This book was one of the most relevant in Christopher Columbus’ personal library. It contains an edition of Marco Polo’s Book of Marvels, perhaps the most important and successful secular book of the late Middle Ages. This copy, printed in Antwerp in 1485, was given to Columbus by the English merchant John Day, and it is heavily annotated by Columbus himself, among others. Columbus used this book while he was preparing his third voyage to America, thus it is a fundamental document for studying Columbus’ geographical knowledge and ideas.
Marco Polo’s Book of Marvels, written ca. 1300, recounts the stories Polo told to Rustichello da Pisa about his travels through Asia while they were imprisoned together in Genoa. It was one of the most celebrated works of the time and was copied, read, and printed during centuries. In fact, 143 manuscript copies of the work, written in several languages, have survived.
A Jewel in Columbus’ Library
This printed book measures 20 x 15 cm, and is composed of 148 pages. It is bound in embossed leather, and its state of conservation is excellent.
The book, printed in Latin, contains abundant hand-written annotations in the margins, and these annotations are the most interesting parts of the book in terms of studies of Columbus. Between 1497 (when he received the book) and the end of May 1498 (when he went to Sanlúcar de Barrameda to sail to America), he read and annotated at least part of the book.
Nevertheless, the annotations are written not only by Columbus but also by different anonymous hands, though it is believed that one of the hands was that of Hernando, Columbus’ son. It seems that one of the anonymous hands annotated the passages related to cities, regions, rulers, and geography, while another hand, perhaps Hernando’s, annotated the most remarkable events narrated by Polo.
The third hand is that of Christopher Columbus, who annotated personally several parts of Polo’s narrative, above all those devoted to the goods produced in various cities and regions, such as gems, gold, mines, spices, etc., showing a strong interest in their economic value. But we can also find annotations about the flora and fauna of the regions visited by Polo, as well as navigational details, such as allusions to ships, directions of the winds and currents, etc.
Thus, this edition of Polo’s Book of Marvels is an outstanding document that shows Columbus’ personal interests while he was preparing his third voyage to America. The book is currently held in the Chapter Library in Seville.
A Late Medieval Best-Seller
Marco Polo’s Book of Marvels is one of the most successful and fascinating books of all time. Composed in the early fourteenth century, it was written down by Rustichello da Pisa from the stories Marco Polo told him while they were imprisoned in Genoa.
Marco Polo (1254–1323) was one of the most active travelers of his time. Member of a family of merchants, he was born and perhaps raised in Venice, one of the most important and richest cities of 14th-century Europe. When he was seventeen he traveled with his father and uncle through Asia, reaching the court of Kublai Khan, the emperor of the Mongols.
He returned to Venice in 1295, after twenty-four years traveling through Asia, and was imprisoned due to a war between Genoa and Venice. In prison, he met Rustichello da Pisa, who wrote down all the stories Polo told him about his experiences in Asia, publishing The Book of Marvels with huge success during the following centuries.
Bound in embossed leather.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Book of Marco Polo": Libro de Marco Polo o Libro de las Maravillas del Mundo facsimile edition, published by Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1986Request Info / Price