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The Travels of Marco Polo (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) Hardcover – 21 Oct 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 421 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; Reprint edition (21 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307269132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307269133
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.9 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,143,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

A new introduction by Colin Thubron describes why Marco Polo remains one of the most fascinating and informative introductions to China. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Marco Polo was born in Venice in 1254 and died circa 1324.
Peter Harris is the editor of the Everyman s Pocket Poets volume "Zen Poems.
"Colin Thubron is an award-winning author of novels and travel books, including "Behind the Wall: A Journey through China "and "Shadow of the Silk Road.""


Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Have only dipped into this so far: its style is a little diary-like, along the lines of Town X is so big, this is the capital. But as always with Everyman hardbacks, the quality of binding, paper and printing is great, and you know the book will last for decades. I'm pleased with the purchase.
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Format: Hardcover
This book (which doesn't appear to have been written by Marco Polo himself, rather by someone who either accompanied him on his travels or listened to the account of the journey when the party returned) documents the journey of Marco, Maffeo and Niccolo polo to Song Dynasty China and beyond.

I found this book interesting, and it was especially interesting to read the descriptions of modern things that were foreign and bizarre (to the Italians at least) in the 1200s, such as the coconut or asbestos.

However, the book was not really what I was expecting it to be. I'd heard of Marco Polo and the book before (who hasn't?) and thought it would be quite similar to other, more contemporary travel writing, with some obvious differences given the 800 year difference. I thought this book was the "father" of travel writing, but apparently it's not. The chapters are often very short, ranging from a few sentences to a couple of pages. The descriptions of the cities and locations visited are also sometimes irritatingly brief and quite formulaic. Something along the lines of "The inhabitants of [CITY] are subjects of [RULER] and are [RELIGION] and speak [LANGUAGE]. Nothing more presenting itself, let us now move on to [CITY 2]" and so on and so forth.

There is also quite a bit of unfamiliar terminology, especially when referring to currencies and money, but these are (one would hope) explained in the copious notes at the back of the book. I did not personally bother reading the notes, as I was in a bit of a rush to finish the book.

On the whole, an interesting account of a journey across the world, from a time we've long since forgotten. If you can get past the formulaic nature of the chapters, there are some real gems in there, especially some of the chapters recounting the party's experiences at the court of Khubilai Khan. The translation is good, coherent and of a generally high standard.
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By bernie TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
A very remarkable book written in the 13th century. Many secrets were reviled when Marc returned. And may interesting explanations of things like the origin of cinnamon.

Marco writes well enough of his travels and you feel that you are there. You can actually follow the trail if you have a map. He describes the flora and fauna of each region and describes the economics and industry of the region.

Example: "The women of the superior class are in like manner free from superfluous hairs; their skins are fare, and they are well formed."

It is interesting to see how little has changed from Marco Polo's 13th century and now.

The Nutritional Trace Metals
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x95a8a00c) out of 5 stars 17 reviews
98 of 100 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x956d3ec4) out of 5 stars Shocking truths of Asian culture...that inspired 700 years of debate! 24 May 2009
By Kent Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Few texts have aroused more controversy than the book of Marco Polo," notes the editor with good reason: the Asian tales that Marco Polo brought back to Renaissance Europe were absolutely unbelievable...except for the fact that most of them turn out to be provably true, especially in the context of this carefully crafted new edition.

Like many "Great Works" this is a famous title that most people (myself included) have heard of throughout their lives...but have never read. One lazy Sunday I drifted into watching a Marco Polo mini-series, which I thought was a rather silly, romanticized, sensationalized Hollywood treatment. It annoyed me, but I watched it to the end...and then ran to Amazon to find a book to get the facts.

Amazing news...the "sensationalized" mini-series barely scratched the surface of the astounding things Marco Polo reports in his actual book!

This new edition makes his fantastic voyage accessible, substantiating his discoveries with considerable new analysis. This is largely due to the contributions of Sino-linguist Editor, Peter Harris, whose unique ability to consult original Chinese texts brings a new level of understanding to this work (much as he does in his new translation of the 13th century work A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People, which relates to my field of study).

