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Composed in a prison cell in 1298 by Venetian merchant Marco Polo and Arthurian romance writer Rustichello of Pisa, The Description of the World relates Polo’s experiences in Asia and at the court of Qubilai, the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire.
In addition to a new translation based on the Franco-Italian “F” manuscript of Polo’s text, this edition includes genealogies of the Mongol rulers and nine maps of Polo’s journey, as well as thorough annotation and an extensive bibliography.
"There is much to appreciate in this volume. Kinoshita, a specialist in medieval French literature, is also a leading scholar in the burgeoning field of global medieval studies, and her knowledge of the many fields that illuminate Polo's text is on display throughout. Her translation is true to a single edition of a single authoritative source, not the product of fanciful--and questionable--compilation. She thereby gives us a particular Marco Polo text, not the "definitive" text other translators have concocted, and in so doing is true to the work's history. Polo's text is not a major work of literary art, and the translation challenges it poses relate more to idiom and accuracy than to the aesthetics of tone or imagery. Perhaps the biggest challenge, as Kinoshita recognizes, is deciding how to handle the text's medieval features: its repetition, parataxis, euphemism, etc. Here again, one can only respect Kinoshita's decision to retain many of these features, which are constant reminders of this text's complicated genesis and of the ways it shows its author(s) devising how to represent the new and the strange. As advertised, the introduction and annotations are written for non-specialists and deliver facts and arguments concisely and clearly. The footnote annotations are particularly helpful: short yet informative, inserted when needed, and based on current research, they render the text accessible and provide useful context. The bibliography is current, thorough, varied, and will be of use to anyone interested in learning more about Polo and his era. In addition to the introduction, annotated translation, and bibliography, the book also includes genealogies of Mongol rulers, a map of Eurasia, seven maps of regions discussed by Polo, maps of medieval Beijing and Xian, and an index. This volume is an excellent resource for the curious reader, for high school and university courses, and for specialists alike."
—Mark Cruse, in The Medieval Review
"Marco Polo’s account provided both what was thought to be a reliable guide to East Asia—Columbus carried with him a heavily annotated copy of Marco Polo’s work during his own expedition to the Americas—and an intriguingly fantastical account that for centuries has continued to fuel the imagination of poets and artists.
"Kinoshita’s superb, groundbreaking translation brilliantly renders into modern English this crucial text of the Middle Ages. Indispensable in the undergraduate and graduate classroom, The Description of the World will also appeal to a wide range of readers curious about the medieval encounter of East and West."
—Suzanne Conklin Akbari, University of Toronto
"This excellent and lucid translation is comprehensible to 21st-century students, yet retains the medieval flair of the original text. Kinoshita’s footnotes, which support a reading of the text without overwhelming the reader, properly address and consider the latest scholarship. This will undoubtedly become the standard translation of Marco Polo for classroom use."
—Timothy May, University of North Georgia
"Ever since Marco Polo and Rustichello’s creation first piqued the interests of the reading public, it has been shaped and reshaped, reformed and deformed to meet the desires of the medieval and modern readers. With this new translation, Kinoshita gives English-speakers for the first time something like the original 'Description of the World' that electrified medieval Europe. Racy and readable, this translation is the only one that actually aims to recreate the type of language that Polo and Rustichello used to reach their public."
—Christopher Atwood, Indiana University
"An excellent book, both an accessible edition of Polo’s text and a scholarly one. The translation reads well, following the oddities of the Franco-Italian without compromising readability in English. Kinoshita's introduction is brief but highly informative and offers much to scholars as well as students in different disciplines; the notes are likewise informative and to the point.
"This is the Polo that students and scholars alike will want to read if they are not going to read the original(s)."
—Iain Macleod Higgins, University of Victoria
"This excellent edition and translation will be a standard course text. It is simply superb."
—Theresa Earenfight, Seattle University
About the Author:
Sharon Kinoshita is Professor of Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz.