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Unformatted text preview: Mandeville on Prester John This text, attribuuted to "Sir John Mandeville" was written circa 1366, and presents a series of picturesque fables about the east. These stories fascinated Western Europeans, as did the more reliable [slightly!] stories of Marco Polo. One way of understanding Western interest in the rest of the world is to see the process by which interest became research, research became knowledge, and knowledge became power. By the time Europe was able to expand in the 16th century and later, it was far better equipped to understand, and if necessary undermine, other cultures than other cultures were to understand Europe. Chapter XXX Of the Royal Estate of Prester John. And of a rich man that made a marvellous castle and cleped it Paradise and of his subtlety. This emperor, Prester John, holds full great land, and hath many full noble cities and good towns in his realm and many great diverse isles and large. For all the country of Ind is devised in isles for the great floods that come from Paradise, that depart all the land in many parts. And also in the sea he hath full many isles. And the best city in the Isle of Pentexoire is Nyse, that is a full royal city and a noble, and full rich. This Prester John hath under him many kings and many isles and many diverse folk of diverse conditions. And this land is full good and rich, but not so rich as is the land of the great Chan. For the merchants come not thither so commonly for to buy merchandises, as they do in the land of the great Chan, for it is too far to travel to. And on that other part, in the Isle of Cathay, men find all manner thing that is need to man--cloths of gold, of silk, of spicery and all manner avoirdupois. And therefore, albeit that men have greater cheap in the Isle of Prester John, natheles, men dread the long way and the great perils m the sea in those parts. For in many places of the sea be great rocks of stones of the adamant, that of his proper nature draweth iron to him. And therefore there pass no ships that have either bonds or nails of iron within them. And if there do, anon the rocks of the adamants draw them to them, that never they may go thence. I myself have seen afar in that sea, as though it had been a great isle full of trees and buscaylle, full of thorns and briars, great plenty. And the shipmen told us, that all that was of ships that were drawn thither by the adamants, for the iron that was in them. And of the rotten-ness, and other thing that was within the ships, grew such buscaylle, and thorns and briars and green grass, and such manner of thing; and of the masts and the sail-yards; it seemed a great wood or a grove. And such rocks be in many places thereabout. And therefore dare not the merchants pass there, but if they know well the passages, or else that they have good lodes men. And also they dread the long way. And therefore they go to Cathay, for it is more nigh....
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This note was uploaded on 10/28/2008 for the course CULTURAL S 300 taught by Professor Mcquinn during the Spring '08 term at Pratt.
- Spring '08