Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/24

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10
POLO, MARCO


Eighty-five MSS. of the book are known, and their texts exhibit considerable differences. These fall under four rincipal types. Of these, type i. is found com letely only in that olnd French codex which has been mentioned flgaris, National Library, Fr. 1116). Type ii. is shown by several valuable MSS. in purer French (Paris, Nat. Libr., Fr. 2810; Fr. 5631; Fr. 5649; Bern, Canton Library, 125), which formed the basis of the edition prepared by the late M. Pauthier in 1865. It exhibits a text condensed and revised from the rude original, but without any exactness, though perhaps under some general direction by Marco Polo himself, for an inscription prefixed to certain MSS. (Bern, Canton Libr. 125; Paris, Nat. Libr., Fr. 5649) records the presentation of a copy by the traveller himself to the Seigneur Thiébault de Cépoy, a distinguished Frenchman known to history, at Venice in the year 1306. Type iii. is that of a Latin version prepared in Marco Polo's lifetime, though without any sign of his cognisance, by Francesco Pipino, a Dominican of Bologna, and translated from an Italian copy. In this, condensation and curtailment are carried a good deal further than in type ii. Some of the forms under which this type appears curiously illustrate the effects of absence of effective publication, not only before the invention of the press, but in its early days. Thus the Latin version published by Cvrynaeus at Basel in the Novus Orbis (1532) is different in its language from Pipino's, and yet is clearly traceable to that as its foundation. In fact it is a re translation into Latin from some Version of Pipino (Marsden thinks the Portuguese printed one of 1502). It introduces changes of its own, and is worthless as a text; yet Andreas Müller, who in the 17th century took so much trouble with Polo, unfortunately chose as his text this fifth-hand version. The French editions published in the middle of the 16th century were translations from Grynaeus's Latin. Hence they complete this curious and vicious circle of transmission-French, Italian, Pipino's Latin, Portuguese, Grynaeus's Latin, French.

Type iv. deviates largely from those already mentioned; its history and true character are involved in obscurity. It is only represented by the Italian version prepared for the press by John Baptist Ramusio, with interesting preliminary dissertations, and published at Venice two years after his death, in the second volume of the Navigationi e viaggi. Its peculiarities are great. Ramusio seems to imply that he made some use of Pipir1o's Latin, and various passages confirm this. But many new circumstances, and anecdotes occurring in no other copy, are introduced; many names assume a new shape; the whole style is more co ious and literary than that of any other version. While a few ofpthe changes and interpolations seem to carry us farther from the truth, others contain facts of Asiatic nature or history, as well as of Polo's alleged experiences, which it is difficult to ascribe to any hand but the traveller's own.

We recognize to a certain extent tampering with the text, as in cases where Polo's proper names have been identified, and more modern forms substituted. In some other cases the editorial spirit has gone astray. Thus the age of young Marco has been altered to correspond with a date which is itself erroneous. Ormuz is described as an island, contrary to the old texts, and to the fact in Polo's time. In speaking of the oil-springs of Caucasus the phrase “ camel-loads " has been substituted for “ ship-loads, ” in ignorance that the site was Baku on the Caspian. But, on the other hand, there are a number of new circumstances certainly genuine. which can hardly be ascribed to any one but Polo himself. Such is the account which Ramusio's version gives of the oppressions exercised by Kublai's Mahommedan 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. Not only is the whole story in substantial accordance with the Chinese annals, even to the name of the chief conspirator (Vanchu in Ramusio, Wangcheu in the Chinese records), but the annals also tell of the frankness of “ Polo, assessor of the privy council, " in opening Kublai's eyes to the iniquities of his agent.

Polo was the first traveller to trace a route across the whole longitude of Asia, naming and describing kingdom after kingdom which he had seen; the first to speak of the new and brilliant court which had been established at Pekin; the first to reveal China in all its wealth and vastness, and to teli of the nations on its borders; the first to tell more of Tibet than its name, to speak of Burma, of Laos, of Siam, of Cochin-China, of ]apan, of ]ava, of Sumatra and of other islands of the archipelago, of the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, of Ceylon and its sacred peak, of India but as a country seen and partially explored; the first in medieval times to give any distinct account o the secluded Christian Empire of Abyssinia, and of the semi-Christian island of Sokotra, and to speak, however dimly, of Zanzibar, and of the vast and distant Madagascar; whilst he carries us also to the remotely opposite region of Siberia and the Arctic shores, to speak of dog-sledges, white bears and reindeer riding Tunguses.-The

