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Penguin Classics Travels Of Marco Polo Paperback – Feb 3 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic; Reissue edition (Feb. 3 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140440577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140440577
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.3 x 20.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #63,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"A timeless addition to any travel collection." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Marco Polo was born in 1254, joining his father on a journey to China in 1271. He spent the next twenty years travelling in the service of Kubilai Khan. There is evidence that Marco travelled extensively in the Mongol Empire and it is fairly certain he visted India. He wrote the travels whilst a prisoner in Genoa. Ronald Latham has published widely on Medieval studies. He died in 1992.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin C. B. on Sept. 5 2003
Format: Paperback
If people really try to think back, to how things were in the ancient world, and see how improbable a journey Marco Polo and his father and uncle undertook, and then completed nearly 30 years after they started, they would probably realize how unlikely such a journey was and why so many people attack Marco Polo as a fraud. Nevertheless, simply as an historical Atlas of China, and with an incredible historical context, warts and all, it is a very illuminating book, showing Chinese cities using their ancient Mongol names (in what other context would someone serving the Mongol emperor record the city names?) and allowing the reader the opportunity to research and discover for themselves, just how fascinating and mysterious other ethnicities and other cultures were to a European of the middle ages.
One of the most fascinating aspects of "The Travels" is not just some of the factual innaccuracies, but the apparent perceptions of Marco Polo, fully willing to believe he had found the final resting place of the first man, Adam, and the wizardry of other peoples, the ability to do magic, and a legend of giant "Rocs" near Madagascar, and how the Khan sent a small expedition to investigate the rumors of such.
If you want a book that makes you ask searching questions about humanity, cultural bias, and the importance of lore and myth in cultures, this book is invaluable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall on May 8 2000
Format: Paperback
This volume will enthrall anyone interested in true adventure. Marco Polo was the original Indiana Jones and then some. Please do not waste time on Gary Jennings' The Journeyer. This is the real deal and needs no dramatic embellishments. The Travels takes you on a trip from 13th century Venice to "Cathay" and back again. You will learn how Europeans found out about fireworks, paper currency, printing and pasta. The harrowing journey across the Gobi desert is particularly well reported. Marco Polo was more than an explorer. He was one of the world's first anthropologists. This is an exciting read, an account of how medieval Europe initially perceived China and the far east, and of how the Mongol rulers and Chinese emperors perceived them. Highly recommended. As to the print quality of the Penguin edition, I have had my copy since the early eighties and it has yellowed only slightly. Viking is now printing on acid-free paper. One must remember that these editions were printed primarily to reach the widest audience for the least amount of expense at the time. For years, Penguins were accessible to students and to the collector who couldn't afford an elaborate, fully illustrated, fully mapped volume of a particular work. I couldn't have read as many of them as I did in my late teens and early twenties if that were not the case. I owe a lifelong debt to the editors for their efforts. I've also never read a bad translation of any Penguin Classic.
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Format: Paperback
In 1260, Niccolo Polo, the father of Marco Polo, and his brother Maffeo went across Black Sea in the hope of a profitable brisk of trade. So the brothers from Venice brought many dazzling jewels and set out from Constantinople by ship to Sudak and onward to Barku. A war broke out in Barka's Land forced the brothers to travel the opposite direction from which they had come. After they had crossed the desert, they came to Bukhara (in Persia) and by fortuity met a Tartar (Mongol) envoy on the way back to the Great Khan in Khan-balik (Beijing). On learning that they were merchants from Venice whom had never been seen in the country, the envoy invited the brothers to accompany him to Khan-balik to see the Great Khan.
The Great Khan received the brothers honorably and welcomed them with such lavish hospitality after a year's journey. The curious Khan asked the brothers about their Emperors, about the government of their dominions, about the maintenance of justice, about the Pope and practices of the Roman Church, and about the Latin customs. He decided to send emissaries to the Pope, and asked the brothers to accompany on the mission with one of his barons. He entrusted them a letter written in the Turkish language for the Pope and asked him to send a hundred prominent men learned in the Christian religion to condemn idolaters' performances and shun devil. These well versed were to demonstrate for the idolaters their capability of doing diabolic arts but would not, because only evil spirits performed such enchantments.
As the brothers approached Egypt, they got wind of the Pope's death and so they would go to Venice and visit their families pending the election of a new Pope.
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Format: Paperback
Though after reading authors such as Edward Said I should know better, I greatly enjoyed Marco Polo's description of his travels. And I think that it is "Messer Marco's" somewhat simpleminded, straightforward, naively "Western" and "Orientalist" approach towards what he saw that makes his book so entertaining. His breathless, hyperbolic descriptions of his travels seem calculated, whether consciously or unconsciously, to give the reader a vision of a world so strange, so wonderful to the Western mind, that they could only comprehend it if they saw it for themselves. And in many ways he (and his ghostwriter) succeeds in producing that effect. His accounts of the Great Khan's feasts and huge array of riches and servants, and well as his descriptions of "strange" (usually sexual) native customs definitely strive to highlight the differences between what he sees as Eastern and Western civilization. As such, he chooses only the most spectacular and different aspects of life under the Great Khan, aspects that are not coincidentally the most exciting and interesting to read about.
Of course, Marco's evaluations and interpretations of what he sees are not to be taken too seriously, but this doesn't make them any less entertaining. Marco's outdated biases and ethnocentric, simplistic interpretations of Asian life give the book an underlying comedic effect.

For pure (somewhat trashy) reading fun Marco Polo's account of his travels is a genuine success. Of course, from the standpoint of East/West relations it has more disturbing implications. However, to fully analyze Marco Polo's significance to later Western thought about China, it's implications in the general "Orientalist" framework as laid out by Said (if you believe in that sort of thing), and how his own prejudices (slavish respect of power, extreme interest in material wealth, dogmatic Christian religious ideas) colored his account is beyond my power.
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