The New International Encyclopædia/Mandeville, The Travels of Sir John
MANDEVILLE, The Travels of Sir John. The title of a famous itinerary and collection of marvels, composed in the third quarter of the fourteenth century. The book opens and closes with delightful fragments of an apocryphal autobiography. The author claims to be one John Mandeville, born at Saint Albans, who crossed the sea in 1322 and traveled through Tartary, Persia, Armenia, Africa, Chaldea, Ethiopia, Amazonia, and India. On his return, he stopped at Rome, where his ‘book was proved for true’ by the Pope's council. He adds that he first wrote it in Latin and then turned it into French and English (1356). Until very recently all these statements were accepted as facts. It now seems clear that of the versions named, the French (1371) is the oldest, and that from it were derived the others (early part of fifteenth century). Though the writer of the French original may have traveled in the East, his work is mainly a compilation from the travels of a German knight, William of Boldensele (1336), the journal of Friar Odoric (1330), the journey of Johannes de Plano Carpini, a Papal envoy to the Tatars (about 1250), the history of the East by Hetum, the Armenian (1307), other itineraries, and the mediæval specula. He drew upon Pliny, Solinus. Peter Comestor, Vincent of Beauvois, Brunell-Latine, and Jacques de Vitry. With little doubt, the compiler of the work was Jean de Bourgogne dit à la Barbe (John of Burgoyne with the Beard), who died at Liège in 1372. He may have been the John of Burgoyne who likely quitted England in 1322, and had good reasons for living under an assumed name. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, abounding in marvels, has delighted many generations. Of the work, there are three English versions extant in at least thirty-four manuscripts. From the poorest were printed the fifteen editions from 1499 to 1725. A better version, edited anonymously in 1725, was carelessly reprinted by Halliwell (London, 1839-68), and edited, with modern spelling, by Wright, in Early Travels in Palestine (ib., 1848); by Morley (ib., 1886); and, with three illustrative narratives, by Pollard (ib., 1900). A third version (northern dialect) was edited by G. F. Warner for the Roxburghe Club (Edinburgh, 1889).