen Worlds, never alludes to Polo, nor I think to anything that can be connected with his Book. I believe that no mention of Cathay occurs in the Divina Commedia. That distant region is indeed mentioned more than once in the poems of a humbler contemporary, Francesco da Barberino, but there is nothing in his allusions besides this name to suggest any knowledge of Polo’s work.4
Neither can I discover any trace of Polo or his work in that of his contemporary and countryman, Marino Sanudo the Elder, though this worthy is well acquainted with the somewhat later work of Hayton, and many of the subjects which he touches in his own book would seem to challenge a reference to Marco’s labours.
Contemporary references to Polo.]
76. Of contemporary or nearly contemporary references to our Traveller by name, the following are all that I can produce, and none of them are new.
First there is the notice regarding his presentation of his book to Thibault de Cepoy, of which we need say no more (supra, p. 68).
Next there is the Preface to Friar Pipino’s Translation, which we give at length in the Appendix (E) to these notices. The phraseology of this appears to imply that Marco was still alive, and this agrees with the date assigned to the work by Ramusio. Pipino was also the author of a Chronicle, of which a part was printed by Muratori, and this contains chapters on the Tartar wars, the destruction of the Old Man of the Mountain, etc., derived from Polo. A passage not printed by Muratori has been extracted by Prof. Bianconi from a MS. of this Chronicle in the Modena Library, and runs as follows:—
“The matters which follow, concerning the magnificence of the Tartar Emperors, whom in their language they call Cham as we have said, are related by Marcus Paulus the Venetian in a certain Book of his which has been translated by me into Latin out of the Lombardic Vernacular. Having gained the notice of the Emperor himself and become attached to his service, he passed nearly 27 years in the Tartar countries.”5
Again we have that mention of Marco by Friar Jacopo d’Acqui, which we have quoted in connection with his capture by the Genoese, at p. 54.6 And the Florentine historian GIOVANNI VILLANI,7 when alluding to the Tartars, says:—
“Let him who would make full acquaintance with their history examine the book of Friar Hayton, Lord of Colcos in Armenia, which he made at the instance of Pope Clement V., and also the Book called Milione which was made by Messer Marco Polo of Venice, who tells much about their power and dominion, having spent a long time among them. And so let us quit the Tartars and return to our subject, the History of Florence.”8
Further contemporary references.]
77. Lastly, we learn from a curious passage in a medical work by PIETRO OF ABANO, a celebrated physician and philosopher, and a man of Polo’s own generation, that he was personally acquainted with the Traveller. In a discussion on the old notion of the non-habitability of the Equatorial regions, which Pietro controverts, he says:9
Illustration: Star at the Antarctic as sketched by Marco Polo10.
“In the country of the ZINGHI there is seen a star as big as a sack. I know a man who has seen it, and he told me it had a faint light like a piece of a cloud, and is always in the south.11 I have been told of this and other matters by MARCO the Venetian, the most extensive traveller and the most diligent inquirer whom I have ever known. He saw this same star under the Antarctic; he described it as having a great tail, and drew a figure of it thus. He also told me that he saw the Antarctic Pole at an altitude above the earth apparently equal to the length of a soldier’s lance, whilst the Arctic Pole was as much below the horizon. ’Tis from that place, he says, that they export to us camphor, lign-aloes, and brazil. He says the heat there is intense, and the habitations few. And these things he witnessed in a certain island at which he arrived by Sea. He tells me also that there are (wild?) men there, and also certain very great rams that have very coarse and stiff wool just like the bristles of our pigs.”12
In addition to these five I know no other contemporary references to Polo, nor indeed any other within the 14th century, though such there must surely be, excepting in a Chronicle written after the middle of that century by JOHN of YPRES, Abbot of St. Bertin, otherwise known as Friar John the Long, and himself a person of very high merit in the history of Travel, as a precursor of the Ramusios, Hakluyts and Purchases, for he collected together and translated (when needful) into French all of the most valuable works of Eastern Travel and Geography produced in the age immediately preceding his own.13 In his Chronicle the Abbot speaks at some length of the adventures of the Polo Family, concluding with a passage to which we have already had occasion to refer:
“And so Messers Nicolaus and Maffeus, with certain Tartars, were sent a second time to these parts; but Marcus Pauli was retained by the Emperor and employed in his military service, abiding with him for a space of 27 years. And the Cham, on account of his ability despatched him upon affairs of his to various parts of Tartary and India and the Islands, on which journeys he beheld many of the marvels of those regions. And concerning these he afterwards composed a book in the French vernacular, which said Book of Marvels, with others of the same kind, we do possess.” (Thesaur. Nov. Anecdot. III. 747.)
Curious borrowings from Polo in the Romance of Bauduin de Sebourc.]
78. There is, however, a notable work which is ascribed to a rather early date in the 14th century, and which, though it contains no reference to Polo by name, shows a thorough acquaintance with his book, and borrows themes largely from it This is the poetical Romance of Bauduin de Sebourc, an exceedingly clever and vivacious production, partaking largely of that bantering, half-mocking spirit which is, I believe, characteristic of many of the later mediaeval French Romances.14 Bauduin is a knight who, after a very wild and loose youth, goes through an extraordinary series of adventures, displaying great faith and courage, and eventually becomes King of Jerusalem. I will cite some of the traits evidently derived from our Traveller, which I have met with in a short examination of this curious work.
Bauduin, embarked on a dromond in the Indian Sea, is wrecked in the territory of Baudas, and near a city called Falise, which stands on the River of Baudas. The people of this city were an unbelieving race.
“Il ne créoient Dieu, Mahon, né Tervogant,
Ydole, cruchéfis, déable, né tirant.” P. 300.
Their only belief was this, that when a man died a great fire should be made beside his tomb, in which should be burned all his clothes, arms, and necessary furniture, whilst his horse and servant should be put to death, and then the dead man would have the benefit of all these useful properties in the other world.15 Moreover, if it was the king that died —
“Sé li rois de la terre i aloit trespassant,
* * * * *
Si fasoit-on tuer,.viij. jour en un tenant,
Tout chiaus c’on encontroit par la chité passant,
Pour tenir compaingnie leur ségnor soffisant.
Telle estoit le créanche ou païs dont je cant!”16 P. 301.
Baudin arrives when the king has been dead three days, and through dread of this custom all the people of the city are shut up in their houses. He enters an inn, and helps himself to a vast repast, having been fasting for three days. He is then seized and carried before the king, Polibans by name. We might have quoted this prince at p. 87 as an instance of the diffusion of the French tongue:
“Polibans sot Fransois, car on le doctrina:
j. renoiés de Franche. vij. ans i demora,
Qui li aprist Fransois, si que bel en parla.” P. 309.
Bauduin exclaims against their barbarous belief, and declares the Christian doctrine to the king, who acknowledges good points in it, but concludes:
“Vassaus, dist Polibans, à le chière hardie,
Jà ne crerrai vou Dieux, à nul jour de ma vie;
Né vostre Loy ne vaut une pomme pourie!” P. 311.
Bauduin proposes to prove his Faith by fighting the prince, himself unarmed, the latter with all his arms. The prince agrees, but is rather dismayed at Bauduin’s confidence, and desires his followers, in case of his own death, to burn with him horses, armour, etc., asking at the same time which of them would consent to burn along with him, in order to be his companions in the other world:
“Là en i ot. ij’e. dont cascuns s’escria:
Nous morons volentiers, quant vo corps mort sara!”17 P. 313.
Bauduin’s prayer for help is miraculously granted; Polibans is beaten, and converted by a vision. He tells Bauduin that in his neighbourhood, beyond Baudas —
“ou. v. liewes, ou. vi.
Ché un felles prinches, orgoellieus et despis;
De la Rouge–Montaingne est Prinches et Marchis.
