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0212 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 212 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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808   317. PORCELAIN

too with his piadene di porcellane, in spite of the fact that a true description of the fabrication with clay followed; and the case is evident when, in the corresponding passage, VA gives porzellane de mar. The same confusion can be traced in the chapter on « Lochac », where Polian secondary Mss. have inextricably mixed up brazil-wood, cowries, purslane and china-ware (cf. Vol. i, 369). In the passage on the cowry currency of Yün-nan (porcellane bianche), TAI adds «e the se ne fanno le scodelle», «and of which they make vessels» (cf. Vol. I, 277; BALDELLI-BONI, Il Milione, I, 111). Circa A. D. 1518, Barbosa too says of porcelain: « This they (i. e. the Chinese) make from the shells of fish ground fine, from eggshells and the white of eggs and other materials » (DAMES, Barbosa, ii, 213-214). SCALIGER'S statements (Exotericarum Exercitationum Liber quintus decimus de Subtilitate, Exercitatio xcii, published in 1557) are similar to BARBOSA's and clearly dependent on them. Damiâo DE Gois (Damianus A GoEs), in his Aliquot opuscula (Louvain, 1544, fol. 6; cf. HEYD, II, 678) speaks in the same manner of scutellae mira arte ex calce concharum fictae, quas porcellanas vocant. Without being positive on the point, my impression is that both HEYD'S hypotheses ought to be combined : because of its glazy surface, Chinese porcelain reminded men of the brilliancy of the cowry shells, and from the outset this led to the belief that it was made of these shells; for this reason, the name « porcelain » of the shells was also adopted for china-ware.

In Z, and in RAMUSio, the « earth » (= kaolin) is said to be left « thirty or forty years » on the ground before being used for the manufacture of china-ware. This unfounded belief long held its own. In BARBOSA, this became « eighty and a hundred years » (at least in RAMUSIO and the Spanish version; cf. DAMES, Barbosa, II, 214), hence the «hundred years» in SCALIGER. DAMES adds that the same statement occurs in LINSCHOTEN ; it does not belong, however, to LINSCHOTEN himself, but is part of a note due to his contemporary Bernard TEN BROECKE (in Latin PALUDANUS), who merely copies SCALIGER (cf. KERN, Linschoten, I, 89); MENDOÇA mentions and refutes BARBOSA (STAUNTON transi., Hakluyt Society, i, 33).

Of greater interest is an unpublished notice on Chinese porcelain which occurs in a work dated 1402, the Libellus de notitia orbis (on which see « Cin », supra, t. I, p. 276, 278) ; I have to thank the Dominicans in Rome, who kindly copied the passage for me. The text speaks of the « very famous cities... Chin and Machin », and goes on as follows : Ibidem faciunt vasa de luto et de tali terra quod est contra venenum, et oportet quod lutum stet per quadraginta annos antequam fiant vasa et quod semper moveatur et maturescat. Patres incipiunt et filii perficiunt et faciunt diversa vasa. In illy lingua persica dicu[n]tur Chim, nostri in latino vocant porcellanum quia habent colorem illius herbe. Nobiles comedunt et bibunt ex illis vasis. Dicitur esse contra venenum et quitquid est infra, venenum vel aliud potabile, trahit ad se omnes immunditias, etc. veneni et clarificat omnino. Et si frangitur reintegratur per lac caprinum infra ebullitum, « They also make there vessels of clay and of such earth which is efficacious against poison, and it is necessary that the clay lie forty years before the vessels are made, and that it should always be moved and should mature. Fathers begin and sons finish, and they make various vessels. In the Persian tongue [these] are called Chim (i. e. Chi, lit. « China »; see « Cin »); our people call them in Latin « porcelain » (porcellanum, i. e. purslane) because they are of the colour of that herb. Noblemen eat and drink from these vessels. [Porcelain] is said to be efficacious against poison, and whatever there may be inside (I have corrected infra into intra), poison or anything drinkable, it absorbs all the impurities, etc. of the poison and