Manual The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (Penguin Classics)

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Travels of Sir John Mandeville (Penguin Classics)
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If they live to nine they are considered marvellously old. In this land too there are many hippopotami, which live sometimes on dry land and sometimes in the water, they are half man and half horse. I could go on like this until the cows come home.

John Mandeville

Once the reader crosses the halfway point of this book, the density of absurdities increases exponentially. There is a new marvel on just about every page. In my determination to mark everything which made me go, 'wait, what? Much of my copy is lit up like a neon sign. Although ostensibly a travelogue, most of this book reads more like a medieval fever dream.

If you're into that sort of thing, or are simply interested in looking closely at how the people of Medieval Western Europe saw the world outside their kingdoms, then this book is of great value, and I recommend it unreservedly. Dec 21, Janez rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , mediaeval , adventure , classics , cultural-history , library-books , anecdotes , christianity , travel-literature , fantasy. The Travels of sir John Mandeville represent a mediaeval travelogue par excellence!


  1. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville.
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Together with the Travels of Marco Polo and some other contemporary accounts Vincent de Beauvais' and Odoric di Pordenone's , the Travels constituted the then knowledge of the world. Two characteristics stand out: the christianity with its good and bad sides and Mandeville's subtle criticism of the Catholic Church and the modern aspect, namely that the Earth is, in fact, round and not flat. The author himsel The Travels of sir John Mandeville represent a mediaeval travelogue par excellence! The author himself if he ever was a real person was a pre-Renaissance man, a traveller surpassing even Marco Polo, a soldier in the employ of the sultan of Egypt, a theologian who knows his Bible well and an erudite in every other aspect.

If you would like to know who serves the Great Khan at the court's feasts, Mandeville will give you a detailed description of the ceremony and the protocol. How did the Tartars manage their immensely great empire? In Mandeville's opinion the secret lies in the system of posts introduced by the Tartars. Would you like to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land? No problem, our intrepid traveller will give you tons of advice on what route to take thither, who to speak to, what is there to see, what not to do while being on the way And what are the virtues of a diamond?

Will the precious gem protect its owner? If you have some doubts about it, don't hesitate to ask John Mandeville who will reassure you. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even thoguh at least a significant part of its content must be either made up or copied from other sources. There is, however, one weak point. While reading it, I couldn't lose the feeling that the book wasn't originally written in English. The syntax, the cumulation of relative and adverbial clauses reminded me of French.

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And indeed, according to the humorous and exhaustive Introduction, the Travels were written in Anglo-Norman a cousin of the French language. Once you get used to it, the book is nothing but pleasure. View all 3 comments. Jan 03, Petra rated it liked it. Sir John travels the known world of the s for 34 years and this is his travelogue.

No one today knows who Sir John was or whether he was a real person or a group but, hey, he travelled for 34 years! Who did that way back then and lived to write the tale? Sir John, that's who. The first part of the book is the most tedious part. All roads lead to Jerusalem Sir John lists them all. There are gems tucked in between the descriptions of the roads, so not Sir John travels the known world of the s for 34 years and this is his travelogue. There are gems tucked in between the descriptions of the roads, so not all is lost. For example, the crosses used for crucifixion were made of 4 different woods one of which was aromatic so that the decaying body was not displeasing to passers by ; Jesus' thorny crown is in two halves and each half displayed in different cities.

The world was a different place way back then. I was surprised at Sir John's mention that the world was round. Wasn't Columbus going to sail over the edge of the flat world in ? Sir John was ahead of his time. Did Columbus read this book and take note? This book is interesting but, as said, it can be tediously slow in parts. It's worth working your way through it.

The chapters are short, you can pace yourself. The English is a bit old but once you're in the rhythm, it reads easily. As far as medieval trave narratives go I suppose this one was pretty interesting. It recounts often verbatim many of the the peoples and monsters that appear in the writings of Pliny the Elder and St. The second half of the book is far more interesting than the first. If you're not a lover of medieval lit or travel narratives you probably won't enjoy thing.

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In all honesty, it is probably not something I would have chosen to read if I'd not been reading it in class. The bits on the A As far as medieval trave narratives go I suppose this one was pretty interesting. The bits on the Amazons and the "monstrous races" of people with one eye or dog heads are by far the most interesting.

But the narrative gets bogged down in a lot of very elaborate descriptions of palaces and thrones John Mandeville seemed to really love gems and gold , but other than that, not a bad read. Apr 08, Josh rated it it was amazing Shelves: longish-reviews , amazing-covers , read And if some men perhaps will not believe me about what I have said, and say it is all a fable … I do not really care. But let the man who will, believe it; and leave him alone who will not.

