The travels of Marco Polo; (1844) - PDF ebook

The travels of Marco Polo by Hugh Murray

The travels of Marco Polo

Marco Polo has been long regarded as at once the earliest and most distinguished of European travelers. He sur- passed ever}' other in the extent of the unknown regions which he visited, as well as in the amount of new and important information collected; having traversed Asia from one extremity to the other, including the elevated central regions, and those interior provinces of China from which foreigners have since been rigidly excluded. " He has," says Ritter, " been frequently called the Herodotus of the Middle Ages, and he has a just claim to that title. If the name of a discoverer of Asia were to be assigned to any person, nobody would better deserve it." 

The description of the Chinese court and empire, and of the adjacent countries, under the most powerful of the Asiatic dynasties, forms a grand historical picture not exhibited in any other record. His return along the southern coasts of the continent abounds also is a curious and novel observation. Doubts, it is well known, were at first raised respecting the accuracy of his statements, but they are now fully proved to . have arisen solely from the fact that his discoveries far transcended the knowledge of his age. In proportion as those distant regions became known, his reports received confirmation; and eminent travelers of recent date have added strong testimonies to his veracity. 

The value of his narrative being thus acknowledged, it may seem surprising that no edition of it, in a form generally accessible to the British public, has ever appeared. It exists only in voluminous collections, and in the pon- derous though interesting work of Mr. Marsden. With a view to supplying this defect, the present publication was undertaken. In the prosecution of this task, it soon appeared that there was room for much more than a mere reprint; and access has been obtained to important materials, unknown to Mr. Marsden, or any former British editor. 

The two versions recently edited by the French Society of Geography, and the early Italian ones by Count Baldelli Boni, are undoubtedly at once more copious and genuine than any before published. They prove that various difficulties, which embarrassed Mr. Marsden and shook the traveler's authority, arose only from the corrupted state of later copies. 

They contain also a considerable number of additional chapters and passages. By carefully collating them with early editions, and accredited manuscripts in the British Museum, it is hoped that a purer and more complete text has now been produced than any that has hitherto appeared in our language. To enable the reader to follow satisfactorily the route of the author, and the scope of his narrative. Notes and Illustrations of considerable extent have been introduced. Time has effected such mighty changes on the names and aspects of those regions, at best imperfectly known, that much research was requisite to ascertain the countries actually visited, and prove the accuracy with which they are described. 

The Editor reading acknowledges his obligation to the ample materials collected for this purpose by Marsden and Boni. He has, however, in many cases deemed it necessary to refer to original sources, in order to correct or illustrate both these learned writers. Since the date of their publications, too, narratives by eminent travelers, Humboldt, Bums, Wood, Wellsted, and others, have afforded new means of elucidating the text and confirming its authenticity. 

The series of chapters recently printed by the French Society, being unknown to Mr. Marsden, could not receive his annotations; but the Editor hopes that, by a collation with Haitian, De Guignes, Malcolm, Price, and other historians, he has proved their agreement with the best Oriental authorities. Previous to Polo's travels, successive embassies had been sent to the several princes of the Mongol race, then reigning in Central Asia. As their narratives illustrate those of our traveler, a copious abstract of them is prefixed, in which aid has been derived from the versions lately edited by the French Society and the learned commentary of M. D'Avezac. 

This introduction, taken in connexion with the text and notes of Marco, will be found to include a complete historical view of the dynasty of Genghis Khan, the most powerful that ever ruled in the East.

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