The Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian is a nineteenth-century edition of the famous travelogue written by Rustichello da Pisa and Marco Polo, describing the travels of the latter through Asia, Persia, China and Indonesia between 1271 and 1291. The book secured lasting fame for its editor, the prominent geographer and literary scholar Henry Yule, who was awarded the founder's medal of the Royal Geographical Society for his efforts. The two- volume work, the result of Yule's research in Palermo, Venice, Florence, Paris and London and of extensive correspondence with scholars around the world, has long been considered an authoritative source on Polo's travels. Volume I contains Books One and Two of the travelogue and contains descriptions of the lands of the Middle East and Central Asia that Polo encountered en route to China. Book II covers Polo's time in China and the court of Kublai Khan.
Sir Henry Yule KCSI CB FRSGS (1820-1889) was a Scottish Orientalist and geographer. He published many travel books, including translations of the work of Marco Polo and Mirabilia by the 14th-century Dominican Friar Jordanus. He was also the compiler of a dictionary of Anglo-Indian terms, the Hobson-Jobson, with Arthur Coke Burnell. He was awarded an honorary doctorate (IL.D.) from Edinburgh University in 1884 and served as royal commissioner for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886. He was created Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India in 1889. In 1889 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (FRSGS). Yule arrived in Calcutta at the end of 1840 His first posting was in the Khasi Hills, a remote area to the northeast of Bengal in the modern state of Meghalaya. His mission was to establish a practical method of transporting to the plains. In this he was unsuccessful but he became fascinated by the region and wrote an account of its people, including the first written description of their living root bridges. In 1842 he was transferred to a team of engineers led by Captain (later General) William Baker charged with the construction of irrigation canals. Their headquarters were at Karnal, 130 km (81 mi) to the north of Delhi.
THE amount of appropriate material, and of acquaintance with the medieval geography of some parts of Asia, which was acquired during the compilation of a work of kindred character for the Hakluyt Society, could hardly fail to suggest as a fresh labour in the same field the preparation of a new English edition of Marco Polo. Indeed one kindly critic (in the Examiner) laid it upon the writer as a duty to undertake that task.
Though at least one respectable English edition has appeared since Marsden's, the latter has continued to be the standard edition, and maintains not only its reputation but its market value. It is indeed the work of a sagacious, learned, and right-minded man, which can never be spoken of otherwise than with respect. But since Marsden published his quarto (1818) vast stores of new knowledge have become available in elucidation both of the contents of Marco Polo's book and of its literary history. The works of writers such as Klaproth, Abel-Rémusat, D'Avezac, Reinaud, Quatremère, Julien, I. J. Schmidt, Gilde- meister, Ritter, Hammer-Purgstall, Erdmann, D'Ohsson, Defrémery, Elliot, Erskine, and many more, which throw light directly or incidentally on Marco Polo, have, for the most part, appeared since then. Nor, as regards the literary history of the book, were any just views possible at a time when what may be called the Fontal MSS. (in French) were unpublished and unexamined.
Besides the works which have thus occasionally or incidentally thrown light upon the Traveller's book, various editions of the book itself have since Marsden's time been published in foreign countries, accompanied by comments of more or less value. All have contributed something to the illustration of the book or its history; the last and most learned of the editors, M. Pauthier, has so contri- buted in large measure. I had occasion some years ago to speak freely my opinion of the merits and demerits of M. Pauthier's work; and to the latter at least I have no desire to recur here.
Another of his critics, a much more accomplished as well as more favourable one,† seems to intimate the opinion that there would scarcely be room in future for new com- mentaries. Something of the kind was said of Marsden's at the time of its publication. I imagine, however, that whilst our libraries endure the Iliad will continue to find new translators, and Marco Polo-though one hopes not so plentifully-new editors.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
Art & Culture (738)
Emperor & Queen (491)
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