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0540 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 540 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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524   183. COTTON

mentions the « montes Caspei » in the present passage only; but, from the Libro del conoscimento (iy, 567), we see that, in the 14th cent., the « Caspian mountains » were located both north and south of Mongolia and included at least the Altai and the mountains east of it. I wish to add, however, that I am far from stating that the true form of the name is « Caoli » or « Cauli ». Moreover, Maundeville, while he is indebted to Odoric for the story of the lambs, locates « Caldilhe » or « Cadilla » on the way from Cathay towards « Upper India » and « Bacharia », and, although he mentions Bokhara under another name, his description of « Bacharia » has some features which could fit Bokhara (see « Bucara »). But if so, his source for this geographical location could not have been Odoric, who does not mention « Bacharia ».

When commenting on Odoric's « melons » and « lambs », neither YULE nor CORDIER has referred to certain similar Talmudic accounts, which have been discussed by L. LEWYSOHN (Zoologie des Talmuds, Frankfurt, 1858, pp. 65, 356-358), H. LEE (The Vegetable Lamb, 6-8) and LAUFER (The Story of the Pinna, 120). The Talmudic story seems to date in the first half of the 13th cent. An animal, called yedua, with the bones of which witchcraft was practised, was said to issue from the earth like the stem of a plant. As far as the stem (or umbilical cord) stretches, it devours all the herbage round it. LAUFER insisted on the fact that the yedua had « human form in face, body, hands and feet ». But these same Talmudic texts had already been adduced c. 1600 in connection with the « borametz » of Tartary, and there the yedua is said to have been in the shape of a lamb (cf. Claude DURET, Histoire admirable des plantes, Paris, 1605, 8vo, 322-341; A. COLIN's translation, Histoire des simples medicamens apportés de l'Amerique, of the work of Nic. MONARDÈS of Seville, 2nd ed., Lyon, 1619, 8vo, 248-262, which is here for the most part a word for word copy from DURET). The close connection of the two stories, in Odoric and in the Talmudic commentary, is unmistakable.

Odoric's story recurs only two centuries later. BRETSCHNEIDER (Br, I, 154) alludes to the accounts of the Agnus scythicus given by « Hieron. Cardanus, and after him J. C. Scaliger (both in the first half of the sixteenth century) », but refrains from any bibliographical reference. Girolamo CARDANO, who lived from 1501 to 1576, speaks of the Agnus scythicus in De Rerum Varietate (L. 6, § 22), published in 1557. Nor was SCALIGER'S work, entitled Exotericarum Exercitationum Liber quintus decimus de Subtilitate (Exercitatio, CLxxxl, § 29), which is always quoted on the subject (cf. Y', II, 241; CORDIER, Odoric de Pordenone, 427-428), published « in the first half of the sixteenth century », but in 1557 (not « 1537 » as in HIRTH, China and the Roman Orient, 262), and this date allows us to ascertain the source of both authors, to wit Sigismund (or Siegmund) VON HERBERSTEIN'S Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii, which was published in Vienna in 1549 (reprinted in 1551 and 1556; cf. the Italian translation in RAMUSIO, II, 175 v0, copied by CORDIER, Odoric de Pordenone, 428; see also R. H. MAJOR'S translation, Notes upon Russia, Hakluyt Soc. 1852, II, 74-75). HERBERSTEIN relates what he had heard from a trustworthy man, Dmitrii Daniilovic (no surname is given), who had accompanied his (Dmitriï's) father on a legation to the Tartar king of « Zavoiha » (i.e. beyond the Volga), between the Volga and the «Iaïch» (Yaïq = Ural River). Dmitriï had seen there a plant in the shape of a rounded melon, in which something was horn, five « palms » high, similar to new-born lamb; in the local language, it was called « boranetz, i. e. lamb ». It had a very soft fur, with which people used to make caps. This « plant » had