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0295 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 295 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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bird in that island, are shown to be the notes of a real visitor ; so is his whole account of southern China. His notices of the custom of fishing with cormorants, of the habits of letting the finger-nails grow long, and of compressing the women's feet, as well as of the division of the Khan's empire into twelve provinces, with four chief Vizirs, are peculiar to him, I believe, among all the European travellers of the age. Polo mentions none of them. The names which he assigns to the Chinese post-stations, and to the provincial Boards of Administration ; the technical Turki term which he uses for a sack of rice, &c., &c., are all tokens of the reality of his experience.

No two versions or MSS. that I have compared are exactly alike, and in all there are considerable differences of expression, difficult to account for unless we suppose that the practice in multiplying copies of such works was not to attempt verbal transcription, but merely to read over a clause, and then write down its gist in such language as came uppermost. Yet why should a practice have applied to the transcription of these narratives different from that which applied to the multiplication of the classics ?

But apart from the slighter differences of expression and the accidental omissions which may be supposed thus to arise, the various versions of Odoric's story appear to divide themselves into four distinct types.

The first type is probably that which comes nearest to Odoric's actual dictation, or would do so if we had really good MSS. of it. It is represented by the Latin MS. in St. Mark's library (No. 26 of the list below), and by the copious extracts which are given in the Acta Sanctorum from another MS. transcribed at Avignon the year after Odoric's death, by Henry of Glatz, a Bohemian Franciscan. These copies make no mention of 'William of Solagna, but have t wo postscripts appended. The first, written by Friar Marchesino of Bassano, adds as a supplementary story, from his own recollection of Odoric's conversation, an anecdotes

1 There is a freshness and simple picturesqueness about this little story which suggests the notion that perhaps Odoric was a higher style of man than we see him through the penmanship of William de Solagna ; and that the tone of the latter scribe may have deteriorated the rest of the narrative.