Odoric, a Franciscan monk from northeastern Italy, spent much of the early 14th century traveling throughout Asia. His adventures provided one of the most important Western accounts of life and culture in what is present-day Iran, India, Indonesia, China, Nepal, and Russia.
Setting off only twenty years after Marco Polo's historic trip to the East, Odoric was the only religious traveler to the East whose voyage was recorded, making his account one of unparalleled importance for scholars and historians. Interestingly, Odoric noted the religious and cultural customs of the places he visited, treating their practices with tolerance, respect, and curiosity. Odoric frequently took pains to tell of spectacular thingsmountains of salt, impenetrable deserts, mice as big as dogs, trees that produced bread, magic fish, sensational pearls, gigantic tortoises, men with the head of a dog, hens covered in wool, and women equipped with fangsmaking this fantastic reading even for those with casual interest.
The description of Odoric's journey to the East comes from the account he dictated upon his return to Italy, which was translated and widely circulated throughout Europe. It is one of the finest examples of 14th-century literature extant. The account used in this printing comes from Sir Henry Yule's translation, prepared in 1866 and still unsurpassed for its historic value and its faithfulness to the original Latin text.
With a thorough and informative introduction by Paolo Chiesa (University of Udine), historians, scholars, and even those with a passing interest in the tenuous relationship between the East and the West will find The Travels of Friar Odoric to be fascinating reading.