Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-m9kch Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-12T16:09:14.431Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

14 - Romancing the Orient: The Roman d'Alexandre and Marco Polo's Livre du grand Khan in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodl. 264

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2015

Mark Cruse
Affiliation:
Arizona State University
Nicholas Perkins
Affiliation:
University Lecturer and Tutor in medieval English, University of Oxford
Get access

Summary

The oldest textual tradition of Marco Polo's account of his travels in Asia between 1271 and 1295 survives in nineteen Old French manuscripts or fragments copied between the early fourteenth and the early sixteenth centuries. Twelve copies—eighty percent of those whose original contents are known – are compilations, and across these twelve manuscripts a total of twenty other texts accompanies Polo's account. Striking for their variety, these cotexts encompass numerous genres (a crusade chronicle, a roman d'antiquité, first-person travel accounts), historical periods (biblical and Greco-Roman antiquity, the 1320s) and personages (Alexander the Great, Franciscan monks, Prester John). Equally noteworthy are the extensive illustrational programs of Polo's account and its co-texts. Out of the surviving nineteen manuscripts eight possess miniatures, among which are three of the most sumptuously illuminated manuscripts of the entire Middle Ages.

These manuscripts are significant because they allow us to see Marco Po - lo's account as his earliest readers saw it. They suggest that Polo's account was not an authoritative and transparent text for these early readers, but rather was strange and problematic. Although copies were owned by some of the most powerful figures in medieval Europe, including Kings Philippe VI and Charles V of France, the addition of other works on Asia and of images to the Polo text indicates that it incited comparison and visualization to aid its interpretation. The reasons for this supplementary material are clear when one compares Polo's account to other medieval texts on the East. Unlike previous writers of antiquity and the Middle Ages who treated the East, Polo largely eschewed the fantastic, described places no other European had seen or mentioned, and spoke glowingly of non-Christian peoples, especially the Mongols. Polo's vision of the East was unprecedented for European readers, who therefore sought to compare it to other accounts so as to gauge its veracity and authority.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×