The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (Penguin Classics)

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Aug 30, Pages. This intriguing blend of fact, exaggeration and absurdity offers both fascinating insight into and subtle criticism of fourteenth-century conceptions of the world. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1, titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Moseley Translated by C. Inspired by Your Browsing History. Looking for More Great Reads? 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. 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'. Apr 08, Josh rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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: 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 Penguin Classics cover. Good job, Penguin designer, you caught my eye. 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? 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.

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville by John Mandeville

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.

This same bird is a symbol of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in as much as there is but one God, who rose on the third day from death to life. 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. Humorously, there is a point where he draws the line: 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 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. There and back again There are no marvels left in this modern world.

Everything has already been seen, tried, tasted. In former times, when a journey to the Holy Land did not take relaxed five hours in the economy class, but arduous weeks of going on shank's pony, the world was still full of miracles and astonishing things. Sir John Mandeville describes his year journey around the globe in this wild, but amazingly free world of the 14th century. Of course the language of such an old text is arc There and back again There are no marvels left in this modern world. Of course the language of such an old text is archaic, as well, though still understandable, which is a marvel on its own: And no man may pass that sea by navy, ne by no manner of craft, and therefore may no man know what land is beyond that sea.

And albeit that it have no water, yet men find therein and on the banks full good fish of other manner of kind and shape, than men find in any other sea and they be of right good taste and delicious to man's meat. Others, like some stories of the Chan's tributary kingdoms, remind you strongly of Chinese or Indian customs - so strongly, that they cannot be completely fabricated, but must have been inspired by someone having been there.

These accounts are intermixed with pure fantasy about beast-men, ridiculously rich sovereigns, Amazons and islands full of things breaking the laws of physics, nicely illustrated in this edition with 15th century woodcuts. As the interesting foreword states, Sir John was probably not in all of those places he describes. But then, who of the modern tourist guides' writers, who have it so much easier than a medieval wayfaring man, have travelled the whole world known and unknown and live to tell their tale?

Apr 09, Alexis Hall added it Shelves: This fucking fascinates me. Like the blue people with the big feet. Let me say that again. The blue people with the big feet. There's section fairly early on when Mandeville hangs out with the Hashashin who I also under This fucking fascinates me. There's section fairly early on when Mandeville hangs out with the Hashashin who I also understand are Made Up Due To Mistranslation as stoned assassins are a bugfuck stupid idea - they'd be all "awww, I love you man, shit I'm meant to be killing you, lol, do you have any food?

Which possibly goes some way to explaining the subsequent sections of the book. My other theory about Mandeville is that he maaaaaaade it all up. Nov 29, Maijabeep rated it liked it Shelves: I think my reading of this book was greatly enhanced by the chapter on it in The Novel: Otherwise, the first half would have been too much of a slog.

I don't care about every holy rock in Jerusalem, what can I say. But I ended up really coming to love the tone of the narrator.


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I had fun imagining what it would be like to read this book if you had never been to any of these places, never seen many or any maps, and willing to suspend disbelief about all of his spectacular claims, lamb I think my reading of this book was greatly enhanced by the chapter on it in The Novel: I had fun imagining what it would be like to read this book if you had never been to any of these places, never seen many or any maps, and willing to suspend disbelief about all of his spectacular claims, lamb-fruit and all.

The edition I read was sorely in need of notes, as well as maps. Aug 30, Mary Anne rated it it was amazing. This novel is not for the faint of heart, for it take perseverance and dedication to understanding the origins of the novel and thereby understand history a bit better. Mandeville is very sly, for under his veneer of pious christianity, lies an intellect bristling with indignation at the arrogance of Brits and Europeans, who think that anyone who is different is inferior and not deserving of dignity and respect.

Mandeville soothes the bigot into thinking he is on the readers' side by describing a This novel is not for the faint of heart, for it take perseverance and dedication to understanding the origins of the novel and thereby understand history a bit better. Mandeville soothes the bigot into thinking he is on the readers' side by describing all the ways to get to the holy land, and only by the way, here are different people from us, and they are deserving of God's love. Amazing work, and I am so glad it survived the ravages of Christian purges, perhaps by the brilliance of Mandeville's subterfuge, hiding his true purpose under a pious cover -- creating satire.