Or vous dirai comment il a ses gens nouris:
Je vous di que chius Roys a fait un Paradis
Tant noble et gratieus, et plain de tels déliis,
* * * * *
Car en che Paradis est un riex establis,
Qui se partist en trois, en che noble pourpris:
En l’un coert li clarés, d’espises bien garnis;
Et en l’autre li miés, qui les a resouffis;
Et li vins di pieument i queurt par droit avis —
* * * * *
Il n’i vente, né gèle. Che liés est de samis,
De riches dras de soie, bien ouvrés à devis.
Et aveukes tout che que je chi vous devis,
I a. ij’e puchelles qui moult ont cler les vis,
Carolans et tresquans, menans gales et ris.
Et si est li dieuesse, dame et suppellatis,
Qui doctrine les autres et en fais et en dis,
Celle est la fille au Roy c’on dist des Haus–Assis.”18
This Lady Ivorine, the Old Man’s daughter, is described among other points as having —
“Les iex vairs com faucons, nobles et agentis.”19 P. 320.
The King of the Mountain collects all the young male children of the country, and has them brought up for nine or ten years:
“Dedens un lieu oscur: là les met-on toudis
Aveukes males bestes; kiens, et cas, et soris,
Culoères, et lisaerdes, escorpions petis.
Là endroit ne peut nuls avoir joie, né ris.” Pp. 320–321.
And after this dreary life they are shown the Paradise, and told that such shall be their portion if they do their Lord’s behest.
“S’il disoit à son homme: ‘Va-t-ent droit à Paris;
Si me fier d’un coutel le Roy de Saint Denis,
Jamais n’aresteroit, né par nuit né par dis,
S’aroit tué le Roy, voïant tous ches marchis;
Et déuist estre à fources traïnés et mal mis.’” P. 321.
Bauduin determines to see this Paradise and the lovely Ivorine. The road led by Baudas:
“Or avoit à che tamps, sé l’istoire ne ment,
En le chit de Baudas Kristiens jusqu’ à cent;
Qui manonent illoec par tréu d’argent,
Que cascuns cristiens au Roy–Calife rent.
Li pères du Calife, qui régna longement,
Ama les Crestiens, et Dieu primièrement:
* * * * *
Et lor fist establir. j. monstier noble et gent,
Où Crestien faisoient faire lor sacrement.
Une mout noble pière lor donna proprement,
Où on avoit posé Mahon moult longement.”20 P. 322.
The story is, in fact, that which Marco relates of Samarkand.21 The Caliph dies. His son hates the Christians. His people complain of the toleration of the Christians and their minister; but he says his father had pledged him not to interfere, and he dared not forswear himself. If, without doing so, he could do them an ill turn, he would gladly. The people then suggest their claim to the stone:
“Or leur donna vos pères, dont che fu mesprisons.
Ceste pierre, biaus Sire, Crestiens demandons:
Il ne le porront rendre, pour vrai le vous disons,
Si li monstiers n’est mis et par pièches et par mons;
Et s’il estoit desfais, jamais ne le larons
Refaire chi-endroit. Ensément averons
Faites et acomplies nostres ententions.” P. 324.
The Caliph accordingly sends for Maistre Thumas, the Priest of the Christians, and tells him the stone must be given up:
“Il a. c. ans ut plus c’on i mist à solas
Mahon, le nostre Dieu: dont che n’est mie estas
Que li vous monstiers soit fais de nostre harnas!” P. 324.
Master Thomas, in great trouble, collects his flock, mounts the pulpit, and announces the calamity. Bauduin and his convert Polibans then arrive. Bauduin recommends confession, fasting, and prayer. They follow his advice, and on the third day the miracle occurs:
“L’escripture le dist, qui nous achertéfie
Que le pierre Mahon, qui ou mur fut fiquie,
Sali hors du piler, coi que nul vous en die,
Droit enmi le monstier, c’onques ne fut brisie.
Et demoura li traus, dont le pière ert widie,
Sans pière est sans quailliel, à cascune partie;
Chou deseure soustient, par divine maistrie,
Tout en air proprement, n’el tenés a falie.
Encore le voit-on en ichelle partie:
Qui croire ne m’en voelt, si voist; car je l’en prie!” P. 327.
The Caliph comes to see, and declares it to be the Devil’s doing. Seeing Polibans, who is his cousin, he hails him, but Polibans draws back, avowing his Christian faith. The Caliph in a rage has him off to prison. Bauduin becomes very ill, and has to sell his horse and arms. His disease is so offensive that he is thrust out of his hostel, and in his wretchedness sitting on a stone he still avows his faith, and confesses that even then he has not received his deserts. He goes to beg in the Christian quarter, and no one gives to him; but still his faith and love to God hold out:
“Ensément Bauduins chelle rue cherqua,
Tant qu’à.j. chavetier Bauduins s’arresta,
Qui chavates cousoit; son pain en garigna:
Jones fu et plaisans, apertement ouvra.
Bauduins le regarde, c’onques mot ne parla.” P. 334.
The cobler is charitable, gives him bread, shoes, and a grey coat that was a foot too short. He then asks Bauduin if he will not learn his trade; but that is too much for the knightly stomach:
“Et Bauduins respont, li preus et li membrus:
J’ameroie trop miex que je fuisse pendus!” P. 335.
The Caliph now in his Council expresses his vexation about the miracle, and says he does not know how to disprove the faith of the Christians. A very sage old Saracen who knew Hebrew, and Latin, and some thirty languages, makes a suggestion, which is, in fact, that about the moving of the Mountain, as related by Marco Polo.22 Master Thomas is sent for again, and told that they must transport the high mountain of Thir to the valley of Joaquin, which lies to the westward. He goes away in new despair and causes his clerk to sonner le clocke for his people. Whilst they are weeping and wailing in the church, a voice is heard desiring them to seek a certain holy man who is at the good cobler’s, and to do him honour. God at his prayer will do a miracle. They go in procession to Bauduin, who thinks they are mocking him. They treat him as a saint, and strive to touch his old coat. At last he consents to pray along with the whole congregation.
The Caliph is in his palace with his princes, taking his ease at a window. Suddenly he starts up exclaiming:
“‘Seignour, par Mahoumet que j’aoure et tieng chier,
Le Mont de Thir enportent le déable d’enfeir!’
Li Califes s’écrie: ‘Seignour, franc palasin,
Voïés le Mont de Thir qui ch’est mis au chemin!
Vés-le-là tout en air, par mon Dieu Apolin;
Jà bientost le verrons ens ou val Joaquin!’” P. 345.
The Caliph is converted, releases Polibans, and is baptised, taking the name of Bauduin, to whom he expresses his fear of the Viex de la Montagne with his Hauts–Assis, telling anew the story of the Assassin’s Paradise, and so enlarges on the beauty of Ivorine that Bauduin is smitten, and his love heals his malady. Toleration is not learned however:
“Bauduins, li Califes, fist baptisier sa gent,
Et qui ne voilt Dieu crore, li teste on li pourfent!” P. 350.
The Caliph gives up his kingdom to Bauduin, proposing to follow him to the Wars of Syria. And Bauduin presents the Kingdom to the Cobler.
Bauduin, the Caliph, and Prince Polibans then proceed to visit the Mountain of the Old Man. The Caliph professes to him that they want help against Godfrey of Bouillon. The Viex says he does not give a bouton for Godfrey; he will send one of his Hauts–Assis straight to his tent, and give him a great knife of steel between fie et poumon!
After dinner they go out and witness the feat of devotion which we have quoted elsewhere.23 They then see the Paradise and the lovely Ivorine, with whose beauty Bauduin is struck dumb. The lady had never smiled before; now she declares that he for whom she had long waited was come. Bauduin exclaims:
“‘Madame, fu-jou chou qui sui le vous soubgis?’
Quant la puchelle l’ot, lors li geta. j. ris;
Et li dist: ‘Bauduins, vous estes mes amis!’” Pp. 362–363.
The Old One is vexed, but speaks pleasantly to his daughter, who replies with frightfully bad language, and declares herself to be a Christian. The father calls out to the Caliph to kill her. The Caliph pulls out a big knife and gives him a blow that nearly cuts him in two. The amiable Ivorine says she will go with Bauduin:
“‘Sé mes pères est mors, n’en donne. j. paresis!’” P. 364.
We need not follow the story further, as I did not trace beyond this point any distinct derivation from our Traveller, with the exception of that allusion to the incombustible covering of the napkin of St. Veronica, which I have quoted at p. 216 of this volume. But including this, here are at least seven different themes borrowed from Marco Polo’s book, on which to be sure his poetical contemporary plays the most extraordinary variations.
Chaucer and Marco Polo.]
[78 bis. — In the third volume of The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Oxford, 1894, the Rev. Walter W. Skeat gives (pp. 372 seqq.) an Account of the Sources of the Canterbury Tales. Regarding The Squieres Tales, he says that one of his sources was the Travels of Marco; Mr. Keighley in his Tales and Popular Fictions, published in 1834, at p. 76, distinctly derives Chaucer’s Tale from the travels of Marco Polo. (Skeat, l. c., p. 463, note.) I cannot quote all the arguments given by the Rev. W. W. Skeat to support his theory, pp. 463–477.
Regarding the opinion of Professor Skeat of Chaucer’s indebtedness to Marco Polo, cf. Marco Polo and the Squire’s Tale, by Professor John Matthews Manly, vol. xi. of the Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 1896, pp. 349–362. Mr. Manly says (p. 360): “It seems clear, upon reviewing the whole problem, that if Chaucer used Marco Polo’s narrative, he either carelessly or intentionally confused all the features of the setting that could possibly be confused, and retained not a single really characteristic trait of any person, place or event. It is only by twisting everything that any part of Chaucer’s story can be brought into relation with any part of Polo’s. To do this might be allowable, if any rational explanation could be given for Chaucer’s supposed treatment of his ‘author,’ or if there were any scarcity of sources from which Chaucer might have obtained as much information about Tartary as he seems really to have possessed; but such an explanation would be difficult to devise, and there is no such scarcity. Any one of half a dozen accessible accounts could be distorted into almost if not quite as great resemblance to the Squire’s Tale as Marco Polo’s can.”
Mr. A. W. Pollard, in his edition of The Squire’s Tale (Lond., 1899) writes: “A very able paper, by Prof. J. M. Manly, demonstrates the needlessness of Prof. Skeat’s theory, which has introduced fresh complications into an already complicated story. My own belief is that, though we may illustrate the Squire’s Tale from these old accounts of Tartary, and especially from Marco Polo, because he has been so well edited by Colonel Yule, there is very little probability that Chaucer consulted any of them. It is much more likely that he found these details where he found more important parts of his story, i.e. in some lost romance. But if we must suppose that he provided his own local colour, we have no right to pin him down to using Marco Polo to the exclusion of other accessible authorities.” Mr. Pollard adds in a note (p. xiii.): “There are some features in these narratives, e.g. the account of the gorgeous dresses worn at the Kaan’s feast, which Chaucer with his love of colour could hardly have helped reproducing if he had known them.”— H. C.]
1 See Ferrazzi, Manuele Dantesca, Bassano, 1865, p. 729.
2 In Quaritch’s catalogue for Nov. 1870 there is only one old edition of Polo; there are nine of Maundevile. In 1839 there were nineteen MSS. of the latter author catalogued in the British Museum Library. There are now only six of Marco Polo. At least twenty-five editions of Maundevile and only five of Polo were printed in the 15th century.
3 I have made personal enquiry at the National Libraries of Naples and Palermo, at the Communal Library in the latter city, and at the Benedictine Libraries of Monte Cassino, Monreale, S. Martino, and Catania.
In the 15th century, when Polo’s book had become more generally diffused we find three copies of it in the Catalogue of the Library of Charles VI. of France, made at the Louvre in 1423, by order of the Duke of Bedford.
The estimates of value are curious. They are in sols parisis, which we shall not estimate very wrongly at a shilling each:—
“No. 295. Item. Marcus Paulus; en ung cahier escript de lettre formée en françois, à deux coulombes. Commt. ou ii’e fo. ‘deux frères prescheurs,’ et ou derrenier ‘que sa arrières.’ X. s. p.
“No. 334. Item. Marcus Paulus. Couvert de drap d’or, bien escript & enluminé, de lettre de forme en françois, à deux coulombes. Commt. ou ii’e fol.; ‘il fut Roys,’ & ou derrenier ‘propremen,’ à deux fermouers de laton. XV. s. p.
“No. 336. Item. Marcus Paulus; non enluminé, escript en françois, de lettre de forme. Commt. ou ii’e fo. ‘vocata moult grant,’ & ou derrenier ‘ilec dist il.’ Couvert de cuir blanc, à deux fermouers de laton. XII. s. p.”
(Inventaire de la Bibliothèque du Roi Charles VI., etc. Paris, Société des Bibliophiles, 1867.)
4 See Del Reggimento e de’ Costumi delle donne di Messer Francesco da Barberino, Roma, 1815, pp. 166 and 271. The latter passage runs thus, on Slavery:—
“E fu indutta prima da Noé,
E fu cagion lo vin, perchè si egge:
Ch’ egli è un paese, dove
Son molti servi in parte di Cathay:
Che per questa cagione
Hanno a nimico il vino,
E non ne beon, nè voglion vedere.”
The author was born the year before Dante (1264), and though he lived to 1348 it is probable that the poems in question were written in his earlier years. Cathay was no doubt known by dim repute long before the final return of the Polos, both through the original journey of Nicolo and Maffeo, and by information gathered by the Missionary Friars. Indeed, in 1278 Pope Nicolas III., in consequence of information said to have come from Abaka Khan of Persia, that Kúblái was a baptised Christian, sent a party of Franciscans with a long letter to the Kaan Quobley, as he is termed. They never seem to have reached their destination. And in 1289 Nicolas IV. entrusted a similar mission to Friar John of Monte Corvino, which eventually led to very tangible results. Neither of the Papal letters, however, mentions Cathay. (See Mosheim, App. pp. 76 and 94.)
5 See Muratori, IX. 583, seqq.; Bianconi, Mem. I. p. 37.
6 This Friar makes a strange hotch-potch of what he had read, e.g.:
“The Tartars, when they came out of the mountains, made them a king, viz., the son of Prester John, who is thus vulgarly termed Vetulus de la Montagna!” (Mon. Hist. Patr. Script. III. 1557.)
7 G. Villani died in the great plague of 1348. But his book was begun soon after Marco’s was written, for he states that it was the sight of the memorials of greatness which he witnessed at Rome, during the Jubilee of 1300, that put it into his head to write the history of the rising glories of Florence, and that he began the work after his return home. (Bk. VIII. ch. 36.)
8 Book V. ch. 29.
9 Petri Aponensis Medici ac Philosophi Celeberrimi, Conciliator, Venice, 1521, fol. 97. Peter was born in 1250 at Abano, near Padua, and was Professor of Medicine at the University in the latter city. He twice fell into the claws of the Unholy Office, and only escaped them by death in 1316.
10 [It is curious that this figure is almost exactly that which among oriental carpets is called a “cloud.” I have heard the term so applied by Vincent Robinson. It often appears in old Persian carpets, and also in Chinese designs. Mr. Purdon Clarke tells me it is called nebula in heraldry; it is also called in Chinese by a term signifying cloud; in Persian, by a term which he called silen-i-khitai, but of this I can make nothing. — MS. Note by Yule.]
