Caragoca: Por Angelo Tauano, 1601.  leaves. 12mo. Original limp vellum, contemporary ink title on spine. Contemporary ink signature on titlepage, mild tanning. An internally clean and bright copy. In a half morocco and cloth box. Item #WRCAM39243
A rare early 17th-century Spanish edition of Marco Polo's description of his journey across Asia in the late 13th century, one of the most significant and resonant travel accounts in the history of human endeavor, and a key text in the perception in Europe of the East during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This edition, printed in Zaragoza in 1601, is the first edition of the Spanish translation by humanist Martin Abarca de Bolea y Castro of Marco Polo's travel narrative, which replaced the antiquated Spanish version first printed by Cromberger in Seville, 1503. Bolea y Castro, the son of the vice-chancellor of Spain under Charles V and Phillip II, was a scion of one of Aragon's leading families. A lover of literature and humanist ideology, with a predilection for numismatics, Bolea y Castro spent some time serving in Spain's military, although the exact length of his service is not known. Interestingly, this rare translation is his only prose work. Born into a prominent Venetian trading family, Marco Polo (1254- 1324) departed with his father and uncle toward the East in 1271, travelling through Syria, Jerusalem, Turkey, Persia, and India, to China and the court of Kublai Khan. Marco Polo became a favorite of the Khan and travelled throughout China over the next fifteen years as an emissary of the Mongol emperor. Polo returned to Venice in 1295, only to be briefly imprisoned in Genoa as a prisoner of war a few years later. During this imprisonment, in 1298, he dictated his adventures to Rusticiano (also called Rustichello) of Pisa, and the text became known as IL MILIONE. (The exact meaning of this term in Polo's time is still unclear, although it may refer to the popular belief regarding the traveller's great riches.) The original work was written in Franco-Italic, and was quickly translated into Latin and other languages by court clerks. Over one hundred extant manuscript versions, translations, and adaptations are recorded. First printed in a German language edition in Nuremberg in 1477, a Latin translation followed circa 1485 (Christopher Columbus possessed a copy of this Latin edition). The immense popularity of Polo's account is reflected in the numerous editions which followed printed in German, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, and Dutch. Polo's account includes vivid descriptions of cities, waterways, architectural monuments, industries, natural resources, plants, and animals as well as reports on customs and traditions. In addition to Cathay and Mangi (the Mongol name for South China), Polo also writes of the native societies he visited in Tibet and southwestern China. Donald F. Lach, in his magisterial study, ASIA IN THE MAKING OF EUROPE, writes that "other Europeans lived and worked in China during the thirteenth century, but Marco Polo was the only one, so far as is known, to travel and work there and to write an account of his experiences. For the first time in history Europe possessed a detailed narrative about China and its neighbors based upon more than hearsay and speculation...Marco Polo provided Europe with the most comprehensive and authoritative account of the East produced before 1550." A fascinating 17th-century Spanish edition of Marco Polo's travels, one of the most celebrated travel accounts of all time. OCLC records a single copy in Germany at the Bayerische Staatsbilbliothek. PALAU 151209. OCLC 81177641. Lach, ASIA IN THE MAKING OF EUROPE I, pp.34-38. HOWGEGO P124-P126 (Polo). PRINTING AND THE MIND OF MAN 39 (Venice 1496 ed. of Polo).