Jun 10, David Withun rated it really liked it Shelves: I have to be honest and say that I had never heard of this work, at least so far as I can recall, until I found a used copy of it in the bookshelves of my local Goodwill. But I'm very happy that I found it!

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

The text is fascinating in its own right as it presents us with the perspective of an Englishman of the 14th century looking at, examining, and perhaps actually exploring the wider world around him, including a great diversity of cultures and geographic locations.

This makes it interesting as I have to be honest and say that I had never heard of this work, at least so far as I can recall, until I found a used copy of it in the bookshelves of my local Goodwill. This makes it interesting as both a historical work -- a real firsthand perspective that touches on these interesting topics -- and also a study in psychology and sociology, as we view his views of these various cultures.

The work is, as I learned through the introduction and notes which accompany this addition, also important for the effect it had on European thought in the years leading up to and somewhat after the discovery of the Americas by Europeans. I recommend this book to those with a love for history and culture. So, clearly "John Mandeville" did not go everywhere he claims, since he saw wooly chickens and people with no heads and so on and so forth. But this is very frustrating to read, and not just because of the old fashioned language. Chapters and chapters devoted to every tiny biblical location detail.

Total lack of directional sense, or a map though clearly it would be So, clearly "John Mandeville" did not go everywhere he claims, since he saw wooly chickens and people with no heads and so on and so forth. Total lack of directional sense, or a map though clearly it would be hard to put headless people, and people with a huge foot they each use as their shade, and the Amazons on any sort of useful map. But for a layperson just reading it, it is not so exciting. A marvelous book of gigantic application.

I've never heard of world history like this before.

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It is a classic account of what everyman should know about our civilized world. The question of whether Mandeville really did travel to these places or whether he even existed, is, from a literary perspective, inconsequential. Moseley put it in his wonderful introduction to the Penguin edition, if Mandeville didn't actually do any traveling, that only increases his literary value.

But really, The Travels needs little aid when it comes to value.

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As a piece of literature, it is easily the best travel book to come out of the Middle Ages, saving perhaps the history The question of whether Mandeville really did travel to these places or whether he even existed, is, from a literary perspective, inconsequential. As a piece of literature, it is easily the best travel book to come out of the Middle Ages, saving perhaps the history of Marco Polo's travels.

I could probably go so far as to include the eras following the Middle Ages, but having read very few travelogues from anything beyond the Middle Ages, I'm reluctant to do so. As a historical document, its importance is again, far reaching and cannot be over-stressed. Even after much of the more fantastical elements were winked at, the more serious notions were considered of great value by explorers.

Now, like all travelogues I've ever read--fictional and non--it is hit or miss. The parts in which he is essentially naming city after city, monument after monument, and people after people in rapid secession is "unentertaining" to say the least. To a modern reader, it's relatively useless outside of academia. But his stories and asides are what bring the book to life. I never recommend a reader skip any part of a book--at least upon the first read--but especially not in a piece like this.

Just when you think he's giving you another list that's just like the ones that came before, he'll throw in a little story or an aside that captures your attention and imagination. There's whole literatures bound up in some of his sentence long comments and stories. I'm still fascinated by the story he gave of a man who traveled farther and farther, seeing wonders increasingly great, until, the greatest wonder of all, he found an island where they spoke his native language; but due to lack of supplies, he was forced to turn back.

While this story of an explorer's circumnavigation of the globe is unlikely to be true, its poetical value far outweighs any value we could derive from the truth of it. A metaphor for this book, perhaps? There is one last thing I'd like to address in this review. I've read in a couple of places that this book is full of racism and misogyny.

I can't fully criticize a casual reader for not fully grasping a Medieval work, especially if they've not removed their own modern mindset--or, at least, learned somewhat about the Medieval mindset--but these claims are simply not true. The Travels is easily one of the most accepting and broad-thinking books I've read from the Middle Ages. For example, when he talks of the Brahmin, he discusses the notion that just because they don't hold to the Christian faith does not mean they're evil or doomed to hell, but rather takes what most would agree is a modern view, namely that "we know not whom God loves nor whom He hates.

