Robert Kerr.

A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 01 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a online

. (page 44 of 52)
Online LibraryRobert KerrA General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 01 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a → online text (page 44 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

therefrom many sweet and harmonious musical sounds, especially of lutes;
insomuch that I was much amazed. This valley is at least seven or eight
miles long, into which, whoever enters, is sure to die immediately; for
which cause, all who travel by that way pass by on one side, no one being
able to travel through that valley and live. But I was curious to go in,
that I might see what it contained. Making therefore my prayers, and
recommending myself to God, I entered in, and saw such vast quantities of
dead bodies, as no one would believe, unless he had seen them with his own
eyes. At one side of the valley, I saw the visage of a man upon a stone,
which stared at me with such a hideous aspect, that I thought to have died
on the spot. But I ceased not to sign myself with the sign of the cross,
continually saying "The Word became flesh, and dwelt with us." Yet I dared
not to approach nearer than seven or eight paces; and at length, I fled to
another part of the valley. I then ascended a little sand hill; from
whence, looking around, I saw on every side the before mentioned lutes,
which seemed to me to sound of themselves in a most miraculous manner,
without the aid of any musicians. On the top of this sand hill, I found
great quantities of silver, resembling the scales of fishes, and gathered
some of this into the bosom of my habit, to shew as a wonder; but, my
conscience rebuking me, I threw it all away, and so, by the blessing of
God, I departed in safety. When the people of the country knew that I had
returned alive from the valley of the dead, they reverenced me greatly;
saying, that the dead bodies were subject to the infernal spirits, who were
in use to play upon lutes, to entice men into the valley, that they might
die; but as I was a baptized and holy person, I had escaped the danger.
Thus much I have related, which I certainly beheld with mine own eyes; but
I have purposely omitted many wonderful things, because those who had not
seen them would refuse to believe my testimony.

[1] The place in which these wonderful things were seen, is no where
indicated; neither is the omission to be regretted, as the whole is
evidently fabulous. - E.


_Of the Honour and Reverence shewn to the Great Khan_.

I shall here report one thing more concerning the great khan of Cathay, of
which I was a witness. It is customary, when he travels through any part of
his wide dominions, that his subjects kindle fires before their doors, in
such places as he means to pass, into which they fling spices and perfumes,
that he may be regaled by their sweet odour. And numberless multitudes
flock from all quarters, to meet him, and do him homage. Upon a certain
time, when the approach of the khan to Cambalu was announced, one of our
bishops, together with several minorite friars and myself, went out two
days journey from the city to meet him. When we came nigh to his presence,
we bore aloft a cross upon a pole, and began to sing _Veni Creator_, in a
loud voice, while I carried the censer. When he came up to the place where
we were singing by the way side, he called us to come towards him; for no
man dare approach within a stones throw of his chariot, unless called,
except those only who are appointed to attend upon his person. When we came
near, he took off his cap or helmet, of inestimable value, and did
reverence to the cross. I immediately put incense into the censer; and the
bishop, taking the censer into his own hands, perfumed the khan, and gave
him his benediction. Besides this, as those who approach the great khan
always bring with them some offering to present to him, according to the
ancient law. "Thou shalt not come empty handed into my presence," so we
carried some apples along with us, and reverently offered them to him on a
salver; and he was pleased to take two of our apples, of one of which he
eat a part. The khan then gave a sign for us to depart, lest we might have
been injured by the crowd of horses; upon which we turned aside to certain
of his barons, who had been converted to the Christian faith, and who were
then in his train, to whom we offered the remainder of our apples, which
they joyfully received, as If we had made them some great gift.


_Conclusion of the Travels, and Account of the Death of Friar Oderic_.

All the above were put down in writing by friar William de Solanga, as
dictated to him by friar Oderic, in the year of our Lord 1330, in the month
of May, and in the place of St Anthony at Padua. He hath not attempted to
render these relations into fine Latin, or in an eloquent style, but hath
written them even as rehearsed by Oderic himself.

I, friar Oderic of Portenau, in the Friuli, of the order of minorites, do
hereby testify, and bear witness to the reverend father Guidotus, minister
of the province of St Anthony, in the marquisate of Trevigi, by whom I was
commanded so to do, that all which is here written, was either seen by
myself or reported to me by credible and worthy persons; and the common
report of the countries through which I travelled, testifies all those
things which I have seen and related to be true. Many other wonderful
things I have omitted, because they were not seen by myself. It is farther
mine intention, soon again to travel into foreign and far distant lands, in
which I may live or die, as it may please the Almighty Disposer of events.

