National Institute of Informatics - Digital Silk Road Project
Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books

> > > >
Color New!IIIF Color HighRes Gray HighRes PDF   Japanese English
0049 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 49 (Color Image)

New!Citation Information

doi: 10.20676/00000246
Citation Format: Chicago | APA | Harvard | IEEE

OCR Text


219. ERCOLIN   645

countries, and moreover its fur was never appreciated. BALDELLI-BONI (II, 475) supposed that ermines were meant. CHARIGNON (Ch, ni, 279, 280) has translated « ercolins » by « glutton » (Gulo luscus) without any remark ; but this is quite arbitrary. BENEDETTO (B', 404, 405, 406, 453) gives in Italian ercolini without any remark. Ricci-Ross (RR, 420) give in their Index « erculin, an animal in Siberia », with a mere reference to Y, II, 483; but, in a page of Addenda and Corrigenda, they inserted : « ERCULIN — according to Pelliot = squirrel (écureuil). »

It is true that I believe the ercolin to be a squirrel, and such was already the view of the continuators of Du CANGE, who, under « erculinus », quoted Polo's passage, adding the explanation sciurus, « squirrel ». But from the point of view of phonetics, it does not seem possible to connect ercolin with Lat. scuriolus, scorolius, etc., or French escureus, escuriau, etc., the mediaeval forms of « squirrel ».

Du CANGE (Dins. I) quotes a passage of Aelian (Hist. Nat., 6, 40) : « In an island of the Euxine Sea, called Heraklea because it was dedicated to Hercules, there were a great many of these rats (L,ûes) ». From the context in Du CANGE, it would seem that these Pontic rats were ermines, and this would agree with BALDELLI-BONI'S explanation of ercolins; phonetically, the equivalence is unimpeachable.

Yet, I doubt that ermines are meant in Polo's text. First of all, he mentions in the same passages the « ermines » apart from the « ercolins ». It is true, that in the Middle Ages two sorts of «ermines» were distinguished, the « ermine » proper and a cheaper species, the « letice » (in Ital. lattizzo; cf. GAY, Voc. archéol., s. v. « ietice ») ; an ermine fur was also called «rosereau » (cf. infra). Unfortunately, no term corresponding to « ietice » occurs in the Codex Cumanicus, and ermelinus is left there (p. 98) without its Persian or Turkish equivalent; but we are well aware of the usual native names, which have of course nothing in common with ercolins. But the very order of the terms in Polo's three passages, which once is « ermines, ercolins, vairs » and once « ermines, vairs, ercolins », suggests that the «ercolin» must be an animal of the « vair », not of the «ermine » sort.

I have thought of a last solution. The « vair » was a fur in such great use in the Middle Ages that « vairie » had become a general name for the fur trade. This explains that Pegolotti, c. 1340, should bring under the heading vai a number of furs which are not all squirrels. The list is as follows (EvANS ed., 298, and see the Index, 432, s. v. Vaio) : « Nomi di vai : Organni Bolgari lunghi Ischiavi Pasquardini Ischeruoli Ermellini Orzeruoli Tutti questi sono vai. » I leave out « organni » for the moment. « Bolgari » means a vair from Bulyar (see « Bolgara ») ; « lunghi » may either be an epithet, « long », to be joined with « Bolgari », as EVANS took it, or stand for an independant name which I have failed to trace; « ischiavi » means « Sclavonian, Slav »; « pasquardini » means a vair of the land of the Basyird; « ischeruoli » = squirrels, the « black squirrels » of the Codex Cumanicus; « ermellini » = ermines; orzeruoli = « rosereau, roseruel, roix, reiz », an ermine fur (cf. GAY, S. V. « roix »), BuFFON's « roseiet ». All these are included by Pegolotti among the


I have left out the kind of « vair » which Pegolotti calls organni. In a document dated « Caûa, May 5, 1289 », which is summarized in BRÂTIANU, Actes des notaires génois, 330, mention is made of money to be used in varis organinis. On p. 10, BRÂTIANU proposed, with a question mark, to