Back to the story itself, Polo was a merchant with the heart of an anthropologist. Accounts of terrain, natural resources, buildings and trade goods abound (and can be quite dry) but these are punctuated by his unusual observations of ethnicities, religions, social customs and royal intrigues.

Indeed, Marco Polo's home was less civilized than the society he witnessed in China, to the point that he often had no point of comparison. Yet, he conscientiously describes city planning, landscaping, shopping malls, hospitals, public welfare systems with job retraining, organized law enforcement, paper money, military technology and systems of management, homes with central coal heat, multi-lingual government agencies, fire departments, long distance messenger networks, paved roads, public and private parks, and much more.

And, perhaps explaining the book's centuries of commercial success, there are plenty of tales of cannibalism, polygamy, polyandry, cults of assassins, sexual behavior, dowry customs, human sacrifice, executions, funerary customs, prostitution, gambling, sport, magic ritual, strange beasts (rhinoceroses, elephants, leopards, crocodiles, serpents, the mythical Roc bird), etc.

One comes away from this book in awe of the high civilization that existed in China, and with great respect for this brave man who did an admirable job of capturing the infinite diversity of 13th century Asian life.

Read this account and share the adventures of his amazing journey!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x965b563c) out of 5 stars Heavenly Cities, Incredible Wealth, and Unimagined Technology 11 May 2015
By Ricardo Mio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was an outrageous and fantastical story, like someone today claiming he’d been abducted by aliens and taken to some distant world of incredible wealth and unimagined technology. That’s how it seemed to the people of 13th-century Venice hearing the stories of Marco Polo upon his return from China. No one believed him. Later, when he published a book about his 17 years in China, they scoffed. A clown calling himself Marco Millions paraded around the streets of Venice in jest and everyone had a good laugh. Gradually, the Western World began to accept Marco’s tale as true. The lure of riches compelled Christopher Columbus to cross the Atlantic in search of Polo’s fantastical world, and discovered America instead. What exactly did Polo find that stunned Western Europe, and what drew him there? That’s the subject of “The Travels of Marco Polo.” Yes, we all learned about Marco in school and how his journey kick-started the age of discovery, but how much did we really learn having not read the book? If you’re going to read it, you won’t go wrong reading the Everyman’s Library edition, translated by William Marsden in 1908 and recently revised and updated, with notes on the people and places Marco described. It reads well, the notes are clear and helpful, there are a number of maps, and the intro by Colin Thubron not only sets the stage but the mood of Marco’s through-the-looking-glass experience.

Marco, his father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo, sailed from Venice to Acre, a port south of Constantinople, then rode camels to the Persian port of Hormuz. They expected to board a ship and sail directly to China, but none of the ships were seaworthy. They continued overland to Balkh, in present-day Afghanistan, and on through a high-mountain pass of the Western Himalayas, to the Taklamakan Desert of Northwest China. At some point, they joined a caravan of traveling merchants and were attacked by bandits. The Polos escaped but many members of the caravan were killed or captured and sold as slaves. Having reached China, they circled north of the Yellow River, passed four times through the crumbling Great Wall, and, after three-and-a-half years of travel, arrived safely in the court of Emperor Kublai Kahn. Kahn held a great feast in their honor and apparently took a liking to young Marco, aged 21. Marco knew four languages and became a valued government official and member of the emperor’s court. Soon after their arrival, Kahn’s army secured control of southern China, and Marco was sent on a number of imperial visits to China’s southern and eastern provinces, and later to Burma and to India. Many of the places Marco saw would not be seen again by Europeans for another 500 years.