In the year of our Lord 1331, friar Oderic, resolving to enter upon his
intended journey, determined to present himself before Pope John XXII[1] on
purpose to receive his benediction, that his labour might be the more
prosperous; as he intended to travel into the countries of the infidels,
with certain friars who had agreed to accompany him. While journeying to
the residence of the pope, and not far distant from the city of Pisa, he
was encountered by an old man in the garb of a pilgrim, who saluted him by
name, saying, "Hail to you, friar Oderic." And when Oderic inquired how he
should know him, the old man answered, "While you were in India, I well
knew both you and your holy purpose; but now be warned from me, and return
to the convent whence you came, for in ten days you shall depart out of
this world." Upon this the old man immediately vanished, from his sight;
and Oderic, amazed at his words, determined to return to his convent, which
he did in perfect health, feeling no illness, or decay of his body or
faculties. And ten days afterwards, being then in his convent at Udina, in
the province of Padua, and having received the holy communion, as preparing
himself unto God, yea, being strong and sound of body, he happily rested in
the Lord, according as it had been revealed. Which holy death was signified
unto the foresaid supreme pontiff, under the hand of a public notary, in
the following words:

"On the 14th of January, in the year of our Lord 1331, the blessed Oderic,
a friar of the minorite order, deceased in Christ; at whose prayers God
shewed many and sundry miracles, which I, Guetelus, public notary of Udina,
son of Dora. Damiano de Portu Gruario, at the command and direction of the
noble lord Conradus, of the borough of Gastaldion, one of the council of
Udina, have written down with good faith to the best of my abilities; and I
have delivered a copy of the same to the friars minors: Yet not of the
whole, because they are innumerable, and too difficult for, me to write."

[1] This pope reigned from about 1317 to 1334, so that the original editor,
or fabricator of these travels, has so for been fortunate in his
chronology. - E.


_Travels of Sir John Mandeville into the East, in_ 1322[1].

The travels of Sir John Mandevil, or Mandeville, are to be found in Latin
in Haklyuts collection. An edition of this strange performance was
published in 8vo. at London in 1727, by Mr Le Neve, from a MS. in the
Cotton Library. This old English version is said to have been made by the
author from his own original composition in Latin. It is a singular mixture
of real or fictitious travels, and compilation from the works of others
without acknowledgement, containing many things copied from the travels of
Oderic, and much of it is culled, in a similar manner, from the writings of
the ancients. Though, from these circumstances, it is a work of no
authenticity and unworthy of credit, it has been judged indispensable to
give some account of its nature and contents.

Mandeville affirms that he was descended of an ancient and noble family,
and was born at St Albans. After receiving the rudiments of a liberal
education, he says that he studied mathematics, physic, and divinity, and
wrote books on all these sciences; and became expert in all the exercises
then befitting a gentleman. Having a desire to travel, he crossed the sea
in 1322, or 1332, for different manuscripts give both dates, and set out on
a journey through France towards the Holy Land, a description of which
country, replete with monkish tales, and filled with the most absurd holy
fables, occupies half of his ridiculous book. In the very outset he
pretends to have visited India, and the Indian islands, and other
countries; all of which appears to be fabulous, or interpolation. Before
proceeding to the Holy Land, perhaps the sole country which he really
visited, he gives various routes or itineraries to and from Constantinople,
containing no personal adventures, or any other circumstances that give the
stamp of veracity; but abundance of nonsensical fables about the cross and
crown of our Saviour, at the imperial city.

He pretends to have served in the army of the sultan of Egypt, whom he
calls Mandybron, who must have been Malek el Naser Mohammed, who reigned
from 1310 to 1341, and states a war against the Bedouins, or Arabs of the
desert, as the scene of his own exploits. Yet he seems to have been
entirely unacquainted with Egypt, and gives only a slight mention of Cairo.
He represents the sultan as residing in Bablyon, and blunders into pedantic
confusion between Babylon in Egypt, and Babylon in Chaldea, all of which is
probably an injudicious complement from books common at the time.

