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0618 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 618 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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602   196. ÇANGHIBAR

that [star] — amongst other [things] — by Marco the Venetian, the most extensive traveller and diligent explorer that has ever been known, that he saw the same star under the Antarctic Pole : and it is big, with a tail (et est magna habens caudam, according to both mss.; in printed editions et est magnam habens caudam), and he drew a figure of it thus. He also reported that he saw [there] the Antarctic Pole at an altitude above the earth apparently equal to a soldier's long lance, while the Arctic Pole was hidden [below the horizon]. It is from there also, he says (nuntiat, mss.), that they export to us camphor, lign-aloes, and brazil (I agree here with YULE, not with B, cxrv, n. 1). He testifies that the heat there is intense, and the habitations few. He saw all that on a certain island where he arrived by sea. He also says that men and rams are very big there (cf. B, ccxui, n. 2) and have (i. e. the rams) very coarse and stiff wool like the bristles of our pigs, and that there is no means of access to such places except by sea. »

In another section, Pietro d'Abano says (B, ccxiit) : « ... I have heard from Marco the Venetian, who had crossed the equator, that he found there bigger men than here, and this occurs because in such places there is no cold that condenses bodies and therefore reduces them (in size). »

According to YULE, the place to be reached only by sea where Polo saw the « star » «is of course Sumatra ». While admitting of such a possibility, BENEDETTO objects that the only passage in which Polo speaks of men of gigantic stature is in the chapter on « Çanghibar » (Vol. I, 432). This is true, but since Polo never visited the African Coast, the only alternative to Sumatra would be Java, in case Polo visited it in the course of his earlier mission to the southern seas.

YULE'S figure of Polo's drawing seems to be an inversion to the right of the figure with the curve at the left which is printed in the 1548 edition of Pietro d'Abano and is reproduced by BENEDETTO (B, ccxiri). Our figure, reproducing the 14th century ms. Pal. Lat. 1171, foi. 123 c, is much less elaborate, but shows the curve at the top, which I believe is the original arrangement.

Albumazar, quoted by Pietro d'Abano, is Abu Ma's"ar Jefar Ibn Muhammad, of Balkh,

astronomer and astrologer, who died a centenarian on A. D. March 8, 846 (cf. BROCKELMANN, Gesch. der arab. Litteratur, I, 221-222). The Dialogues with Sadan are his answers to the questions of Said Salon (BROCKELMANN, ibid., Supplement, I, 395). The latter work has never been published, but there is a manuscript of it at Cambridge (Gg, 3, 19, dated 7 or 17 Jumada II, A. H. 767 = 19 February or 1 March 1366; the passage occurs fol. 9 r°, Il. 12-14), and a Latin translation in the Bodleian, Oxford (Laud. Misc. 594 [fol. 138 a]). MOULE furnished me with the text of the Latin version, and, at his request, Prof. R. A. NICHOLSON was good enough to look up the original Arabic passage, the following translation of which I owe to my colleague L. MASSIGNON : «Abu Masar said : In the country of the Zânj (or nil?), people see rising a great star, looking like a sack, which is only visible in the region of the sky where it rises. I have seen

somebody who had observed it, and he reported that it emitted a faint light, like a piece of a

cloud in which there is a faint light, and also that it was always (?   ; read f1.3 = W1.)) southern
(since) the arc (qaws) of its trajectory was small. » The last part of the sentence, after « southern » (australis), is omitted in the old Latin version.

YULE suggested that the «star» was the great Magellanic cloud, and he was certainly right.