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0456 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 456 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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The John alone has been derived from the Chinese title Wang, or has been connected with the old legends of the immortality of John the Evangelist. Prester John has been interpreted as a corruption of Firishtajécn, Paraster Khan, Presbyter Cohen, and what not, down to the Pedro Juan, and Preto Joam, or Black John, which the Portuguese applied to the king of Abyssinia, and the Pretiosus Joannes, with which one of the Popes actually addressed that potentate.

The history of the transfer of the name to the King of Abyssinia, as the phantom conqueror of Central Asia faded into thin air, would too much lengthen this digression. It is sufficient to remark that though this transfer is usually referred, as by Ludolf, to the fifteenth century, when the Portuguese began to get acquainted with the quasi-Christian kingdom of Abyssinia, there is proof in this collection that the name was applied to the African monarch already in the first half of the fourteenth century.'

1 See Marignolli in this collection. Friar Jordanus had already, according to my understanding of him, placed Prester John in Africa. • In the middle of the next century Fra Mauro expressly identifies him with the King of Abyssinia. In connection with this subject I may notice that a critic in the Spectator (April 2nd, 1864, p. 397) blames me for referring in a note on this passage of Jordanus to the remarks of D'Avezac on Prester John "as if they supported my views," whilst, he says, on turning to those remarks he found they did just the contrary.

The implied censure has no ground. I did not refer to D'Avezac's Essay as supporting any views, but as containing a comprehensive "dissertation on Prester John and the confusions which transferred a Christian prince of Central Asia to Central Africa," and this it certainly does contain. Incidentally D'Avezac indicates the view that the India Tertia of Jordanus is somewhere in Asia or in the far East, and not in Africa as I assumed. But this affects nothing in the reference to him. That the India Tertia and Ethiopia of Jordanus were both in Africa as a matter of fact is plain, whatever the friar's own notions as to their whereabouts might be. India Tertia is the country of rhinoceroses, civet-cats, horned adders, true negroes, ambergris, and zebras ; that is to say it is in Africa. Between India Tertia and India Major (i.e., India proper) also lay the Male and Female Islands, which we know from Polo were believed to lie between Persia and Africa, and from Conti to adjoin Socotra. The Ethiopia again of Jordanus is no Asiatic region, but simply Abyssinia. It adjoins India Tertia; its emperor rules over more than fifty kings, according to the old fable regarding the king of Abyssinia (see Ludolf, bk. ii, c. 18, § 1, and Suppt., p. 15) ; its people are all Christians but heretics ; and its king, according to another old legend, received a large tribute