About the middle of the book he gives some account of the ideas of the
Saracens concerning Christ; and then falls into a roaming description of
various countries, obviously compiled without consideration of time or
changes of people and names; deriving most of his materials from ancient
authors, particularly from Pliny, and describing Mesopotamia, Chaldea,
Albania, Hircania, Bactria, Iberia, and others, as if such had actually
existed in the geography of the fourteenth century. Where any thing like
modern appears, it is some childish fable, as that the ark of Noah was
still visible on mount Ararat. He even gives the ancient fable of the
Amazons, whom he represents as an existing female nation.

He next makes a transition to India, without any notice of his journey
thither; arid gravely asserts that he has often experienced, that if
diamonds be wetted with May-dew, they will grow to a great size in a course
of years. This probably is an improvement upon the Arabian philosophy or
the production of pearls by the oysters catching that superlative seminal
influence. The following singular article of intelligence respecting India,
may be copied as a specimen of the work: "In that countree growen many
strong vynes: and the women drynken wyn, and men not: and the women shaven
hire berdes, and the men not." From India he proceeds to the island of
Lamary, the Lambri of Marco Polo; and by using the Italian term "the star
transmontane," at once betrays the source of his plagiarism. His
descriptions seem disguised extracts from Polo, with ridiculous
exaggerations and additions; as of snail shells so large as to hold many
persons. His account of the pretended varieties of the human race, as of
nations of Hermaphrodites, and others equally ridiculous, which he places
in separate islands of the Indian ocean, are mere transcripts from Pliny.

His accounts of Mangi and Kathay, or southern and northern China, are most
inaccurately stolen from Marco Polo, and disguised or rather disfigured to
conceal the theft. "The city with twelve thousand bridges, has twelve
principal gates, and in advance from each of these a detached town, or
great city, extends for three or four miles." Though he pretends to have
resided three years in Cambalu, he does not seem to have known the name of
the khan, whom he served for fifteen months against the king of Mangi.
Leaving Cathay he goes into Tharsis, Turquescen, Corasine, and Kommania, in
which he seems to have transcribed from Oderic; and makes Prester John
emperor of India, a country divided into many islands by the great torrents
which descend from Paradise! He gives also an account of a sea of sand and
gravel, entirely destitute of water, the Mare arenosum of Oderic; to which
he adds that it moves in waves like the ocean. Though he makes Prester John
sovereign of India, he assigns Susa in Persia for his residence; constructs
the gates of his palace of sardonyx, its bars of ivory, its windows of rock
crystal, and its tables of emeralds; while numerous carbuncles, each one
foot in length, served infinitely better than lamps to illuminate the
palace by night. To many absurdities, apparitions, and miracles, copied and
disguised from Oderic, he adds two islands in the middle of the continent,
one inhabited by giants thirty feet high, while their elder brethren in the
other are from forty-five to fifty feet.

He borrows many fabulous stories from Pliny, and from the romances of the
middle, ages, yet so ignorantly as to reverse the very circumstances of his
authors. Andromeda is not the lady who was rescued by Perseus, but the
monster by which she was to have been devoured. Two _islands_ in India, one
called Brahmin, and the other Gymnosophist. And a thousand other fictions
and absurdities, too ridiculous even for the credulity of children. Of this
worse than useless performance, the foregoing analysis is perhaps more than
sufficient for the present work. - E.

[1] Forst. Voy. and Disc. in the Nerth, p. 148. Pinkert. Mod. Geogr. II.
xxxvi. Hakluyt, II. 76.


_Itinerary of Pegoletti, between Asof and China, in_ 1355[1].

In the year 1355, Francisco Balducci Pegoletti, an Italian, wrote a system
of commercial geography, of great importance, considering the period in
which it was written. Its title translated into English, is, "Of the
Divisions of Countries, and of their Measures, Merchandize, and other
things useful to be known by the Merchants of various parts of the World."
All of this curious work which has any reference to our present
undertaking, is the chapter which is entitled, "Guide or the Route from
Tana to Kathay, with Merchandize, and back again." This is published entire
by J. R. Forster, with several learned notes and illustrations, and is here