diffusion of the book was hardly so rapid as has been sometimes alleged. We know from Gilles Mallet's catalogue of the books collected in the Louvre by Charles V., dating c. 1370~1375, that five copies of Marco Polo's work were then in the collection; but on the other hand, the 202 known MSS. and the numerous early printed editions of " Mandeville, " with his lying wonders, indicates a much greater popularity. Dante, who lived twenty-three years after the book was dictated, and who touches so many things in the seen and unseen worlds, never alludes to Polo, nor, we believe, to anything that can be connected with him; nor can any trace of Polo be discovered in the book of his contemporary, Marino Sanudo the Elder, though this worthy is well acquainted with the work, later by some years, of Hayton the Armenian, and though many of the subjects on which he writes in his own book (Secreta Fi/lelium Crucisl) challenge a reference to Polo's experiences. “Mandeville ” himself, who plundered right and left, hardly ever plunders Polo (see one example in Dawn of Modern Geography, iii. 323, note). The only literary works we know of the 14th century which show acquaintance with Polo's book or achievements are Pipino's Chronicle, Villani's Florentine History, Pietro d'Abano's Conciliator, the Chronicle of John of Ypres, and the poetical romance of Baudonin de Sebourc, which last borrows themes largely from Polo. " Within the traveller's own lifetime we find the earliest examples of the practical and truly scientific coast-charts (Portolani), based upon the experience of pilots, mariners, merchants, &c. In two of the most famous of the I4th century Portolani, we trace Marco Polo's influenctffirst, very slightly in the Laurentian or Medicean Portolano of 1351 (at Florence), but afterwards with clearness and in remarkable detail in the Catalan Atlas of 1375 (now at Paris). Both of these represent a very advanced stage of medieval knowledge, a careful attempt to represent the known world on the basis of collected fact, and a disregard for theological or pseudo scientific theory; in the Catalan Atlas, as regards Central and Further Asia, and partially as regards India, Marco Polo's Book is the basis of the map. His names are often much perverted, and it is not always easy to understand the View that the compiler took of his itineraries. Still we have Cathay placed in the true position of China, as a great empire filling the south-east of Asia. The trans-Gangetic peninsula is absent, but that of India proper is, for the first time in the history of geography, represented with a fair approximation to correct form and position. It is curious that, in the following age, owing partly to his unhappy reversion to the fancy of a circular disk, the map of Fra Mauro (1459), one of the greatest map-making enterprises in history, and the result of immense labour in the collection of facts and the endeavour to combine them, gives a much less accurate idea of Asia than the Carta catalana. Columbus possessed a printed copy of the Latin version of Polo's book made by Pipino, and on more than seventy pages of this there are manuscript notes in the admiral's handwriting, testifying, what is sufficiently evident from the whole history of the Columbian voyages, to the immense influence of the work of the Venetian merchant upon the discoverer of the new world.

When, in the 16th century, attempts were made to combine new and old knowledge, the results were unhappy. The earliest of such combinations tried to realize Columbus's ideas regarding the identity of his discoveries with the Great Khan's dorninions; but even after America had vindicated its independent existence, and the new knowledge of the Portuguese had named China where the Catalan map had spoken of Cathay, the latter country, with the whole of Polo's nomenclature, was shunted to the north, orming a separate system. Henceforward the influence of Polo's work on maps was simply injurious; and when to his names was added a sprinkling of Ptolemy's, as was usual throughout the 16th century, the result was a hotchpotch conveying no approximation to facts (see further Map).

As to the alleged introduction of important inventions into Europe by Polo-although the striking resemblance of early European block-books to those of China seems clearly to indicate the derivation of the art from that country, there is no reason for connecting this introduction (any more than that of gunpowder or the mariner's compass) with the name of Marco. In the 14th century not only were missions of the Roman Church established in some of the chief cities of eastern China, but a regular overland trade was carried on between Italy and China, by way of Tana (Azov), Astrakhan, Otrar, Kamul (Hami) and Kanchc-w. Many a traveller other than Marco Polo might have brought home the block-books, and some might have witnessed the process of making them. This is the less to be ascribed to Polo, because he so curiously omits to speak of the process of printing, when, in describing -the block-printed paper-money of China, his subject seems absolutely to challenge a description of the art.

See the Recueil of the Paris Geographical Society (1824), vol. i., giving the text of the fundamental MS. (Nat. Libr. Paris, Fr. 1116; see above), as well as that of the oldest Latin version; G. Pauthier's edition, Livre. . de Marco Polo . (Paris, 1865), based mainly upon the three Paris MSS. (Nat. Libr. Fr. 2810; Fr. 5631; Fr. 5649; see above) and accompanied by a commentary of great value; Baldelli-Boni's Italian edition, giving the oldest Italian version (Florence, 1827); Sir Henry Yule's edition, which in its final shape, as revised and augmented by Henri Cordier (…Marco Polo… London, 1903)[1], is the most complete


  1. Printed by Bongars in the collection called Gesta Dei per Francos (1611), ii. 1-281.