11 The great Magellanic cloud? In the account of Vincent Yanez Pinzon’s Voyage to the S.W. in 1499 as given in Ramusio (III. 15) after Pietro Martire d’Anghieria, it is said:—“Taking the astrolabe in hand, and ascertaining the Antarctic Pole, they did not see any star like our Pole Star; but they related that they saw another manner of stars very different from ours, and which they could not clearly discern because of a certain dimness which diffused itself about those stars, and obstructed the view of them.” Also the Kachh mariners told Lieutenant Leech that midway to Zanzibar there was a town (?) called Marethee, where the North Pole Star sinks below the horizon, and they steer by a fixed cloud in the heavens. (Bombay Govt. Selections, No. XV. N.S. p. 215.)
The great Magellan cloud is mentioned by an old Arab writer as a white blotch at the foot of Canopus, visible in the Tehama along the Red Sea, but not in Nejd or ‘Irák. Humboldt, in quoting this, calculates that in A.D. 1000 the Great Magellan would have been visible at Aden some degrees above the horizon. (Examen, V. 235.)
12 This passage contains points that are omitted in Polo’s book, besides the drawing implied to be from Marco’s own hand! The island is of course Sumatra. The animal is perhaps the peculiar Sumatran wild-goat, figured by Marsden, the hair of which on the back is “coarse and strong, almost like bristles.” (Sumatra, p. 115.)
13 A splendid example of Abbot John’s Collection is the Livre des Merveilles of the Great French Library (No. 18 in our App. F.). This contains Polo, Odoric, William of Boldensel, the Book of the Estate of the Great Kaan by the Archbishop of Soltania, Maundevile, Hayton, and Ricold of Montecroce, of which all but Polo and Maundevile are French versions by this excellent Long John. A list of the Polo miniatures is given in App. F. of this Edition, p. 527.
It is a question for which there is sufficient ground, whether the Persian Historians Rashiduddin and Wassáf, one or other or both, did not derive certain information that appears in their histories, from Marco Polo personally, he having spent many months in Persia, and at the Court of Tabriz, when either or both may have been there. Such passages as that about the Cotton-trees of Guzerat (vol. ii. p. 393, and note), those about the horse trade with Maabar (id. p. 340, and note), about the brother-kings of that country (id. p. 331), about the naked savages of Necuveram (id. p. 306), about the wild people of Sumatra calling themselves subjects of the Great Kaan (id. pp. 285, 292, 293, 299), have so strong a resemblance to parallel passages in one or both of the above historians, as given in the first and third volumes of Elliot, that the probability, at least, of the Persian writers having derived their information from Polo might be fairly maintained.
14 Li Romans de Bauduin de Sebourc III’e Roy de Jhérusalem; Poème du XIV’e Siècle; Valenciennes, 1841. 2 vols. 8vo. I was indebted to two references of M. Pauthier’s for knowledge of the existence of this work. He cites the legends of the Mountain, and of the Stone of the Saracens from an abstract, but does not seem to have consulted the work itself, nor to have been aware of the extent of its borrowings from Marco Polo. M. Génin, from whose account Pauthier quotes, ascribes the poem to an early date after the death of Philip the Fair (1314). See Pauthier, pp. 57, 58, and 140.
15 See Polo, vol. i. p. 204, and vol. ii. p. 191.
16 See Polo, vol. i. p. 246.
17 See Polo, vol. ii. p. 339.
18 See Polo, vol. i. p. 140. Hashishi has got altered into Haus Assis.
19 See vol. i. p. 358, note.
20 See vol. i. p. 189, note 2.
21 Vol. i. pp. 183–186.
22 Vol. i. pp. 68 seqq. The virtuous cobler is not left out, but is made to play second fiddle to the hero Bauduin
23 Vol. i. p. 144.
Tardy operation, and causes thereof.]
79. Marco Polo contributed such a vast amount of new facts to the knowledge of the Earth’s surface, that one might have expected his book to have had a sudden effect upon the Science of Geography: but no such result occurred speedily, nor was its beneficial effect of any long duration.
No doubt several causes contributed to the slowness of its action upon the notions of Cosmographers, of which the unreal character attributed to the Book, as a collection of romantic marvels rather than of geographical and historical facts, may have been one, as Santarem urges. But the essential causes were no doubt the imperfect nature of publication before the invention of the press; the traditional character which clogged geography as well as all other branches of knowledge in the Middle Ages; and the entire absence of scientific principle in what passed for geography, so that there was no organ competent to the assimilation of a large mass of new knowledge.
Of the action of the first cause no examples can be more striking than we find in the false conception of the Caspian as a gulf of the Ocean, entertained by Strabo, and the opposite error in regard to the Indian Sea held by Ptolemy, who regards it as an enclosed basin, when we contrast these with the correct ideas on both subjects possessed by Herodotus. The later Geographers no doubt knew his statements, but did not appreciate them, probably from not possessing the evidence on which they were based.
General characteristics of Mediaeval Cosmography.]
80. As regards the second cause alleged, we may say that down nearly to the middle of the 15th century cosmographers, as a rule, made scarcely any attempt to reform their maps by any elaborate search for new matter, or by lights that might be collected from recent travellers. Their world was in its outline that handed down by the traditions of their craft, as sanctioned by some Father of the Church, such as Orosius or Isidore, as sprinkled with a combination of classical and mediaeval legend; Solinus being the great authority for the former. Almost universally the earth’s surface is represented as filling the greater part of a circular disk, rounded by the ocean; a fashion that already existed in the time of Aristotle and was ridiculed by him.1 No dogma of false geography was more persistent or more pernicious than this. Jerusalem occupies the central point, because it was found written in the Prophet Ezekiel: “Haec dicit Dominus Deus: Ista est Jerusalem, in medio gentium posui eam, et in circuitu ejus terras;"2 a declaration supposed to be corroborated by the Psalmist’s expression, regarded as prophetic of the death of Our Lord: “Deus autem, Rex noster, ante secula operatus est salutem in medio Terrae” (Ps. lxxiii. 12).3 The Terrestrial Paradise was represented as occupying the extreme East, because it was found in Genesis that the Lord planted a garden east ward in Eden.4 Gog and Magog were set in the far north or north-east, because it was said again in Ezekiel: “Ecce Ego super te Gog Principem capitis Mosoch et Thubal . . . et ascendere te faciam de lateribus Aquilonis,” whilst probably the topography of those mysterious nationalities was completed by a girdle of mountains out of the Alexandrian Fables. The loose and scanty nomenclature was mainly borrowed from Pliny or Mela through such Fathers as we have named; whilst vacant spaces were occupied by Amazons, Arimaspians, and the realm of Prester John. A favourite representation of the inhabited earth was this [Symbol]; a great O enclosing a T, which thus divides the circle in three parts; the greater or half-circle being Asia, the two quarter circles Europe and Africa.5 These Maps were known to St. Augustine.6
Roger Bacon as a geographer.]