* * * * *

From _Tana_ or Asof to _Gintarchan_ or Astracan[2], is twenty-five days
journey with waggons drawn by oxen; but may be accomplished in ten or
twelve days, if the waggons are drawn by horses. On the road one meets with
a great number of armed _Moccols_, Moguls or Mongals. From Gintarchan to
_Sara_[3] by the river, it is only one days sail; but from Sara to
_Saracanco_[4], it takes eight days by water; one may, however, travel
either by land or water, whichever is most agreeable; but it costs much
less expence to go with merchandize by water. From Saracanco to Organci[5]
is a journey of twenty days with loaded camels; and whoever travels with
merchandize, will do well to go to Organci, as it is a very convenient
place for the expeditious sale of goods. From Organci to Oltrarra[6], it is
thirty-five or forty days journey, with camels: But in going direct from
Saracanco to Oltrarra, it takes fifty days journey; and if one has no
merchandize, it is a better way than to go by Organci. From Oltrarra to
Armalecco[7], it is forty-five days journey with loaded asses, and in this
road, one meets every day with Moguls. From Armalecco to Camexu[8], it is
seventy days journey on asses; and from Camexu to a river called the _Kara
Morin_[9], it is fifty days journey on horses. From this river, the
traveller may go to Cassai[10] to dispose of his silver there, as it is an
excellent station for the expeditious sale of merchandize; and from Cassai,
he may go through the whole land of Gattay or Kathay, with the money he has
received at Cassai for his silver[11]. This money is of paper, and called
balischi, four of which balischies are equal to one silver _somno_[12].
From Cassai to _Galmalecco_[l3], which is the capital of the empire of
Kathay, it is thirty days journey.

* * * * *

If the reader has any idea of the difficulty attendant on making out so
many places, disguised by a vicious orthography, a difficulty, which is
still more increased by the necessity there is for determining, with
accuracy, the situation of these places, and their probable distances from
each other, he will be ready to allow that the task is certainly not very
trifling, nor to be accomplished without much labour. In the foregoing
itinerary, Pegoletti certifies the existence of the paper money which had
been previously mentioned by Rubraquis, Haitho, Marco Polo, and Oderic:
Some of these authors describe it as having been fabricated of cotton
paper; while others remark very justly, that it was made of the bark of the
paper mulberry tree. Oderic calls it Balis, Pegoletti gives it the name of
Balis-chi. A Jesuit named Gabriel de Magaillans, pretends that Marco Polo
was mistaken in regard to this paper money; but the concurrent testimony of
five other credible witnesses of the fact, is perfectly conclusive that
this paper money did actually exist during the first Mogul dynasty, the
descendants of Zinghis, called the legal tribe of _Yu_ by the Chinese. On
the downfall of that race it was abolished.

Supposing the station on the Kara-morin and Cassai to be the same, which is
highly probable, the whole journey in this itinerary, from Asof to Pekin,
extends to 276 days, besides nine days more by water, or 285 in all; so
that allowing for delays, rests, accidents, and occasional trafficking, a
whole year may fairly be allowed, and as much for the return.

[1] Forster, Voy. and Disc, in the North, p. 150.

[2] Gintarchan, or Zintarchan, is, by Josaphat Barbaro, called also
Gitarchau; and Witsan, in his account of Northern and Eastern Tartary,
says Astracan was called of old _Citracan_. By the Calmuks, it is
called Hadschi-Aidar-Khan-Balgassun, or the city of Hadschi Aidar
Khan, whence all these names are derived by an obvious corruption,
like [Greek: Eis tnae polis], or the city, by way of eminence, by
which the Greeks distinguished Constantinople, and which the Turks
have corrupted into Estambol, and Stambol. - Forst.

[3] Sara is undoubtedly the town of Saray, situated on the eastern arm of
the Wolga, or Achtuba. The Astracan mentioned in the text by
Pegoletti, was not on the spot where that city now stands; both that
ancient Astracan and Saray having been destroyed by Timur Khan, or
Tamerlane, as he is usually called, in the winter 1395. The old town
of Saray was at no great distance from ancient Astracan. - Forst.

[4] Saracanco is probably the town which formerly existed on the river Jaik
or Ural, the remains of which are now known by the name of
Saratschik. - Forst.

[5] The name of Organci is easily recognized In the town of Urgenz in
Kheucaresm; which is named Dschordschanio by Abulfeda, and Korkang by
the Persians. But there were two towns of this name, the greater and
the lesser Urgenz, or Old and New Urgenz. The Old or Greater Urgenz
was situated near to where the Gihon discharges its waters into lake
Aral; the New or Ixsser Urgenz is to be found near Chiwa, or Chiva, on
the Gihon - Forst.