In fact, the only time a "Christian" prejudice seeps into his writing is when talking about cannibalism, and I think we can all agree that it's not just Christians that have a prejudice against cannibals, even if it is unlikely that there were as many cannibals as he described. I think another reason why this has been misunderstood is that, to the casual reader, his subtle use of what we would call "sarcasm" is lost.

A case in point, when he describes the burning of a man's wife at his funeral. He then briefly says that if a man does not want to, he does not have to be burned with his dead wife. There is a bite in his statement, and it was meant to have one. Of course, don't go in expecting a 21st century thinker. He was a 14th century man and you'll be hard pressed to forget that; however, even keeping that in mind, this book does show that a 14th century man was not as "unenlightened" as many would have you believe. Jun 20, Charles Dee Mitchell rated it really liked it Shelves: Sir John Mandeville makes a good point here, even if, as some scholars believe, he himself never traveled further than the nearest library.

Nor does it matter than a man named John Mandeville never existed. Whoever wrote behind the pseudonym knew a great deal about the Holy Land and how to get there, and he had studied if not traveled into the lands of India and China. The book he wrote was an enormous seller in the The book he wrote was an enormous seller in the 14th century, and Christopher Columbus carried it with him when he sailed to what he felt sure would be Asia. Reports from explorers in the 16th century caused the bottom to fall out of Mandeville's stock and his work became a source of amusement.

It remains one of the most irresistible works of the late middle ages, and it contains, along with the sometimes tedious and sometimes outrageous accounts of foreign lands, a carefully considered critique European morals and the beginnings of a broad-based humanism in its approach to the pagan worlds of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

We all know the set pieces from Mandeville that describe the usual catalog of oddities that had appeared in travelers' accounts since the time of Herodotus. It is not too difficult to at times discern the reality behind many of his misinformed readings of anthropological, zoological and botanical evidence. Other sections of his narrative come as a greater surprise. The Sultan of Egypt delivers a witty account of the corruption of Western morals and the failure of Europeans to live up to the Christian ideals they profess.

At times Mandeville writes with undisguised disgust of pagan practices, but he is genuinely interested in the varieties of Christianity that exist in the East and is willing to credit those who live good lives that might be pleasing to God whatever religion they follow. And even if these people do not have the articles of our faith, nevertheless I believe that because of their good faith they have by nature, and their good intent, God loves them well and is pleased by their manner of life, as He was with Job, who was a pagan, yet his deeds were as acceptable to God as those of his loyal servants.

And even if there are many different religions and different beliefs in the world, still I believe God will always love those who love him in truth and serve him meekly and truly, setting no store by the vainglory of the world This borders on heresy at a time when a Papal bull had recently affirmed that there was no salvation outside the Catholic Church.

Jan 01, Rosana rated it liked it Shelves: I finally finished this one yesterday. For a short book it took me very long, as I had to check google often to fill my curiosity. The truth is that I would never had attempted, and probably not finished it if I did come across it, if I was not participating in a discussion of The Novel: A Biography by Michael E. But this was what I did enjoy about this book.

Blame it on 4 years of Catholic catechism, but I got caught in the narrative, and found myself even engaged at times. It felt like a biblical stream of consciousness. I am copying here part of a comment I posted while discussing this book: The way he goes about saying things like: I do wish that I had read a version with footnotes and maps instead of the popular domain version I got. I could say that I may go back to it one day and do just that, but who would I be kidding?

It was somewhat fun at times, but I gave it a shot and now I am moving on… Durante as minhas viagens na companhia de Mandeville, aprendi: Jan 06, Kellyanne rated it liked it. But, there were also some downright fascinating sections, not too distantly spaced across the whole book. Also, the language of my translation was FUN: The Book of Marvels and Travels is a medieval travelogue written by some unknown person who probably never left England or France, according to the introduction.