81. Even Ptolemy seems to have been almost unknown; and indeed had his Geography been studied it might, with all its errors, have tended to some greater endeavours after accuracy. Roger Bacon, whilst lamenting the exceeding deficiency of geographical knowledge in the Latin world, and purposing to essay an exacter distribution of countries, says he will not attempt to do so by latitude and longitude, for that is a system of which the Latins have learned nothing. He himself, whilst still somewhat burdened by the authoritative dicta of “saints and sages” of past times, ventures at least to criticise some of the latter, such as Pliny and Ptolemy, and declares his intention to have recourse to the information of those who have travelled most extensively over the Earth’s surface. And judging from the good use he makes, in his description of the northern parts of the world, of the Travels of Rubruquis, whom he had known and questioned, besides diligently studying his narrative,7 we might have expected much in Geography from this great man, had similar materials been available to him for other parts of the earth. He did attempt a map with mathematical determination of places, but it has not been preserved.8
It may be said with general truth that the world-maps current up to the end of the 13th century had more analogy to the mythical cosmography of the Hindus than to any thing properly geographical. Both, no doubt, were originally based in the main on real features. In the Hindu cosmography these genuine features are symmetrised as in a kaleidoscope; in the European cartography they are squeezed together in a manner that one can only compare to a pig in brawn. Here and there some feature strangely compressed and distorted is just recognisable. A splendid example of this kind of map is that famous one at Hereford, executed about A.D. 1275, of which a facsimile has lately been published, accompanied by a highly meritorious illustrative Essay.9
82. Among the Arabs many able men, from the early days of Islám, took an interest in Geography, and devoted labour to geographical compilations, in which they often made use of their own observations, of the itineraries of travellers, and of other fresh knowledge. But somehow or other their maps were always far behind their books. Though they appear to have had an early translation of Ptolemy, and elaborate Tables of Latitudes and Longitudes form a prominent feature in many of their geographical treatises, there appears to be no Arabic map in existence, laid down with meridians and parallels; whilst all of their best known maps are on the old system of the circular disk. This apparent incapacity for map-making appears to have acted as a heavy drag and bar upon progress in Geography among the Arabs, notwithstanding its early promise among them, and in spite of the application to its furtherance of the great intellects of some (such as Abu Rihán al-Biruni), and of the indefatigable spirit of travel and omnivorous curiosity of others (such as Mas’údi).
Marino Sanudo the Elder.]
83. Some distinct trace of acquaintance with the Arabian Geography is to be found in the World–Map of Marino Sanudo the Elder, constructed between 1300 and 1320; and this may be regarded as an exceptionally favourable specimen of the cosmography in vogue, for the author was a diligent investigator and compiler, who evidently took a considerable interest in geographical questions, and had a strong enjoyment and appreciation of a map.10 Nor is the map in question without some result of these characteristics. His representation of Europe, Northern Africa, Syria, Asia Minor, Arabia and its two gulfs, is a fair approximation to general facts; his collected knowledge has enabled him to locate, with more or less of general truth, Georgia, the Iron Gates, Cathay, the Plain of Moghan, Euphrates and Tigris, Persia, Bagdad, Kais, Aden (though on the wrong side of the Red Sea), Abyssinia (Habesh), Zangibar (Zinz), Jidda (Zede), etc. But after all the traditional forms are too strong for him. Jerusalem is still the centre of the disk of the habitable earth, so that the distance is as great from Syria to Gades in the extreme West, as from Syria to the India Interior of Prester John which terminates the extreme East. And Africa beyond the Arabian Gulf is carried, according to the Arabian modification of Ptolemy’s misconception, far to the eastward until it almost meets the prominent shores of India.
The Catalan Map of 1375, the most complete mediaeval embodiment of Polo’s Geography.]
84. The first genuine mediaeval attempt at a geographical construction that I know of, absolutely free from the traditional idola, is the Map of the known World from the Portulano Mediceo (in the Laurentian Library), of which an extract is engraved in the atlas of Baldelli–Boni’s Polo. I need not describe it, however, because I cannot satisfy myself that it makes much use of Polo’s contributions, and its facts have been embodied in a more ambitious work of the next generation, the celebrated Catalan Map of 1375 in the great Library of Paris. This also, but on a larger scale and in a more comprehensive manner, is an honest endeavour to represent the known world on the basis of collected facts, casting aside all theories pseudo-scientific or pseudo-theological; and a very remarkable work it is. In this map it seems to me Marco Polo’s influence, I will not say on geography, but on map-making, is seen to the greatest advantage. His Book is the basis of the Map as regards Central and Further Asia, and partially as regards India. His names are often sadly perverted, and it is not always easy to understand the view that the compiler took of his itineraries. Still we have Cathay admirably placed in the true position of China, as a great Empire filling the south-east of Asia. The Eastern Peninsula of India is indeed absent altogether, but the Peninsula of Hither India is for the first time in the History of Geography represented with a fair approximation to its correct form and position,11 and Sumatra also (Java) is not badly placed. Carajan, Vocian, Mien, and Bangala, are located with a happy conception of their relation to Cathay and to India. Many details in India foreign to Polo’s book,12 and some in Cathay (as well as in Turkestan and Siberia, which have been entirely derived from other sources) have been embodied in the Map. But the study of his Book has, I conceive, been essentially the basis of those great portions which I have specified, and the additional matter has not been in mass sufficient to perplex the compiler. Hence we really see in this Map something like the idea of Asia that the Traveller himself would have presented, had he bequeathed a Map to us.
[Some years ago, I made a special study of the Far East in the Catalan Map. (L’Extrême-Orient dans l’Atlas catalan de Charles V., Paris, 1895), and I have come to the conclusion that the cartographer’s knowledge of Eastern Asia is drawn almost entirely from Marco Polo. We give a reproduction of part of the Catalan Map. — H. C.]
Confusions in Cartography of the 16th century, from the endeavour to combine new and old information.]
85. In the following age we find more frequent indications that Polo’s book was diffused and read. And now that the spirit of discovery began to stir, it was apparently regarded in a juster light as a Book of Facts, and not as a mere Romman du Grant Kaan.13 But in fact this age produced new supplies of crude information in greater abundance than the knowledge of geographers was prepared to digest or co-ordinate, and the consequence is that the magnificent Work of Fra Mauro (1459), though the result of immense labour in the collection of facts and the endeavour to combine them, really gives a considerably less accurate idea of Asia than that which the Catalan Map had afforded.14
And when at a still later date the great burst of discovery eastward and westward took effect, the results of all attempts to combine the new knowledge with the old was most unhappy. The first and crudest forms of such combinations attempted to realise the ideas of Columbus regarding the identity of his discoveries with the regions of the Great Kaan’s dominion;15 but even after AMERICA had vindicated its independent position on the surface of the globe, and the new knowledge of the Portuguese had introduced CHINA where the Catalan Map of the 14th century had presented CATHAY, the latter country, with the whole of Polo’s nomenclature, was shoved away to the north, forming a separate system.16 Henceforward the influence of Polo’s work on maps was simply injurious; and when to his nomenclature was added a sprinkling of Ptolemy’s, as was usual throughout the 16th century, the result was a most extraordinary hotch-potch, conveying no approximation to any consistent representation of facts.
Thus, in a map of 1522,17 running the eye along the north of Europe and Asia from West to East, we find the following succession of names: Groenlandia, or Greenland, as a great peninsula overlapping that of Norvegia and Suecia; Livonia, Plescovia and Moscovia, Tartaria bounded on the South by Scithia extra Imaum, and on the East, by the Rivers Ochardes and Bautisis (out of Ptolemy), which are made to flow into the Arctic Sea. South of these are Aureacithis and Asmirea (Ptolemy’s Auxacitis and Asmiraea), and Serica Regio. Then following the northern coast Balor Regio,18 Judei Clausi, i.e. the Ten Tribes who are constantly associated or confounded with the Shut-up Nations of Gog and Magog. These impinge upon the River Polisacus, flowing into the Northern Ocean in Lat. 75°, but which is in fact no other than Polo’s Pulisanghin!19 Immediately south of this is Tholomon Provincia (Polo’s again), and on the coast Tangut, Cathaya, the Rivers Caramoran and Oman (a misreading of Polo’s Quian), Quinsay and Mangi.
Gradual disappearance of Polo’s nomenclature.]
