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0160 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 160 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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144   109. CAMLET

the word came into being in the East among the crusaders, it was quite natural that the French «chameau» should give « chamelot », and that the latter palatalized form should be adopted in Ital. giambellotti, zambelloti, etc.

Moreover, hamlah, not very satisfactory from a phonetic point of view, is semantically possible, but no more. Hamlah means «a carpet with long nap », or « fringed »; from the same root comes mihmal, maimal, « velvet » (cf. JA, 1920, II, 185; TP, 1933, 429). Whatever the material used for « camiet » may have been, the technique of its weaving was and is quite different from that of a carpet or of a velvet.

As soon as hamlah is rejected, the only remaining requisite to enable us to derive «camlet» from « camel » is that it should have been made of camel's hair. Now it is quite true that mohair was much used in Western Asia to make camlets, but no positive evidence of this has been adduced for a date prior to the 15th cent. Polo's text, which describes camlets made at Ninghsia with camel's hair, is almost two centuries earlier. Chou Ch'ü-fei, writing in 1178, in a passage which Chao Ju-kua reproduced in 1225, speaks of « camel-hair satin of all colours » (JL

wu-se t'o-mao tuan; 4 tuan =   tuan) which was made at    Chi-tz'û-ni,
probably Ghazni (HR, 138). Both authors also speak of « hair satin » (mao tuan) as made in Ram (— Asia Minor; HR, 138), and this may or may not be a textile made of mohair. Chao Ju-kua alone mentions a third time « hair satin » as a product of Maghreb; HIRTH and ROCKHILL have translated « wool (or camel's hair) » (HR, 154). Even granting that the last two examples are ambiguous, the first one leaves no room for doubt, and I believe that Chou Ch'ü-fei's « camelhair satin » is « camlet ». C. 1340, Pegolotti often speaks of « ciambellotti » and three times he mentions «lana da ciambellotti » or « lana da fare ciambellotti ». EVANS (Pegolotti, 416, 421) has explained «lana da ciambeiiotti» as « mohair », because Pegolotti's words indicate «a woolly substance ». He may be right, but camel's hair could also be termed «lana ». Pegolotti's contemporary Marignolli says of camel's hair in general (not of camel's hair in China as might be deduced from HEYD, loc. cit., II, 704) that it is « the finest wool (lana) in the world after silk» (Wy, 540; Y', III, 241). But even if Pegolotti's «lana da ciambellotti» was mohair, the fact remains that the oldest text which speaks definitely of the material of which « camlet » is made says it is camel's hair. This evidence, I think, enables us to conclude that « camlet » is derived from «camel ».

I leave out the question of « cameiin », which LITTRt treats as the same word as « camelot »; BLOCH'S Dict. étymologique (1932) still says, s. v. «camelot », that the latter word was also used in the forms « chamelin », « camelin ». Early English texts mention the « cameline », which MURRAY derives from « camel ». BRÂTIANU (Rech. sur le commerce génois [1929], 110) speaks of the «cameiin» as having been made in the East. But YULE had already said, in his note on Polo's « camlets », that «camelin was a different and inferior material ». HEYD (II, 704) insisted that the «cameiin» was probably a European fabric (but there is some contradiction in the latter part of his note 8). In the Codex Cumanicus (KuuN, 108), « gamelinus » only occurs as the name of a colour, while « boxac » and « boxag » are given as its Persian and Turkish equivalents, respectively; although the final of the Oriental word (*bozaq) remains unexplained, the editor and RADLOV were probably right in seeing in *bozaq the Turk. boz, «grey ».