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ing after the territories of the Grand Khan, and even after his last expedition, when nearly worn out by age, hardships, and infirmities, he offered, in a letter to the Spanish monarchs, written from a bed of sickness, to conduct any missionary to the territories of the Tartar emperor, who would undertake his conversion.
THE work of Marco Polo is stated by some to have been originally written in Latin,” though the most probable opinion is that it was written in the Venetian dialect of the Italian. Copies of it in manuscript were multiplied and rapidly circulated; translations were made into various languages, until the invention of printing enabled it to be widely diffused throughout Europe. In the course of these translations and successive editions, the original text, according to Purchas, has been much vitiated, and it is probable many extravagances in numbers and measurements with which Marco Polo is charged, may be the errors of translators and printers.
When the work first appeared, it was considered by Vossius assures us that even after the death of Marco Polo, he continued to be a subject of ridicule among the light and unthinking, insomuch that he was frequently personated at masquerades by some wit or droll, who in his feigned character related all kinds of extravagant fables and adventures. His work however excited great attention among thinking men, containing evidently a fund of information concerning vast and splendid countries, before unknown to the European world. Vossius assures us that it was at one time highly esteemed by the learned. Francis Pepin, author of the Brandenburgh version, styles Polo a man commendable for his piety, prudence, and fidelity. Athanasius Kircher, in his account of China, says that none of the ancients have described the kingdoms of the remote East with more exactness. Various other learned men of past times have borne testimony to his character, and most of the substantial parts of his work have been authenticated by subsequent travellers. The most able and ample vindication of Marco Polo, however, is to be found in the English translation of his work, with copious notes and commentaries, by William Marsden, F. R. S. He has diligently discriminated between what Marlo Polo relates from his own observation, and what he relates as gathered from others; he points out the errors that have arisen from misinterpretations, omissions, or interpolations of translators, and he claims all proper allowance for the superstitious coloring of parts of the narrative from the belief, prevalent among the most wise and learned of his day, in miracles and magic. After perusing the work of Mr. Marsden, the character of Marco Polo rises in the estimation of the reader. It is evident that his narration, as far as related from his own observations, is correct, and that he had really traversed a great part of Tartary and China, and navigated in the Indian seas. Some of the countries and many of the islands, however, are evidently described from accounts given by others, and in these accounts are generally found the fables which have excited incredulity and ridicule. As he composed his work after his return home, partly from memory and partly from memorandums, he was liable to confuse what he had heard with what he had seen, and thus to give undue weight to many fables and exaggerations which he had received from others. Much has been said of a map brought from Cathay by Marco Polo, which was conserved in the convent of San Michale de Murano in the vicinity of Venice, and in which the Cape of Good Hope, and the island of Madagascar were indicated; countries which the Portuguese claim the merit of having discovered two centuries afterwards. It has been suggested also that Columbus had visited the convent and examined this map, whence he derived some of his ideas concerning the coast of India. According to Ramusio, however, who had been at the convent, and was well acquainted with the prior, the map preserved there was one copied by a friar from the original one of Marco Polo, and many alterations and additions had since been made by other hands, so that for a long time it lost all credit with judicious people, until on comparing it with the work of Marco Polo it was found in the main to agree with his descriptions.” The Cape of Good Hope was doubtless among the additions made subsequent to the discoveries of the Portuguese, t Columbus makes no mention of this map, which he most probably would have done had he seen it. He seems to have been entirely guided by the one furnished by Paulo Toscanelli, and which was apparently projected after the original map, or after the descriptions of Marco Polo and the maps of Ptolemy. When the attention of the world was turned towards the remote parts of Asia in the fifteenth century, and the Portuguese were making their attempts to circumnavigate Africa, the narration of Marco Polo again rose to notice. This, with the travels of Nicolo * Ramusio, vol. ii., p. 17. + Mr. Marsden, who has inspected a splendid fac-simile of this map reserved in the British Museum, objects even to the fundamental part of it : ' where,” he observes, “ situations are given to places that seem quite inconsistent with the descriptions in the travels and cannot be attributed to their author, although
some as made up of fictions and extravagances, and * Hist, des Voyages, tom. xxvii., lib. iv., cap. 3. Paris, 1549.
le Comte, the Venetian, and of Hieronimo da San Stefano, a Genoese, are said to have been the principal lights by which the Portuguese guided themselves in their voyages.” Above all, the influences which the work of Marco Polo had over the mind of Columbus gives it particular interest and importance. It was evidently an oracular work with him. He frequently quotes it, and on his voyages, supposing himself to be on the Asiatic coast, he is continually endeavoring to discover the islands and mainlands described in it, and to find the famous Cipango. It is proper therefore to specify some of those places, and the manner in which they are described by a Venetian traveller, that the reader may more fully understand the anticipations which were haunting the mind of Columbus in his voyages among the West Indian Islands and along the coast of Terra Firma. The winter residence of the Great Khan, according to Marco Polo, was in the city of Cambalu, or Kanbalu (since ascertained to be Pekin), in the province of Cathay. This city, he says, was twenty-four miles square and admirably built. It was impossible, according to Marco Polo, to describe the vast amount and variety of merchandise and manufactures brought there; it would seem they were enough to furnish the universe. “Here are to be seen in wonderful abun* Hist, des Poyages, tom xl., lib. xi., chap. 4.