"The Travels of Sir John Mandeville" is a 14th century travel book that tells of Sir John Mandeville's real or imagined adventures in the East. Although questions remain about whether Mandeville actually existed or ever left England, "The Travels of Sir John Mandeville" provides a thorough compendium of medieval mythic lore which would be a great success throughout Europe for centuries to come. Mandeville's travel tales were similar in style to Marco Polo's, though history has judged the two men quite differently. Whereas Marco Polo has become a household word synonymous with bold explorations, Mandeville has been largely forgotten. This was not so during their lifetimes, when Mandeville was by far the more famous of the two. A copy of "The Travels of Sir John Mandeville"- but not Marco Polo - was in the possession of Leonardo da Vinci. Christopher Columbus, who fed his passion for distant travels on Mandeville's writings, was another famous reader. More telling, about 300 manuscripts (hand-written copies) of Mandeville survive, compared to only about 70 of Polo. Whether it is seen as a travel narrative or piece of imaginative (and brilliant) literature, "The Travels of Sir John Mandeville" was profoundly influential in its time. Long sections of the text describe places in relation to other places, such as the many routes out to and from Jerusalem, different ways to the Khan's court. Mandeville also describes the people he met of other religions. Mandeville was remarkably correct and impartial in his descriptions of the main tenets of Islam, Jacobite Christians, and Jews and how they differ from Catholicism. By far, Mandeville was one of the most tolerant Medieval minds, and his fascinating book is still well worth reading today.
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John Mandeville crossed the sea on Michaelmas Day 1322; had traversed by way of Turkey (Asia Minor), Armenia the Little (Cilicia) and the Great, Tartary, Persia, Syria, Arabia, Egypt upper and lower, Libya, great part of Ethiopia, Chaldea, Amazonia, India the Less, the Greater and the Middle, and many countries about India; had often been to Jerusalem, and had written in Romance as more generally understood than Latin. In the body of the work, we hear that he had been at Paris and Constantinople; had served the Sultan of Egypt a long time in his wars against the Bedouin, had been vainly offered by him a princely marriage and a great estate on condition of renouncing Christianity, and had left Egypt under Sultan Melech Madabron (al-Muzaffar Sayf-ad-Din Hajji I who reigned in 1346-1347); had been at Mount Sinai, and had visited the Holy Land with letters under the great seal of the sultan, which gave him extraordinary facilities; had been in Russia, Livonia, Kraków, Lithuania, "en roialme daresten" (? de Daresten or Silistra), and many other parts near Tartary, but not in Tartary itself; had drunk of the Well of Youth at Polombe (Quilon on the Malabar coast), and still seemed to feel the better; had taken astronomical observations on the way to Lamory (Sumatra), as well as in Brabant, Germany, Bohemia and still farther north; had been at an isle called Pathen in the Indian Ocean; had been at Cansay (Hangchow-fu) in China, and had served the emperor of China fifteen months against the king of Mann; had been among rocks of adamant in the Indian Ocean; had been through a haunted valley, which he places near "Milstorak" (i.e. Malasgird in Armenia); had been driven home against his will in 1357 by arthritic gout; and had written his book as a consolation for his "wretched rest". The paragraph which states that he had had his book confirmed at Rome by the Pope is an interpolation of the English version.
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