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The Travels Of Sir John Mandeville
by John Mandeville
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By the standards of the 14th century, the writing style of the man who called himself Sir John Mandeville is so informal as to be nearly chummy: "He who wants to pass over the sea to Jerusalem, may go by many ways, both by sea and by land depending on the countries he comes from; many ways come to a single end. But do not think I shall tell of all the towns and cities and castles that men shall go by, for then I must make too long a tale of it." Historians remain skeptical as to whether the author really did journey to the Holy Land and Egypt, or hire himself out as a soldier to the Great Khan of China. Whatever the case, it is indisputable that he is one of the first modern travel writers, as we have come to know the genre, and that his book was considered authoritative in matters geographical throughout Europe--consulted by Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus alike.
Immediately popular when it first appeared around 1356, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville became the standard account of the East for several centuriesa work that went on to influence luminaries as diverse as Leonardo da Vinci, Swift, and Coleridge. Ostensibly written by an English knight, the Travels purport to relate his experiences in the Holy Land, Egypt, India, and China. Mandeville claims to have served in the Great Khans army and to have journeyed to the lands beyondcountries populated by dog-headed men, cannibals, Amazons, and pygmies. This translation by the esteemed C.W.R.D. Moseley conveys the elegant style of the original, making this an intriguing blend of fact and absurdity, and offering wondrous insight into fourteenth- century conceptions of the world.
Text: English, Czech (translation)
About the Author
Sir John Mandeville claimed in his book to be an English knight who began his travels in 1322, but the book was originally written in French, and the truth of the authors identityand whether in fact he actually traveledis not known.
C.W.R.D. Moseley has taught Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge for many years.
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