[6] Oltrarra is properly called Otrar, and also Farab, which latter name is
to be found in Abulfeda. It is situate on the river Sihon or Sire. The
Chinese, who cannot pronounce the letter _r_, call it Uotala. - Forst.

[7] Armalecco is the name of a small town called Almalig, which, according
to Nassir Ettusi and Ulug-beg, is in Turkestan. From the life of
Timur Khan, by Shersfeddin Ali, it appears that Almalig is situate
between the town of Taschkent and the river Irtiah, in the country of
the Gete, and on the banks of the river Ab-eile, which discharges
itself into the Sihon, or Sirr-Daria. - Forst.

[8] Came-xu is in all probability the name of Khame or Khami with the
addition of xu, instead of Tcheou or Tsheu, which, in the Chinese
language, signifies a town of the second rank. - Forst.

[9] Obviously the Kara-Moran, called Hoang-ho by the Chinese, or the Yellow
River. - Forst.

[10] Cassai, or Kaway, seems to be the place called Kissen, on a lake of
that name, near the northernmost winding branch of the Kara-moran, in
Lat. 41º.50'. N. long. 107°. 40'. E. - Forst.

[11] It is curious to notice, in the writings, of this intelligent
commercial geographer, and in the travels of Marco Polo, the peculiar
advantages in commerce enjoyed by the Chinese at so early a period, of
being paid in sliver for their commodities and manufactures. This
practice, which prevailed so early as 1260, the era of the elder
Polos, and even, in 851, when the Mahometan travellers visited
Southern China, still continues in 1810. - E.

[12] The value of the silver _somno_ is nowhere mentioned; but it is of no
importance, as it would not enable us to institute any comparison of
values whatsoever. - E.

[13] Gamalecco is undoubtedly Cambalu, Cambalig, or Khan-balig, otherwise
Pekin; exactly as Gattay is substituted for Katay Kathay, or Cathay.
- Forst.


_Voyages of Nicolo and Antonio Zeno in 1380_.[1]


Although we have admitted this article into our collection, on the
authority of Ramusio and J. R. Forster, we are disposed to consider the
whole as a fabrication, altogether unworthy of any credit. The first
section, indeed, may possibly have had some foundation in truth, as the
Zenos may have navigated about the close of the fourteenth century to the
Orkneys, and some imperfect and disfigured narrative of their voyage may
have fallen into the hands of Marcolini, the author or editor of these
strangely distorted and exaggerated or pretended voyages. In regard to the
second section, unless we could suppose, that, by Estoitland and Drogio,
some strangely distorted account of different districts in Ireland were
meant to be enigmatically conveyed, the whole of that section must be
pronounced a palpable and blundering forgery. But it appears obviously
intended by the relater, to impress upon his readers, that some portion of
the western hemisphere, afterwards named America, had been visited by
Antonio Zeno; and the high probability is, that Marcolini, a patriotic
Venetian, had invented the whole story, on purpose to rob the rival
republic of Genoa of the honour of haying given birth to the real
discoverer of the New World. If there be any truth whatever in the voyages
of the Zenos, it is only to be found in the first section of this chapter;
and even there the possible truth is so strangely enveloped in
unintelligible names of persons and places, as to be entirely useless. The
_second_ section is utterly unworthy of the slightest serious
consideration; and must either have been a posterior fabrication, engrafted
upon an authentic, but ignorantly told narrative; or the seeming
possibility of the _first_ section was invented to give currency to the
wild forgery of the _second_. Latin books, a library, gold, ships, and
foreign trade, corn, beer, numerous towns and castles, all in the most
northern parts of America in the _fourteenth_ century, where only nomadic
savages had ever existed, are all irrefragable evidence, that the whole, or
at least that portion of the voyages of the Zenos, is an idle romance. To
increase the absurdity, as if to try the gullability of the readers,
_Dedalus_, a king of Scotland! is assumed to have been the first discoverer
of the Western World; and his son _Icarus_ is introduced to give his name
to a civilized island, already named Estoitland in the narrative.

After this decided opinion of the falsehood and absurdity of the whole of
this present chapter, it may be necessary to state, that, in a work so

Online LibraryRobert KerrA General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 01 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a → online text (page 44 of 52)