The Merchants of Venice
The Voyage Home
Man of a Million Lies?
A Note on Religion
A Note on the Texts
Map of Marco's Journey
A Note on the Texts
The references to the information contained in this history of Marco Polo's book are drawn from translations of what scholars refer to as the F text. No one knows exactly how the writing of the book came about. The only evidence comes from Rustichello's introduction to the book where his encounter with Marco Polo in a Genoese prison is recounted. It is believed that the book was written in either French or Franco-Italian as was common in those days. The Venetian language was not considered expansive enough to write prose and was used in writing purely for practical purposes (ledgers, wills, etc).
The original draft of Marco's book has been lost to history and the versions we have today are drawn upon from some 150 versions in different languages that are thought to have been based upon original manuscripts. These texts are divided by scholars into two groups; the A group and the B group. These groups are further sub-divided into various texts. Due to it's Franco-Italian language, the F text is considered to be one of the most reliable reproductions of the original. The F text is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
The A group of texts are notorious for their widespread variations. Most of these are due to later authors rewriting, or in some cases, adding passages which do not appear in the original. It is therefore dififuclt to be certain which parts can be attributed to either Marco, Rustichello, or later authors / translators. Even so, scholastic study of the texts has given us enough reliable suppositions to eliminate those parts that are clearly not attributable to Marco himself. Further confusion is caused by the fact that some of the later texts are translations of translations in which words become lost or their meanings changed.
The B group of texts contain a larger range of passages which do not appear in the A group texts. Some of the passages provide extra historical and geographical information and clarify some of the more obscure passages of the F text. Because of this, scholars tend to believe that Marco wrote two versions of the book, one for the general public, and another circulated amongst close friends and selected readers.
We can never be certain what form the original manuscript took but the F text generally used for today's translations offers what is accepted as being a fairly close approximation. Either way, it still makes for a very enjoyable read.