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0188 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 188 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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784   289. MOSUL

Mauro also gives « Mosel ». Simon de Saint-Quentin (in Vincent de Beauvais, xxxii, 50) writes

  • Mossoal »; the letter of Odon de Châteauroux speaks of « Moyssac sive Mussula », the first name remaining unexplained (cf. Pel, 152).

Mosul seems to have been known to the Chinese fairly early. HIRTH and ROCKHILL have shown that it is likely to be the country mentioned under the name of Wu-ssû-li (= *Musil) in 1178 by

the Ling-wai tai-ta, in a notice which is reproduced in 1225 by Chao Ju-kua (Chau Ju-kua, 140).

But t(i; Wu-ssû-li of the Ta-shih (Arabs) already occurs circa 860 in Yu-yang tsa-tsu (hsiichi, end of ch. 10) as a country yielding pomegranates, and this is probably already Mosul. In

1349-1350, the Tao-i chih-lio speaks of a country Ma-k'o-ssû-li in which RocKHILL has seen Mosul, on account of the fall of the manna; but the notice is a hopeless and corrupt jumble (cf. TP, 1915, 621-622, and LAUFER, Sino-Iranica, 344-345). On the map of circa 1330 and in the corresponding

list of YS, 63, 16 b, the name of Mosul is written   37 N. Mao-hsi-li (Mao-si-li) = Mawsil, Môsil
(cf. Br, II, 122-123).

Polo places in Mosul the fabrication of the « mosulin », which is plainly the same word as our

  • muslin », and it seems certain that the name of the textile is really derived from that of the city;

but it is surprising that Polo should speak of it as a « cloth of silk and gold »; as a rule muslin is

a very thin and semi-transparent cotton cloth (cf. Y, i, 62; YULE, Hobson-Jobson2, 600). There is perhaps a way, though somewhat dubious, out of that difficulty. In FA, we find two consecutive

mentions of the « cloths of silk and gold », but only the first one occurs in F and R. In BI, 24,

the whole text of FA has been adopted (with an inversion « di seta e d'oro », in the first place in order to follow F once). Perhaps we can imagine that Polo's original text simply said « et tout les dras

que sunt apellés mosulin se font iluec », the « cloths of silk and gold » occurring only a little further

on among the goods sold by the merchants called « Mosolini ». On account of this second mention,

  • of silk and gold » was added after « tout les dras », and that new text is at the basis of FA. But

then, from that new text, another copyist suppressed the repetition of the « cloths of silk and gold », and left only the first mention, where « of silk and gold » was wrong; this would be the stage of F and R.

In a document written at Caffa in 1290, « in mossorinis » is probably another spelling (abl. plural) of muslin (BRÂTIANU, Actes des notaires, 269). The Chinese also knew muslin in the

13th cent. under the name of yktfr mo-ssû (= *mosil); BRETSCHNEIDER had suspected it (Br, I, 89; ii, 122); in TP, 1933, 437-438, I have shown that the same expression survived until the first half of the 15th cent., and, reduced to mu (= mo), gave birth to derived terms for different sorts of muslins.

Apart from « mosolin » as the name of muslin, Polo uses the word as the name of « grandisme mercaanz » who carry abroad all sorts of costly products. YULE says ( Y, I, 62) he has found no

clue for the application of « mosolini » to a class of merchants, but quotes from Le Quien a letter written by Innocent IV in 1244, where the different bodies of Oriental Christians are enumerated as « Jacobitae, Nestoritae, Georgiani, Graeci, Armeni, Maronitae et Mosolini ». As a matter of fact, this last term occurs in a number of texts, for instance in the much longer list of the bull Cum Nora undecima of 1258, repeated in the similar bull of Aug. 13, 1291; the word is written there « Mosseliti » (cf. GOLUBOVICH, Bibl. bio-bibi., i, 235; II, 476). It cannot be doubted that we