86. The Maps of Mercator (1587) and Magini (1597) are similar in character, but more elaborate, introducing China as a separate system. Such indeed also is Blaeu’s Map (1663) excepting that Ptolemy’s contributions are reduced to one or two.
In Sanson’s Map (1659) the data of Polo and the mediaeval Travellers are more cautiously handled, but a new element of confusion is introduced in the form of numerous features derived from Edrisi.
It is scarcely worth while to follow the matter further. With the increase of knowledge of Northern Asia from the Russian side, and that of China from the Maps of Martini, followed by the surveys of the Jesuits, and with the real science brought to bear on Asiatic Geography by such men as De l’Isle and D’Anville, mere traditional nomenclature gradually disappeared. And the task which the study of Polo has provided for the geographers of later days has been chiefly that of determining the true localities that his book describes under obsolete or corrupted names.
[My late illustrious friend, Baron A. E. Nordenskiöld, who has devoted much time and labour to the study of Marco Polo (see his Periplus, Stockholm, 1897), and published a facsimile edition of one of the French MSS. kept in the Stockholm Royal Library (see vol. ii. Bibliography, p. 570), has given to The Geographical Journal for April, 1899, pp. 396–406, a paper on The Influence of the “Travels of Marco Polo” on Jacobo Gastaldi’s Maps of Asia. He writes (p. 398) that as far as he knows, none “of the many learned men who have devoted their attention to the discoveries of Marco Polo, have been able to refer to any maps in which all or almost all those places mentioned by Marco Polo are given. All friends of the history of geography will therefore be glad to hear that such an atlas from the middle of the sixteenth century really does exist, viz. Gastaldi’s ‘Prima, seconda e terza parte dell Asia.’” All the names of places in Ramusio’s Marco Polo are introduced in the maps of Asia of Jacobo Gastaldi (1561). Cf. Periplus, liv., lv., and lvi.
I may refer to what both Yule and myself say supra of the Catalan Map. — H. C.]
Alleged introduction of Block-printed Books into Europe by Marco Polo.]
87. Before concluding, it may be desirable to say a few words on the subject of important knowledge other than geographical, which various persons have supposed that Marco Polo must have introduced from Eastern Asia to Europe.
Respecting the mariner’s compass and gunpowder I shall say nothing, as no one now, I believe, imagines Marco to have had anything to do with their introduction. But from a highly respectable source in recent years we have seen the introduction of Block-printing into Europe connected with the name of our Traveller. The circumstances are stated as follows:20
“In the beginning of the 15th century a man named Pamphilo Castaldi, of Feltre . . . was employed by the Seignory or Government of the Republic, to engross deeds and public edicts of various kinds . . . the initial letters at the commencement of the writing being usually ornamented with red ink, or illuminated in gold and colours
“According to Sansovino, certain stamps or types had been invented some time previously by Pietro di Natali, Bishop of Aquiloea.21 These were made at Murano of glass, and were used to stamp or print the outline of the large initial letters of public documents, which were afterwards filled up by hand. . . . Pamphilo Castaldi improved on these glass types, by having others made of wood or metal, and having seen several Chinese books which the famous traveller Marco Polo had brought from China, and of which the entire text was printed with wooden blocks, he caused moveable wooden types to be made, each type containing a single letter; and with these he printed several broadsides and single leaves, at Venice, in the year 1426. Some of these single sheets are said to be preserved among the archives at Feltre. . . .
“The tradition continues that John Faust, of Mayence . . . became acquainted with Castaldi, and passed some time with him, at his Scriptorium, . . . at Feltre;”
and in short developed from the knowledge so acquired the great invention of printing. Mr. Curzon goes on to say that Panfilo Castaldi was born in 1398, and died in 1490, and that he gives the story as he found it in an article written by Dr. Jacopo Facen, of Feltre, in a (Venetian?) newspaper called Il Gondoliere, No. 103, of 27th December, 1843.
In a later paper Mr. Curzon thus recurs to the subject:22
“Though none of the early block-books have dates affixed to them, many of them are with reason supposed to be more ancient than any books printed with moveable types. Their resemblance to Chinese block-books is so exact, that they would almost seem to be copied from the books commonly used in China. The impressions are taken off on one side of the paper only, and in binding, both the Chinese, and ancient German, or Dutch block-books, the blank sides of the pages are placed opposite each other, and sometimes pasted together. . . . The impressions are not taken off with printer’s ink, but with a brown paint or colour, of a much thinner description, more in the nature of Indian ink, as we call it, which is used in printing Chinese books. Altogether the German and Oriental block-books are so precisely alike, in almost every respect, that . . . we must suppose that the process of printing then must have been copied from ancient Chinese specimens, brought from that country by some early travellers, whose names have not been handed down to our times.”
The writer then refers to the tradition about Guttemberg (so it is stated on this occasion, not Faust) having learned Castaldi’s art, etc., mentioning a circumstance which he supposes to indicate that Guttemberg had relations with Venice; and appears to assent to the probability of the story of the art having been founded on specimens brought home by Marco Polo.
This story was in recent years diligently propagated in Northern Italy, and resulted in the erection at Feltre of a public statue of Panfilo Castaldi, bearing this inscription (besides others of like tenor):—
“To Panfilo Castaldi the illustrious Inventor of Movable Printing Types, Italy renders this Tribute of Honour, too long deferred.”
In the first edition of this book I devoted a special note to the exposure of the worthlessness of the evidence for this story.23 This note was, with the present Essay, translated and published at Venice by Comm. Berchet, but this challenge to the supporters of the patriotic romance, so far as I have heard, brought none of them into the lists in its defence.
But since Castaldi has got his statue from the printers of Lombardy, would it not be mere equity that the mariners of Spain should set up a statue at Huelva to the Pilot Alonzo Sanchez of that port, who, according to Spanish historians, after discovering the New World, died in the house of Columbus at Terceira, and left the crafty Genoese to appropriate his journals, and rob him of his fame?
Seriously; if anybody in Feltre cares for the real reputation of his native city, let him do his best to have that preposterous and discreditable fiction removed from the base of the statue. If Castaldi has deserved a statue on other and truer grounds let him stand; if not, let him be burnt into honest lime! I imagine that the original story that attracted Mr. Curzon was more jeu d’esprit than anything else; but that the author, finding what a stone he had set rolling, did not venture to retract.
Frequent opportunities for such introduction in the age following Polo’s.]
88. Mr. Curzon’s own observations, which I have italicised about the resemblance of the two systems are, however, very striking, and seem clearly to indicate the derivation of the art from China. But I should suppose that in the tradition, if there ever was any genuine tradition of the kind at Feltre (a circumstance worthy of all doubt), the name of Marco Polo was introduced merely because it was so prominent a name in Eastern Travel. The fact has been generally overlooked and forgotten24 that, for many years in the course of the 14th century, not only were missionaries of the Roman Church and Houses of the Franciscan Order established in the chief cities of China, but a regular trade was carried on overland between Italy and China, by way of Tana (or Azov), Astracan, Otrar and Kamul, insomuch that instructions for the Italian merchant following that route form the two first chapters in the Mercantile Handbook of Balducci Pegolotti (circa 1340).25 Many a traveller besides Marco Polo might therefore have brought home the block-books. And this is the less to be ascribed to him because he so curiously omits to speak of the art of printing, when his subject seems absolutely to challenge its description.
1 “They draw nowadays the map of the world in a laughable manner, for they draw the inhabited earth as a circle; but this is impossible, both from what we see and from reason.” (Meteorolog. Lib. II. cap. 5.) Cf. Herodotus, iv. 36.
2 In Dante’s Cosmography, Jerusalem is the centre of our [Greek: oikouménae], whilst the Mount of Purgatory occupies the middle of the Antipodal hemisphere:—
“Come ciò sia, se’l vuoi poter pensare,
Dentro raccolto immagina Sion
Con questo monte in su la terra stare,
Sì, ch’ ambodue hann’ un solo orrizon
E diversi emisperi”. . . .
