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The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  963 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Ostensibly written by an English knight, the Travels purport to relate his experiences in the Holy Land, Egypt, India and China. Mandeville claims to have served in the Great Khan's army, and to have travelled in 'the lands beyond' - countries populated by dog-headed men, cannibals, Amazons and Pygmies. Although Marco Polo's slightly earlier narrative ultimately proved mor ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 31st 2005 by Penguin Classics (first published 1357)
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Tytti It was written over 650 years ago. What do you think?

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(I read this book as part of a reading project I have undertaken with some other nerdy friends in which we read The Novel: A Biography and some of the other texts referenced by Schmidt.)

I love a good travel memoir, the older the better. Did you know in the fourteenth-century, there were people in the world who had dog heads? It's true, Mandeville told me so!

Of course, no one really knew who Mandeville really was, or if he was even one person (think Banksy), or if he/they even went to any of the
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
There be many other divers countries and many other marvels beyond, that I have not seen. Wherefore, of them I cannot speak properly to tell you the manner of them. And also in the countries where I have been, be many more diversities of many wonderful things than I make mention of; for it were too long thing to devise you the manner.

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville is a medieval travel guide to places that do not exist. True, he starts off in Europe in the mid-14th century, but he ends with s
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Michael Schmidt opens The Novel: A Biography making a case for this as a protonovel. The first person narrator, he points out, has a real and consistent personality; the various sources, from Herodotus to Prester John, are woven together seamlessly; there is a plot arc and our protagonist returns different than when he left. (Among other things, now he has gout.)

That's all true enough, and I'll accept it as an early novel, but it's not a very good one. Writing at about the same time (the late 13
The Travels of sir John Mandeville represent a mediaeval travelogue par excellence! Together with the Travels of Marco Polo and some other contemporary accounts (Vincent de Beauvais' and Odoric di Pordenone's), the Travels constituted the (then) knowledge of the world. Two characteristics stand out: the christianity (with its good and bad sides and Mandeville's subtle criticism of the Catholic Church) and the modern aspect, namely that the Earth is, in fact, round and not flat. The author himsel ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-novel-2015
This book is two things.

1) A description of the many different routes to Jerusalem, and a detailed account of every tree and rock that was mentioned in the Bible. These parts of the book are pious, lengthy, and, admittedly, a bit boring.

2) A nice summary of fantastical peoples and places, pretty much all gathered from other sources, but thoroughly entertaining nevertheless. Giants? Yup. Dog-headed people? Yup. Rivers that run with rocks instead of water? Yup. It's all here. The amazing stuff is
Lise Petrauskas
It took me quite awhile to read this odd book and I had to force myself to finish it. If I hadn't been reading it in tandem with The Novel: A Biography I suspect I'd have wandered away from it and not come back. When I'd finished it, I read the introduction, though, which helped me put the book in context of the time it was written. I came to feel that the author was skilled and even subversive, using the pastiche of the travels to reflect on the nature of his own society in a surprisingly nuanc ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of the strangest books I've ever read. It's a travelogue of a journey that almost certainly never happened - in which the geography is all wrong, the characters are improbable, and all manner of fantastic beasts come out to play. Almost nothing in it is true, but as a document it really gives an insight into how Western Europe in the Middle Ages saw the world beyond their borders. And even in this category, it's not valuable just as the idle speculation of one strange man - au contra ...more
Jan 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Sir John travels the known world of the 1300s for 34 years and this is his travelogue. No one today knows who Sir John was or whether he was a real person or a group but, hey, he travelled for 34 years! Who did that way back then and lived to write the tale? Sir John, that's who.
The first part of the book is the most tedious part. All roads lead to Jerusalem....and there were lots & lots of roads. Sir John lists them all.
There are gems tucked in between the descriptions of the roads, so not
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I cannot hide my bias about this book; it is my absolute favourite. One of the major differences between ourselves and the Medieval World was the notion of the East and the concept of otherness. The World Sir John Mandeville chronicled was the World we see on antique maps, there is scant regard for topographical accuracy but a wonderful mixture of beasts and monsters. There is controversy as to whether this 'Knight' ever ventured anywhere, some even believe that the name itself is made up. All t ...more
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
And if some men perhaps will not believe me about what I have said, and say it is all a fable … I do not really care. But let the man who will, believe it; and leave him alone who will not. … And so I am not going to stop myself telling you things that I know are true because of those who are ignorant of them or will not believe them.

