Marco Polo, one of the first great recorded travelers
In search of travelogues I decided to go in search of one of the most renown travelers in history to see if he could instill the passion of personal travel into writing. Faced with several different versions I went straight to Marco Polo’s own account of his travels.
Translated by R.E. Latham this is the account in Marco Polo’s own words of his travels since 1271. While it may not be the very first “travelogue” it certainly does come close. But is it any good?
Who was Marco Polo?
Just a brief recap on who Marco Polo was. Born into a trading family in 1254 Venice, Marco Polo became one of the world’s first great recorded travelers. An epic journey of discovery and trade from Europe to Asia he became a diplomat of sorts for both the Pope and Kulbali Khan. While all the while being a merchant trader at heart.
Returning to Europe after 24 years he was imprisoned during the Genoa war. Released, he returned to a successful trading career. Marco Polo died in 1324 and is buried in the Church of San Lorenzo, Italy.
Marco Polo was an inspiration to Christopher Columbus. An explorer who helped shape modern-day cartography across Europe and Asia. He was a diplomat, trader, merchant and epic traveler.
What is “The Travels” by Marco Polo like to read?
If you are looking for a page turning book of adventure then you will not find it here. This book is quite literally a translation of Marco Polo’s journal. As such what you are reading will be Marco Polo’s accounts in his own words, from that time period.
Be prepared for texts such as:
“When the traveller leaves the city of Kaidu, he rides for ten days through a country not lacking in towns and villages, and well stocked with game, both bird and beast.”
Light reading it is not. It is the exploration of unexplored lands from another time and written as such. That said, due to this very nature of the book it can give those interested a fascinating look at life in other countries from that time period.
Writing from Yunnan China on what happens after a woman gives birth:
When a woman gives birth to child, she washes and swaddles him. Then her husband goes to bed and takes the baby with him and lies in bed for forty days without leaving it except for necessary purposes.
An insightful read into a different world
Marco Polo’s The Travels is a unique read. It’s one if not the first well documented travelogues from a man who worked the original silk routes. It’s a look at a snippet of time at a man who had a unique position in the world and one whom liaises with some famous world characters.
Purchase options (it’s selling at very reasonable prices):
If you’d like to buy this book, please consider purchasing it through my Amazon affiliate stores below: I get a tiny, tiny commission of about USD$00.14. Maybe enough to one day save up and buy a Kindle so I can keep these books with me as I travel.
Due to Amazon’s system I can only realistically offer the .com and .co.uk distributors. To readers outside of these two Amazon zones please try your local listings!
If you’d like to read some more travel reviews on books, movies and guides I’ve read then please visit my travel book review section.
Have you read this or another really good travelogue? If you have, can you leave the name of the book in the comments, I am always on the look out for good travelogues!
This is an additional travel book review based on books I’ve read throughout my journey
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