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville is fulfilling on five levels: 1. A heavy heavy medieval dosage. For those of you who love reading medieval works for the small glimpses you get to the medieval worldview and overall feeling of the era—this book is dedicated to those glimpses. The mystery and intrigue. Who wrote this thing?

Did he actually go anywhere? What on earth was his intent with this thing? The cover. The Penguin Classics cover. Good job, Penguin designer, you caught my eye. Take my money. The psychology and commentary of John Mandeville himself. Half of this book is dedicated to describe real world geography and politics and history, with the weird stuff mixed in with no overt distinction or separation.

Even in the most dry of passages where there is no water to be found! Ireland has trees that birth cranes, France has half of the original Crown of Thorns, and a devoutly Christian satyr mopes around Egyptian deserts. One gets the idea that the whole world, near and far, was uniformly otherworldly. Or did the medieval mind simply find the whole world marvelous? Maybe the overall human mindset has simmered down over the centuries, and has lost that maaagic feeling nowhere to go …and this is why I love reading old books!

Much can be lost over six and a half centuries. With each century, the world ticks further away from the world Mandeville wrote for. The book had to be written by someone —maybe the author just happened to be an Englishman named John Mandeville. The questions concerning the actual travels I find much more interesting. For example, what was the intent of this book? How far did Mandeville really travel?

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Was the man overtly lying to his readers, or did he just repeat stories he heard and believed to be true? Many of his monsters and stories have come from writers before him especially Pliny and Odoric. Did Mandeville believe them? The things Mandeville clearly states he personally experienced are on the more plausible end such as the luxuries of the Khan, which led into the rant the quote at the top of this review is from. The editor also makes an interesting point that Mandeville might have had to include fantastical elements to his travels to make them credible to his audience. Denying them these dragons, even if he really did go to India and back, would have made him not taken seriously by anyone.

It is fishy how in some areas of the book, Mandeville spits off a list of fantastic animals and creatures in brief bursts, almost as if to get them over with and out of the way… These small bouts of sincerity directed to the reader makes me want to believe that Mandeville had no ill intent to misinform his audience. John Mandeville—turns out—is the kind of guy you want to root for. Mandeville speaks with an open-mindedness and awareness about the relativity of culture. His view of the Saracens would sound heretical to many Christians today, essentially saying that while they are clearly wrong in their beliefs and primed for conversion back to the true religion of Christianity, they are overall goodhearted and devoted people who Christians should take some lessons from.

Even the absurd isles of pagans and idolaters are filled with good people, only sadly corrupted by the demons who possess their idols and make them speak. In one particularly astounding passage, Mandeville blows away the entire medieval slay-the-heathens mindset: And even if these people do not have the articles of our faith, nevertheless I believe that because of their good faith that they have by nature, and their goal intent, God loves them well and is well pleased by their manner of life, as He was with Job, who was a pagan.

For we know not whom God loves nor whom he hates. Similarly, Mandeville takes the time to justify the actions of even the most barbaric of cultures. The feast is described in full graphic detail, and yet, although no one really asked for it, Mandeville justifies their actions, saying that they believe being eaten by family members is less painful than rotting in the ground and being eaten by worms.

He finds something to admire in the festival of the Juggernaut, where devoted idolaters will cause as much pain to themselves as possible, including lying underneath the wheels of giant chariots carrying religious items, saying that no Christian would put himself through a tenth of what they do for their idols.

In a lighter aside, when being shown an Indian tree which sheep would grow on, Mandeville told the natives that back in his homeland, there are trees where cranes grow from in a similar fashion, and the Indians were greatly impressed with his story. While both trees obviously never existed, Mandeville was self-aware enough to realize that the Easterners and their absurd ways see the West just as absurd and marvellous.

He may have been very off in his ideas about different cultures, but he always gave it a try: But they are black in colour, and they consider that a great beauty, and the blacker they are the fairer they seem to each other. And they say that if they were to paint an angel and a devil, they would paint the angel black and the devil white.

And if they do not seem black enough when they are born, they use certain medicines to make them black. That country is marvelously hot, which makes its folk so black. John Mandeville however is a fine example of someone who perfectly merged strong Christian values with an acceptance of shocking new phenomena. Mandeville used Christianity to find order in the world he lived in or maybe thought he lived in. This is an extremely, extremely Christian book the sections in the Holy Land making a unique sort of endurance test. Mandeville can tie anything to Jesus. This man took a local Egyptian legend about a fiery phoenix who dies and is born again every five hundred years and managed to spin it towards Jesus.