So here’s a book that’s a lot of fun to read in this century. I used to quickly explain it to concerned family members as “Some guy who said he traveled the world
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There and back again

There are no marvels left in this modern world. Everything has already been seen, tried, tasted. In former times, when a journey to the Holy Land did not take relaxed five hours in the economy class, but arduous weeks of going on shank's pony, the world was still full of miracles and astonishing things. Sir John Mandeville describes his 34-year journey around the globe in this wild, but amazingly free world of the 14th century.

Of course the language of such an old text is arc
Alexis Hall
This fucking fascinates me.

It is about 40% of a reasonably accurate look at what you imagine things were like, culturally and geographically, in 14th century Europe, 30% tedious verbosity about how precisely to get to Jerusalem, and 30% batshit crazy.

Like the blue people with the big feet.


Let me say that again.

The blue people with the big feet.

Which he genuinely honestly 100% definitely encountered.

There's section fairly early on when Mandeville hangs out with the Hashashin (who I also under
Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: classic-fiction
I think my reading of this book was greatly enhanced by the chapter on it in The Novel: A Biography. Otherwise, the first half would have been too much of a slog. I don't care about every holy rock in Jerusalem, what can I say. But I ended up really coming to love the tone of the narrator. I had fun imagining what it would be like to read this book if you had never been to any of these places, never seen many or any maps, and willing to suspend disbelief about all of his spectacular claims, lamb ...more
Mary Anne
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel is not for the faint of heart, for it take perseverance and dedication to understanding the origins of the novel and thereby understand history a bit better.
Mandeville is very sly, for under his veneer of pious christianity, lies an intellect bristling with indignation at the arrogance of Brits and Europeans, who think that anyone who is different is inferior and not deserving of dignity and respect.
Mandeville soothes the bigot into thinking he is on the readers' side by describing a
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I have to be honest and say that I had never heard of this work, at least so far as I can recall, until I found a used copy of it in the bookshelves of my local Goodwill. But I'm very happy that I found it! The text is fascinating in its own right as it presents us with the perspective of an Englishman of the 14th century looking at, examining, and perhaps actually exploring the wider world around him, including a great diversity of cultures and geographic locations. This makes it interesting as ...more
So, clearly "John Mandeville" did not go everywhere he claims, since he saw wooly chickens and people with no heads and so on and so forth.

Parts of this book were entertaining, especially the chapters on Cathay and those on what is now south/southeast Asia in general. But this is very frustrating to read, and not just because of the old fashioned language. Chapters and chapters devoted to every tiny biblical location detail. Total lack of directional sense, or a map (though clearly it would be
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-books, classics
A marvelous book of gigantic application. I've never heard of world history like this before. It is a classic account of what everyman should know about our civilized world.
Nov 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The question of whether Mandeville really did travel to these places or whether he even existed, is, from a literary perspective, inconsequential. As C.W.R.D. Moseley put it in his wonderful introduction to the Penguin edition, if Mandeville didn't actually do any traveling, that only increases his literary value. But really, The Travels needs little aid when it comes to value. As a piece of literature, it is easily the best travel book to come out of the Middle Ages, saving perhaps the history ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
...[I]t behooves a man who wants to see marvels sometimes to go out of his way.

Sir John Mandeville makes a good point here, even if, as some scholars believe, he himself never traveled further than the nearest library. Nor does it matter than a man named John Mandeville never existed. Whoever wrote behind the pseudonym knew a great deal about the Holy Land and how to get there, and he had studied if not traveled into the lands of India and China. The book he wrote was an enormous seller in the 1
I finally finished this one yesterday. For a short book it took me very long, as I had to check google often to fill my curiosity. The truth is that I would never had attempted, and probably not finished it if I did come across it, if I was not participating in a discussion of The Novel: A Biography by Michael E.C. Schmidt.

Most other readers seem to enjoy the last half better - the more fantastic and incredible part of the book - than the first or more grounded in “reality”, even if convoluted
André Carreira
Dec 05, 2015 rated it liked it
As Viagens de Mandeville são uma espécie de equivalente primitivo do GoogleMaps, desde que o teu destino seja Jerusalem; para onde mais quererias ir, de qualquer modo? Ao lê-lo, aprenderás montes de trivialidades inúteis mas curiosas. Uma ode à inutilidade!..

