The Travels of Sir John Mandeville was written in approximately 1357 and is an account of Sir John Mandeville’s 30-year odyssey throughout Europe, North Africa, the Far East, and Arabia. The Travels was originally written in French and because of its immense popularity was translated into all major European languages, of which three hundred survive today. The Travels became a major source for geographical information for the next two centuries. Two notable historical figures that relied upon Mandeville’s guide were Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus.
It is unknown whether Sir John Mandeville is a man or myth. He claimed to be an English knight from St. Albans. However, aside from this book, there is no proof of his nationality or if he actually lived. Furthermore, it is unknown whether he actually traveled to all the locales which he documents. Historians believe that he did indeed travel, but not as extensively as people had been lead to believe; Mandeville also adopted the facts of other people’s travels as his own.
The Travels gives us a broad overview of the world during the Fourteenth Century and how Mandeville viewed the world, along with directions and geographical markers for travel by land or by sea. For each locale, Mandeville tells us of his encounter with other peoples. He also goes into detail about their culture and customs and their religious viewpoint or lack thereof. Throughout the Travels, Mandeville focuses on morals and religion and this is one of the main themes in the book. He is particularly enamored with the Far East and the Holy Land. He even recalls of having traveled to Rome and asking the Pope and his council to review his book for approval. Not only did Mandeville’s book get their approval, they said it must be the truth. He tells many fanciful tales such as of the bird phoenix in Arabia, of finding fruit in the kingdom of Cadhilo that when opened, a flesh and blood animal is inside and of hippopotami,...
Bibliography: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Trans. C. W. R. D. Moseleyn. Penguin Putnam, Inc. 1983.
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