And just as Mandeville tried to find the motivations behind the most foreign of cultures, he also tried to find the workings to the physical world as well, giving even the most absurd phenomena at least a good guess. One of the only times Mandeville really admitted he had no clue about something was with a self-sacrificing fish: This seems to me one of the greatest marvels I saw in any land, that fish who have the whole sea to swim in at their pleasure should voluntarily come and offer themselves to be killed without any compulsion by any creature.

And indeed I am sure it does not happen without some great cause and meaning. And there you have it. John Mandeville is not a nihilist. Towards the end of his long travels, Mandeville gives a quote that I found oddly motivating: There are many other countries and other marvels which I have not seen, and so I cannot speak of them properly; and also in the countries I have been to there are many marvels which I have not spoken of, for it would be too long to tell of them all. And also I do not want to say any more about marvels that there are there, so that other men who go there can find new things to speak of which I have not mentioned.

For many men have great delight and desire in hearing of new things; and so I shall cease telling of the different things I saw in those countries, so that those who desire to visit those countries may find enough new things to speak of for the solace and recreation of those whom is pleases to hear them. John Mandeville—who the heck is John Mandeville.

A shady, elusive figure for sure, but his account of the world he left behind is still our world, in a very literal sense: the same planet, but very different conclusions. The world is flexible. John Mandeville told us about the same globe we live on today. He told us the world was filled with wonder and order—and maybe that was the biggest lie he told. Nov 15, Miike rated it it was amazing. I cannot hide my bias about this book; it is my absolute favourite. One of the major differences between ourselves and the Medieval World was the notion of the East and the concept of otherness.

The World Sir John Mandeville chronicled was the World we see on antique maps, there is scant regard for topographical accuracy but a wonderful mixture of beasts and monsters. There is controversy as to whether this 'Knight' ever ventured anywhere, some even believe that the name itself is made up.

All t I cannot hide my bias about this book; it is my absolute favourite. All these issues add to the mystery and sense of adventure in what must be one of the World's first travel books.

Travels of Sir John Mandeville (Penguin Classics)

In our 'Age of Reason' we try to explain everything using rational methods and scientific experiment, this book succeeds in doing the opposite. We are introduced to unknown exotica with wonderfully descriptive prose, without our technical vocabulary and jargon the foreign lands and peoples really come to life.

Once you have read this book you can enter into the debate as to who this mysterious man was and if he did exist If you reach this stage then you need to get a copy of Giles Milton's 'Riddle and the Knight'. Mar 21, Jack rated it liked it Shelves: europe , world-lit. A great book and a very silly one. John Mandeville in all likelihood did not exist, and almost certainly did not travel to anywhere that he described. Even if he lived, and did travel, he would've lied more about what he saw than told any truth, because so much of what he writes about is bizarre and impossible.

And yet there is a strange sort of charm about how he writes, too wholesomely to be a mere hoax intended to shame the credible. Most people who would read or hear the stories of Mandeville A great book and a very silly one. Most people who would read or hear the stories of Mandeville would be lucky to go further than twenty miles from home. Mandeville broadens their horizons and ignites their imagination; why should what he says necessarily have to be true?

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Though it is so often trivial and absurd, this book is fascinating in how it forces the contemporary reader into trying to understand a view of the world of the uneducated in the Middle Ages. How much we supposedly know of the world, having access to news and the internet, being theoretically able to fly where we please. We know that we have the faculties to know more so than we know at all.

We cannot possibly believe that there's an island somewhere where green people live in caves eating snakes. I suppose the element of belief where everything is possible has been transposed above, to aliens in distant galaxies. And yet that isn't quite the same either. If fantasy has the unfortunate problem of using invented beast-races as ugly metaphors for groups of people, one can see its origins here.

Mandeville's cavalcade of warped, inhuman cannibals may not have existed, but considering his influence on Columbus, it anticipated a brutality and barbarity in which explorers would become colonialists. Racial stereotyping in fantasy is a broad topic difficult to do justice to in exploring in a short review, but it may likely remain a sensitive subject for any prospective writer. They might do well to read Mandeville, and consider if the fantasy race they are imagining isn't just a contortion of a real ethnic group or nationality they are ignorant of, prejudiced against, unconsciously fear.

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The Travels of Sir John Mandeville by Sir John Mandeville

Item specifics Condition: Good: A book that has been read but is in good condition. Very minimal damage to the cover including scuff marks, but no holes or tears. The dust jacket for hard covers may not be included. Binding has minimal wear. The majority of pages are undamaged with minimal creasing or tearing, minimal pencil underlining of text, no highlighting of text, no writing in margins. No missing pages.


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