Famous Journalers in History: Marco Polo

First in a series about famous journalers through history . . .  and speculations on the PPP journal they'd select today.

Some seven hundred-plus years ago, a young nobleman from Venice accompanied his father and uncle on a business trip to China. Though still a teenager, Marco Polo fit right in at the fabled court of Kublai Khan and stayed for 17 years, serving as advisor and assessor. Marco traveled thousands of miles for the Emperor, keeping extensive notes and writing reports on what he found.

After his return to Italy, he was taken captive by the Genoese during a battle in 1298. Marco made use of his captivity to pen his memoirs, collaborating with a fellow prisoner, Rustichello of Pisa, a writer of romances. The result: The Description of the World or The Travels of Marco Polo, a sensational narrative packed with accounts of exotic peoples, beasts, and landscapes; court intrigues; and advanced civilizations with unheard-of customs, such as the use of paper currency, silk garments, and a heating agent comprised of black rocks (coal).

Many disputed Marco's fabulous tales, dubbing the work Il Milione, The Million Lies. It became a medieval bestseller nonetheless, and has gained credibility with scholars over the centuries (for example, Marco measured distances by days' journey, a practice confirmed as being quite accurate).

Said Marco, "No other man . . . has explored so much of the world as Messer Marco, son of Messer Niccolo Polo, great and noble citizen of the city of Venice." What Peter Pauper Press journal might Marco have taken on his travels? We believe that despite his fondness for new places, Marco Polo may have favored our Venezia Journal to remind him of home.









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