A tradução da Gulbenkian não só está mal-cuidada (frases em que faltam palavras pelo meio, etc.), como está também repleta dos comentários sardónicos de uma tradutora que se julga distânciada dos "velhos paradigmas ultrapassados" e que amiú
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it
I can't say that I enjoyed all of this book - certainly there were times when I wished I could fast forward (and some word skipping *may* have taken place). But, there were also some downright fascinating sections, not too distantly spaced across the whole book. Also, the language of my translation was FUN: 'shall we be at meat?' has officially replaced 'is it time for dinner?' in my household; and bananas shall forever be 'long apples'. I read the free Project Gutenberg edition, but I think thi ...more
The Book of Marvels and Travels is a medieval travelogue (written by some unknown person who probably never left England or France, according to the introduction). While this book is a challenge to read, even in translation, it is very interesting and helps refute some modern misconceptions about medieval Europeans. For example, the author of Marvels and Travels understands the earth is round and states this matter-of-factly, as if this is a well-accepted idea. (The Book of Marvels and Travels p ...more
Sep 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: readforschool
This text has its interesting moments as well as its (many) dull ones. The story chronicles the "travels" of "Mandeville" in the mid 14th century (no one knows who the author is or if he actually traveled anywhere). There are some really interesting ethnographic descriptions and some crazy magical realist moments involving vampires and dwarfs. The dull parts are the incessant biblical references. Perhaps the most interesting part is the tension between Mandeville's competing cosmopolitan and loc ...more
I was reading this on my nook, got to chapter 35, and just couldn't anymore. So I downloaded the kindle version which I had noticed was shorter. Flipped to where I was and read two more pages, and I was done! Done, done, done!! I went back to the nook version to see why it was so much longer and it turns out I had the book with 3 travelogues in it! So it's kind of funny that I almost quit with only two pages left to go. A table of contents would have been nice there.
Maria Maniaci
Sep 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: medieval
Like The Travels of Marco Polo, but without the attitude. People are still debating whether or not there really was a Sir John Mandeville, or whether he was just a personae adopted by the author as a vehicle for his narrative, but I can't buy that he was "real." I suppose it doesn't matter if you look at the text as rod from which to drape the author's religious ideology. Very dense in places, and very didactic.
Oct 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
This is a fantastical journey of a 14th century knight into the Middle East and Asia. It is an interesting read to see how men of that age saw the world and interpreted the things and lands that they did not understand. The first half of the book is centered on his journeys through the Holy Land, and afterwards he describes his adventures in India and East Asia. The language is quite old and sometimes difficult to read, but an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Erika by: medieval history class
Shelves: classics, 2010, nonfiction
What can I say about this book...It is both fascinating and terribly boring at the same time. You want to read it, but when you do you are so bored you'd like to put it down as soon as possible. Then you remember how interesting the little tidbits are and want to pick it up again. The cycle continues until finally the book is finished and you are set free. It's almost like a strange kind of book-lovers torture device.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Sera by: Michael Schmidt (The Novel)
Hmmm, ok, so I finished this book finally. I understand the importance of it to both the form and chronologically of the novel, but otherwise, it wasn't my cuppa, especially since Invisible Cities, which I read within the same time frame rocked the house in my opinion.

Sorry, Sir John.

Persephone Abbott
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
A remarkably easy read, the longings of this 1366 (arm chair) traveler and every traveler before or after to find paradise, believe in the exotic, feel superior, explore sensual quixotic ideas, and of course the book is full of the medieval man's anxieties. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
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"Jehan de Mandeville", translated as "Sir John Mandeville", is the name claimed by the compiler of a singular book of supposed travels, written in Anglo-Norman French, and published between 1357 and 1371.
By aid of translations into many other languages it acquired extraordinary popularity. Despite the extremely unreliable and often fantastical nature of the travels it describes, it was used as a w
“...[I]t behooves a man who wants to see wonders sometimes to go out of his way.” 2 likes
“Of Paradise I cannot speak properly, for I have not been there; and that I regret.” 2 likes
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