Europeans knew little of the mysterious east until Marco Polo wrote about his travels. His father and uncle had been there earlier, and he accompanied them on their second visit. Marco travelled through China and elsewhere on many missions for Kublai Khan, but returned to Venice in 1296. A few years later Marco was a prisoner of the Genoese, with Rusticello, author of tales of Arthurian knights. He dictated his ‘travels’ to Rusticello, with the help of just a few notes.
Rusticello wanted romance and marvels. Marco obliged, describing events not experienced and places not visited, but omitting much else and being vague about things which did not interest him. This lost version was copied and translated many times, embellished, added to, cut, and changed. None of the existing versions are exactly the same. John Man set out to trace the journeys and disentangle truth from myth.
The resulting volume is an intriguing mixture of geography, history, and commentary on the various editions. The author verifies many facts, throws doubt on others, based on references in different sources, or probability, and suggests solutions to mysteries or omissions. There are some wonderful photographs, and I wanted more, as well as more maps. The book left me with a desire to know more of this part of the world. A book to be recommended.