Skip

"therfore the holi fader, the pope, hath ratefied and confermed my book"
April 5, 2014 6:03 PM   Subscribe

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville is a remarkable 14th Century book which tells the autobiographical story of Sir John Mandeville's travels from England to Jerusalem and beyond to Asia. The only problem is that the book "had been a household word in eleven languages and for five centuries before it was ascertained that Sir John never lived, that his travels never took place, and that his personal experiences, long the test of others' veracity, were compiled out of every possible authority, going back to Pliny, if not further." The book was very popular for many centuries and was illustrated many times. For more about the book there is the introduction to a recent scholarly Middle English version and an illuminating podcast interview [iTunes link] with Professor Anthony Bale, the translator of a new version of the "defective" version of the book, which was the best known version for centuries. The interview goes into the many errors and fantasias of Mandeville but also puts the work in the context of its time and place.
posted by Kattullus (18 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
Non-iTunes link (mp3) to the podcast, for all of you with Zunes.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:38 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


I have often wondered if the various accounts of the Blemmyes aren't based on third-hand reports of the short-statured groups (e.g.) found in some parts of the world: one traveller indicates their height at chest level using his hand and says something like "He was a little bloke, and his head was here." Somebody understands that to mean that their head was in their chest, and the story gets passed on.

Similarly, the Monopods might be an account of someone using a small reed canoe as they do today: you stand in it and pole yourself along the river. A reporter says "He was standing on one foot, pushing himself along the water," and a listener understands that to mean that the sailor was actually using his giant foot to travel.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:31 PM on April 5 [10 favorites]


Holy shit, Joe in Australia, that's brilliant. Did you come up with that?
posted by codswallop at 8:35 PM on April 5


This is great! Thanks, Kattullus.
posted by homunculus at 9:14 PM on April 5


I've always been amused that Mandeville is one of the "contributors" to Chaucer Hath a Blog.
posted by immlass at 9:57 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


ants which keep hills of gold dust

So, he'd heard of Bitcoin.
posted by dhartung at 10:52 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Did you come up with that?

I think so, but I can't be the first one to wonder about it. Feel free to take the idea if you have any use for it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:10 PM on April 5


Oh, and I forgot to mention last night, if you want to go straight to the really weird images in the manuscripts, jump to the end and go back.
posted by Kattullus at 2:25 AM on April 6


Recommended reading here: Giles Milton's The Riddle and the Knight: In Search of Sir John Mandeville.
posted by rory at 2:48 AM on April 6


One of the reviews quoted on The Riddle and the Knight page goes into one interesting thing, Mandeville's knowledge of the roundness of the Earth. That was quite interesting to know. I've known a long time that medieval people knew that the Earth wasn't flat, but it's interesting to read an account of how they proved that by their knowledge of stars and navigation.
posted by Kattullus at 4:16 AM on April 6


> Feel free to take the idea if you have any use for it.

And thus continues a tradition of word-of-mouth debunking, whose origins are lost to scholarship but reflects the ages-old concern of mankind to know just what the fuck was that guy thinking.
posted by ardgedee at 4:42 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


And if you enjoy fanciful old search of Prester John-style travelogues, I'd recommend Baudolino by Umberto Eco.
posted by ovvl at 9:58 AM on April 6


the Monopods

You mean Dufflepuds.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:16 PM on April 7


One of the reviews quoted on The Riddle and the Knight page goes into one interesting thing, Mandeville's knowledge of the roundness of the Earth. That was quite interesting to know. I've known a long time that medieval people knew that the Earth wasn't flat, but it's interesting to read an account of how they proved that by their knowledge of stars and navigation.

He tells an hilarious story of a guy who fares all round the world and gets back to his own land, only to have some misunderstanding that leads him to think it's another foreign country and so sail off again.
posted by Thing at 12:24 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


I'm listening to the podcast interview and it's interesting, but the sound quality is awful. Is anyone else noticing this as well, or do I need new speakers (or have I angered the podcast gods with my Zune comment)?
posted by benito.strauss at 12:47 PM on April 7


It starts off bad, but gets better.
posted by Kattullus at 3:36 PM on April 7


It did. And for anyone else, it's definitely worth listening to. Thanks, K.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:28 PM on April 7


Yes, it's more than worth a listen. There's tons of interesting information, as well as it being an interesting mini-lecture on the book.

My inner twelve-year old couldn't help giggling at the bit where Bale went through how the scribes either didn't know what the Holy Prepuce was, or indeed where it was.
posted by Kattullus at 11:44 PM on April 7


« Older I should probably feed my cat, soon and often.   |   Let beauty awake in the... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post