Monday, January 16, 2012

Marco Polo's Fantastic Odyessy

To the Western mind, Marco Polo is the grand daddy of all explorers--the top tier with Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong.  From 1275 to 1292, he traveled through China, Mongolia and Japan.  His accounts of Kublai Khan's Court, exotic animals and inhospitable deserts were so spectacular that he was not believed by his hometown Venetians.   Personally, Marco Polo was the gateway explorer for me as an armchair traveler.  He set out for the unknown through Central and Eastern Asia, areas that still intrigue me today.  Starting with his original book of Travels, I've added others. 

1.  The Travels of Marco Polo, Edited with Introduction by Michael Komroff with Illustrations by Witold Gordon (1930).   Based on Polo's original account dictated to a fellow prisoner as well as the explorer's notebooks.  Hardback and paperback issued in 1982.  The hardback has contemporary color prints and beautiful wide margins that make it a pleasure to read.  Bought the hardback at a book sale that I can't recall.  Paperback belong to my wife while she was in graduate school. 

 2.  Marco Polo, Richard Humble (1975).   Humble tells Marco Polo's journey from a personnel perspective including the setbacks and danger he faced on his trip to the unknown.  Maps, pictures, prints both western and eastern representations.  Bought used at the State Department bookstore.   

3.  Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, Laurence Bergreen (2007).  Bergreen, who wrote Magellan's Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, provides fresh insights into Marco Polo's travels and life.  Exquisite color pictures and prints.  Bought new. 

4.  Marco Polo, Maurice Collis (1950).  Simply written, this biography of Marco Polo was meant to appeal to older and younger audiences.   This is an English edition that was never issued in America.  The book is more interesting for its history.  Sold by Harris Book Company of Hong Kong, it was signed by its owner, "Thomas J Corcoran Hong Kong April 10, 1951".   Corcoran was a junior Foreign Service Officer in Vietnam at the time and later attained the rank of Ambassador.  Other unusual feature is that this is the only book that was inhabited by a real book worm that left a bore mark inside the front cover.   Bought at State Department Bookstore.

5.  Contemporaries of Marco Polo, Edited by Manual Komroff (1989).    Marco Polo was not the first western traveler to visit the Mongol courts.  Komroff, the editor of Travels, excerpts journeys by four holy men (three friars and a rabbi).  Bought at Dog Ears Books, Northport, Michigan. 

6.  Mission to Asia, Christopher Dawson (1965).  More contemporaries of Polo and their accounts.  Bought used at BJ's Books in Warrenton, VA.

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