Catalogue 38
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The Most Influential Travel Book Of All Time

POLO, Marco. Delle merauiglie del mondo. per lui vedute. Del costume di varij paesi, & dello stranio viuer di quelli. Della descrittione de diuersi animali. Del trouar dell'oro, & dell'argento. Venice, Ghirardo & Iseppo Imberti, 1626.

8vo., 128 pp., including 1 full-page woodcut in text. D signature bound out of order. Bound in later quarter morocco and marbled paper over boards. Title written in ink on lower edge of text block; f. A2 reinforced at gutter, repaired tear on f. A3 touching a few letters but not affecting legibility; trimmed closely at bottom edge just touching typographic border and a few catch words.


Rare Italian-language edition of Marco Polo’s ‘Il Milione’—“the most widely read” version of this classic travelogue. While the Venetian explorer’s tale was first circulated in a French-language manuscript, and was initially printed in German (1477), it was the edition in the “Venetian dialect” that was most influential. According to Printing and the Mind of Man, “it is probable that the Italian text was the most widely read by the Mediterranean navigators and traders whose adventurousness so greatly extended our knowledge of the globe” (p. 23). “Marco Polo provided Europe with the most comprehensive and authoritative account of the East produced before 1550” (Lach I.1 p. 36). From the standpoint of Italian literature, Olschki notes “the universal value of his book, the first text of an Italian author written in the vernacular to pass, in various languages, beyond the confines of its native land” (Marco Polo’s Asia, p. 2).

In 1271 Marco Polo journeyed overland from Venice to northwestern China in the company of his father and uncle. The Italians spent the next twenty years based in Shantung at the court of Kublai Khan, traveling widely throughout the region as ambassadors before eventually returning to Venice in 1295. Not long after returning from the East, Polo was imprisoned by the Genoese after the Venetians’ defeat at Curzola Bay, and it was while in prison that he dictated details of his travels to his fellow inmate Rustichello, a Pisan author of popular romances. Rustichello treated Polo’s tale like his other epics, transcribing it in Old French generously sprinkled with Italianisms.
This Imberti edition is illustrated with a full-page woodcut on the verso of the Letter to the Reader. Signed “V.F.”, it depicts 8 men—Polo and his father encountering foreign merchants? This edition not in OCLC. The Imberti press also published editions in 1611 (Smithsonian) and 1620 (Minnesota).

* Smithsonian (1611 ed.); Bell Library (1620 ed.); Cordier, Sinica, 1971 (mistakenly placing woodcut ?hors texte?); Brunet III.1405 (no collation); H. Yule and H. Cordier, The Book of Ser Marco Polo (3rd ed. 1920); PMM 39 (1496 Italian ed.).

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