— Purg. IV. 67.
3 The belief, with this latter ground of it, is alluded to in curious verses by Jacopo Alighieri, Dante’s son:—
“E molti gran Profeti
Filosofi e Poeti
Fanno il colco dell’ Emme
Dov’ è Gerusalemme;
Se le loro scritture
Hanno vere figure:
E per la Santa fede
Cristiana ancor si vede
Che’ l’ suo principio Cristo
Nel suo mezzo conquisto
Per cui prese morte
E vi pose la sorte.”
(Rime Antiche Toscane, III. 9.)
Though the general meaning of the second couplet is obvious, the expression il colco dell’ Emme, “the couch of the M,” is puzzling. The best solution that occurs to me is this: In looking at the world map of Marino Sanudo, noticed on p. 133, as engraved by Bongars in the Gesta Dei per Francos, you find geometrical lines laid down, connecting the N.E., N.W., S.E., and S.W. points, and thus forming a square inscribed in the circular disk of the Earth, with its diagonals passing through the Central Zion. The eye easily discerns in these a great M inscribed in the circle, with its middle angular point at Jerusalem. Gervasius of Tilbury (with some confusion in his mind between tropic and equinoxial, like that which Pliny makes in speaking of the Indian Mons Malleus) says that “some are of opinion that the Centre is in the place where the Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria at the well, for there, at the summer solstice, the noonday sun descends perpendicularly into the water of the well, casting no shadow; a thing which the philosophers say occurs at Syene”! (Otia Imperialia, by Liebrecht, p. 1.)
4 This circumstance does not, however, show in the Vulgate.
5 “Veggiamo in prima in general la terra
Come risiede e come il mar la serra.
Un T dentro ad un O mostra il disegno
Come in tre parti fu diviso il Mondo,
E la superiore è il maggior regno
Che quasi piglia la metà del tondo.
ASIA chiamata: il gambo ritto è segno
Che parte il terzo nome dal secondo
AFFRICA dico da EUROPA: il mare
Mediterran tra esse in mezzo appare.”
— La Sfera, di F. Leonardo di Stagio Dati, Lib. iii. st. 11.
6 De Civ. Dei, xvi. 17, quoted by Peschel, 92.
7 Opus Majus, Venice ed. pp. 142, seqq.
8 Peschel, p. 195. This had escaped me.
9 By the Rev. W. L. Bevan, M.A., and the Rev. H. W. Phillott, M.A. In Asia, they point out, the only name showing any recognition of modern knowledge is Samarcand.
10 His work, Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis, intended to stimulate a new Crusade, has three capital maps, besides that of the World, one of which, translated, but otherwise in facsimile, is given at p. 18 of this volume. But besides these maps, he gives, in a tabular form of parallel columns, the reigning sovereigns in Europe and Asia connected with his historical retrospect, just on the plan presented in Sir Harris Nicolas’s Chronology of History.
11 I do not see that al-Birúni deserves the credit in this respect assigned to him by Professor Peschel, so far as one can judge from the data given by Sprenger (Peschel, p. 128; Post und Reise–Routen, 81–82.)
12 For example, Delli, which Polo does not name; Diogil (Deogír); on the Coromandel coast Setemelti, which I take to be a clerical error for Sette–Templi, the Seven Pagodas; round the Gulf of Cambay we have Cambetum (Kambayat), Cocintaya (Kokan–Tana, see vol. ii. p. 396), Goga, Baroche, Neruala (Anharwala), and to the north Moltan. Below Multan are Hocibelch and Bargelidoa, two puzzles. The former is, I think, Uch-baligh, showing that part of the information was from Perso–Mongol sources.
13 I see it stated by competent authority that Romman is often applied to any prose composition in a Romance language.
In or about 1426, Prince Pedro of Portugal, the elder brother of the illustrious Prince Henry, being on a visit to Venice, was presented by the Signory with a copy of Marco Polo’s book, together with a map already alluded to. (Major’s P. Henry, pp. 61, 62.)
14 This is partly due also to Fra Mauro’s reversion to the fancy of the circular disk limiting the inhabited portion of the earth.
15 An early graphic instance of this is Ruysch’s famous map (1508). The following extract of a work printed as late as 1533 is an example of the like confusion in verbal description: “The Territories which are beyond the limits of Ptolemy’s Tables have not yet been described on certain authority. Behind the Sinae and the Seres, and beyond 180° of East Longitude, many countries were discovered by one [quendam] Marco Polo a Venetian and others, and the sea-coasts of those countries have now recently again been explored by Columbus the Genoese and Amerigo Vespucci in navigating the Western Ocean. . . . To this part (of Asia) belong the territory called that of the Bachalaos [or Codfish, Newfoundland], Florida, the Desert of Lop, Tangut, Cathay, the realm of Mexico (wherein is the vast city of Temistitan, built in the middle of a great lake, but which the older travellers styled QUINSAY), besides Paria, Uraba, and the countries of the Canibals.” (Joannis Schoneri Carolostadtii Opusculum Geogr., quoted by Humboldt, Examen, V. 171, 172.)
16 In Robert Parke’s Dedication of his Translation of Mendoza’s, London, 1st of January, 1589, he identifies China and Japan with the regions of which Paulus Venetus and Sir John Mandeuill “wrote long agoe.” — MS. Note by Yule.
17 “Totius Europae et Asiae Tabula Geographica, Auctore Thoma D. Aucupario. Edita Argentorati, MDXXII.” Copied in Witsen.
18 This strange association of Balor (i.e., Bolor, that name of so many odd vicissitudes, see pp. 178–179 infra) with the shut-up Israelites must be traced to a passage which Athanasius Kircher quotes from R. Abraham Pizol (qu. Peritsol?): “Regnum, inquit, Belor magnum et excelsum nimis, juxta omnes illos qui scripserunt Historicos. Sunt in eo Judaei plurimi inclusi, et illud in latere Orientali et Boreali,” etc. (China Illustrata, p. 49.)
19 Vol. ii. p. 1.
20 A short Account of Libraries of Italy, by the Hon. R. Curzon (the late Lord de la Zouche); in Bibliog. and Hist. Miscellanies; Philobiblon Society, vol. i, 1854, pp. 6. seqq.
21 P. del Natali was Bishop of Equilio, a city of the Venetian Lagoons, in the latter part of the 14th century. (See Ughelli, Italia Sacra, X. 87.) There is no ground whatever for connecting him with these inventions. The story of the glass types appears to rest entirely and solely on one obscure passage of Sansovino, who says that under the Doge Marco Corner (1365–1367): “certe Natale Veneto lasciò un libro della materie delle forme da giustar intorno alle lettere, ed il modo di formarle di vetro.” There is absolutely nothing more. Some kind of stencilling seems indicated.
22 History of Printing in China and Europe, in Philobiblon, vol. vi. p. 23.
23 See Appendix L. in First Edition.
24 Ramusio himself appears to have been entirely unconscious of it, vide supra, p. 3
25 This subject has been fully treated in Cathay and the Way Thither.
89. It remains to say a few words regarding the basis adopted for our English version of the Traveller’s record.
Text followed by Marsden and by Pauthier.]
Ramusio’s recension was that which Marsden selected for translation. But at the date of his most meritorious publication nothing was known of the real literary history of Polo’s Book, and no one was aware of the peculiar value and originality of the French manuscript texts, nor had Marsden seen any of them. A translation from one of those texts is a translation at first hand; a translation from Ramusio’s Italian is, as far as I can judge, the translation of a translated compilation from two or more translations, and therefore, whatever be the merits of its matter, inevitably carries us far away from the spirit and style of the original narrator. M. Pauthier, I think, did well in adopting for the text of his edition the MSS. which I have classed as of the second Type, the more as there had hitherto been no publication from those texts. But editing a text in the original language, and translating, are tasks substantially different in their demands.
Eclectic formation of the English Text of this Translation.]
90. It will be clear from what has been said in the preceding pages that I should not regard as a fair or full representation of Polo’s Work, a version on which the Geographic Text did not exercise a material influence. But to adopt that Text, with all its awkwardnesses and tautologies, as the absolute subject of translation, would have been a mistake. What I have done has been, in the first instance, to translate from Pauthier’s Text. The process of abridgment in this text, however it came about, has been on the whole judiciously executed, getting rid of the intolerable prolixities of manner which belong to many parts of the Original Dictation, but as a general rule preserving the matter. Having translated this — not always from the Text adopted by Pauthier himself, but with the exercise of my own judgment on the various readings which that Editor lays before us — I then compared the translation with the Geographic Text, and transferred from the latter not only all items of real substance that had been omitted, but also all expressions of special interest and character, and occasionally a greater fulness of phraseology where condensation in Pauthier’s text seemed to have been carried too far. And finally I introduced between brackets everything peculiar to Ramusio’s version that seemed to me to have a just claim to be reckoned authentic, and that could be so introduced without harshness or mutilation. Many passages from the same source which were of interest in themselves, but failed to meet one or other of these conditions, have been given in the notes.1
Mode of rendering proper names.]
91. As regards the reading of proper names and foreign words, in which there is so much variation in the different MSS. and editions, I have done my best to select what seemed to be the true reading from the G. T. and Pauthier’s three MSS., only in some rare instances transgressing this limit.
Where the MSS. in the repetition of a name afforded a choice of forms, I have selected that which came nearest the real name when known. Thus the G. T. affords Baldasciain, Badascian, Badasciam, Badausiam, Balasian. I adopt BADASCIAN, or in English spelling BADASHAN, because it is closest to the real name Badakhshan. Another place appears as COBINAN, Cabanat, Cobian. I adopt the first because it is the truest expression of the real name Koh-benán. In chapters 23, 24 of Book I., we have in the G. T. Asisim, Asciscin, Asescin, and in Pauthier’s MSS. Hasisins, Harsisins, etc. I adopt ASCISCIN, or in English spelling ASHISHIN, for the same reason as before. So with Creman, Crerman, Crermain, QUERMAN, Anglicè KERMAN; Cormos, HORMOS, and many more.2
In two or three cases I have adopted a reading which I cannot show literatim in any authority, but because such a form appears to be the just resultant from the variety of readings which are presented; as in surveying one takes the mean of a number of observations when no one can claim an absolute preference.
Polo’s proper names, even in the French Texts, are in the main formed on an Italian fashion of spelling.3 I see no object in preserving such spelling in an English book, so after selecting the best reading of the name I express it in English spelling, printing Badashan, Pashai, Kerman, instead of Badascian, Pasciai, Querman, and so on.
And when a little trouble has been taken to ascertain the true form and force of Polo’s spelling of Oriental names and technical expressions, it will be found that they are in the main as accurate as Italian lips and orthography will admit, and not justly liable either to those disparaging epithets4 or to those exegetical distortions which have been too often applied to them. Thus, for example, Cocacin, Ghel or Ghelan, Tonocain, Cobinan, Ondanique, Barguerlac, Argon, Sensin, Quescican, Toscaol, Bularguci, Zardandan, Anin, Caugigu, Coloman, Gauenispola, Mutfili, Avarian, Choiach, are not, it will be seen, the ignorant blunderings which the interpretations affixed by some commentators would imply them to be, but are, on the contrary, all but perfectly accurate utterances of the names and words intended.
The -tchéou (of French writers), -choo, -chow, or -chau5 of English writers, which so frequently forms the terminal part in the names of Chinese cities, is almost invariably rendered by Polo as -giu. This has frequently in the MSS., and constantly in the printed editions, been converted into -gui, and thence into -guy. This is on the whole the most constant canon of Polo’s geographical orthography, and holds in Caagiu (Ho-chau), Singiu (Sining-chau), Cui-giu (Kwei-chau), Sin-giu (T’sining-chau), Pi-giu (Pei-chau), Coigangiu (Hwaingan-chau), Si-giu (Si-chau), Ti-giu (Tai-chau), Tin-giu (Tung-chau), Yan-giu (Yang-chau), Sin-giu (Chin-chau), Cai-giu (Kwa-chau), Chinghi-giu (Chang-chau), Su-giu (Su-chau), Vu-giu (Wu-chau), and perhaps a few more. In one or two instances only (as Sinda-ciu, Caiciu) he has -ciu instead of -giu.
The chapter-headings I have generally taken from Pauthier’s Text, but they are no essential part of the original work, and they have been slightly modified or enlarged where it seemed desirable.
* * * * *
“Behold! I see the Haven nigh at Hand,
To which I meane my wearie Course to bend;
Vere the maine Shete, and beare up with the Land,
The which afore is fayrly to be kend,
And seemeth safe from Storms that may offend.
* * * * *
There eke my Feeble Barke a while may stay,
Till mery Wynd and Weather call her thence away.”
— THE FAERIE QUEENE, I. xii. 1.
1 This “eclectic formation of the English text,” as I have called it for brevity in the marginal rubric, has been disapproved by Mr. de Khanikoff, a critic worthy of high respect. But I must repeat that the duties of a translator, and of the Editor of an original text, at least where the various recensions bear so peculiar a relation to each other as in this case, are essentially different; and that, on reconsidering the matter after an interval of four or five years, the plan which I have adopted, whatever be the faults of execution, still commends itself to me as the only appropriate one.
Let Mr. de Khanikoff consider what course he would adopt if he were about to publish Marco Polo in Russian. I feel certain that with whatever theory he might set out, before his task should be concluded he would have arrived practically at the same system that I have adopted.
2 In Polo’s diction C frequently represents H., e.g., Cormos = Hormuz; Camadi probably = Hamadi; Caagiu probably = Hochau; Cacianfu = Hochangfu, and so on. This is perhaps attributable to Rusticiano’s Tuscan ear. A true Pisan will absolutely contort his features in the intensity of his efforts to aspirate sufficiently the letter C. Filippo Villani, speaking of the famous Aguto (Sir J. Hawkwood), says his name in English was Kauchouvole. (Murat. Script. xiv. 746.)
3 In the Venetian dialect ch and j are often sounded as in English, not as in Italian. Some traces of such pronunciation I think there are, as in Coja, Carajan, and in the Chinese name Vanchu (occurring only in Ramusio, supra, p. 99). But the scribe of the original work being a Tuscan, the spelling is in the main Tuscan. The sound of the Qu is, however, French, as in Quescican, Quinsai, except perhaps in the case of Quenianfu, for a reason given in vol. ii. p. 29.
4 For example, that enthusiastic student of mediaeval Geography, Joachim Lelewel, speaks of Polo’s “gibberish” (le baragouinage du Venitien) with special reference to such names as Zayton and Kinsay, whilst we now know that these names were in universal use by all foreigners in China, and no more deserve to be called gibberish than Bocca–Tigris, Leghorn, Ratisbon, or Buda.
5 I am quite sensible of the diffidence with which any outsider should touch any question of Chinese language or orthography. A Chinese scholar and missionary (Mr. Moule) objects to my spelling chau, whilst he, I see, uses chow. I imagine we mean the same sound, according to the spelling which I try to use throughout the book. Dr. C. Douglas, another missionary scholar, writes chau.
Sketch showing chief Monarchies of Asia in latter part of 13TH Century
Last updated Thursday, December 25, 2014 at 10:52