Theories, Rumors, and Travelers’ Tales
The Book of John Mandeville is a compilation of travelers’ tales, thinly disguised as a guide to the Holy Land, but including descriptions and anecdotes of almost every country in the Near, Middle, and Far East whose name was known in Europe. Whether its author had ever visited the Holy Land is doubtful; he had certainly never traveled further east, and may never have been further afield than Liège, where he wrote his book and where, in 1372, he died. The information in the book is derived from other books. Mandeville’s chief sources were the Speculum historiale and the Speculum naturale of Vincent of Beauvais; but he was a widely read man, if not in the technical sense a learned one, and he incorporated scraps from many other writers, some genuine travelers, some academic theorists, and some armchair travelers like himself. He delighted in monsters and marvels; nothing came amiss; and he freely assumed the pose of an eyewitness to lend verisimilitude to his tales. The skill with which he combined his diverse material to make a coherent whole was all his own. The book is well constructed, well written, and very entertaining; and this, no doubt, was what its author chiefly intended.
KeywordsFine Gold Precious Stone Academic Theorist Royal Palace Great Compass
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List of Works Cited
- Malcolm Letts, ed. and trans.: Mandeville’s Travels, Texts and Translations, 2 vols., London, 1953.Google Scholar
- R. H. Major, ed.: India in the Fifteenth Century, London, 1857: “The travels of Nicolò de’ Conti … as related by Poggio Bracciolini, in his work entitled Historia de varietate fortume, Lib IV.”Google Scholar