As impressed as Marco was with Khan’s riches and with the splendor of the capital city of Beijing, it was the old capital city of Hangzhou that stunned him. He called it “the city of Heaven, the most magnificent city in the world.” The Polos were from Venice, one of the richest cities of 13th-Century Europe. It paled in comparison with Hangzhou. Like Venice, it was a city of canals, only larger and grander, situated between a broad river and a vast lake of clear water. Writes Polo: “It is commonly said that the number of bridges, of all sizes, amounts to twelve thousand. Those which are thrown over the principal canals and are connected with the main streets, have arches so high, and built with so much skill, that vessels with their masts can pass under them. . . . There are within the city ten principle squares or market-places, besides innumerable shops along the streets. In each of these, upon three days of every week, there is an assemblage of from forty to fifty thousand persons. . . . In other streets are the quarters of the courtesans, who are here in such numbers as I dare not venture to report . . . adorned with much finery, highly perfumed, occupying well-furnished houses, and attended by many females domestics. . . . In other streets are the dwellings of the physicians and the astrologers. . . . On each side of the principal street are houses and mansions of great size. . . . The women have much beauty, and are brought up with delicate and languid habits. The costliness of their dresses, in silks and jewelry, can scarcely be imagined.”

Polo described a canal 1100 miles long that connected Beijing with Hangzhou. He reported that the manufacture of iron was around 125,000 tons a year (a level not reached in Europe before the 18th Century) and salt production was on a prodigious scale: 30,000 tons per year in one province alone. There was the use of paper money and banking, moveable-type printing and the making of books, an imperial postal system, and a sophisticated communications network throughout China that allowed Kahn to manage his Empire without having to leave his palace. The land was fertile and food was ample, as was the production of silk, an industry Marco encountered wherever he traveled in China. Flowers grew everywhere. People bathed daily. In the bathhouses, water was heated by “burning stones” (coal), still unknown in Europe. While astrology and magic were commonplace, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism were accepted and taught in several houses of worship. There were great public granaries to store the surplus of good crops for public distribution in times of famine. Kahn instituted a policy that taxes would be remitted to all peasants who had suffered from drought, storms, or insect depredations. Writes Marco: “Not a day passes in which there are not distributed, by the regular officers, twenty-thousand vessels of rice, millet, and panicum.” There was also an organized system of state care for aged scholars, orphans, and the infirm. Wherever Marco traveled in China, he saw ornate buildings, fine art and food served on porcelain dishes. He encountered people dressed in silk who were ever courteous. The country was highly civilized, seemed to lack nothing.

The Polos had no intention of staying as long as they did. Kahn did not want them to leave. They became worried about ever returning home, fearing that if Kublai died, his enemies might turn against them because of their close involvement with the ruler. After 17 years in China, Kublai’s great-newphew, then ruler of Persia, sent representatives to China in search of a potential wife, and they asked the Polos to accompany them, so they were permitted to go to Persia with the wedding party. Having arrived by ship in the port of Hormuz, they joined a caravan that brought them to a port on the east coast of the Mediterranean where they boarded a ship bound for Venice. If that weren’t enough adventure, Marco then fought in a war with Genoa and was arrested. While jailed for one year, he told his story to a professional writer. A book was published, but no one would believed Marco’s story until one or two centuries later. Having returned to Venice, Polo, age 45, married, had three daughters, and lived another 30 years. Today, the airport in Venice is named the Marco Polo Airport. I spent about a week reading “The Travels of Marco Polo” and felt like I was with him on his amazing journey. Five stars.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95a2ce58) out of 5 stars Excellent editing 11 Aug. 2014
By SMB. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The text is the text we have had at our disposal for centuries. The editing and annotation is superb making the text all the more understandable and readable.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95a8293c) out of 5 stars Barely believable adventures 26 Oct. 2008
By bernie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A very remarkable book written in the 13th century. Many secrets were reviled when Marc returned. And may interesting explanations of things like the origin of cinnamon.

Marco writes well enough of his travels and you feel that you are there. You can actually follow the trail if you have a map. He describes the flora and fauna of each region and describes the economics and industry of the region.

Example: "The women of the superior class are in like manner free from superfluous hairs; their skins are fare, and they are well formed."

It is interesting to see how little has changed from Marco Polo's 13th century and now.
HASH(0x95a1d6c0) out of 5 stars Ancient Travel Book 14 Nov. 2015
By kindlefan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A travel book from a long time ago!! It's great to read the version with all the notes in the back which explain where the places are, the regular names for it, etc.

Very interesting writing about different places in China, Central and South Asia. If you live or have traveled in these places, you would be interested
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