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Gold edition

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

Characteristics

Current owner:

The British Library, London. Add. Ms, 24189

Language:

Latin S. XV, 1400 circa. Bohemia

Illustrations:

28 miniatures full-page. Masterpiece of the International Gothic illuminated by the same master that illuminated the Usuard Martyrology of Girona. According to Samuel Woodburn’s (1785-1853) note in the Add. Ms. 24189, the manuscript was acquired to ‘M. Pesch’, who had reportedly acquired it in Rome from a monk who said he had obtained it from the Vatican Library where it should have arrived from Spain soon after Granada’s Conquest, probably as a present of Isabella the Catholic to Pope Alexander VI, Borgia.

Extent:

40 pages of parchment dyed in green

Format:

225x180mm

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THE MEDIEVAL BEST-SELLER THAT INFLUENCED COLUMBUS

Sir John Mandeville appears as the author of one of the most spread travel books during the middle Ages, if not the most spread. Only Marco Polo’s travels equal it nowadays. Sir John Mandeville, man or better said name of the XIV century was a pious and uninhibited traveler, who related fantastic wonders like for example that in the pacific island of Donum (Andamán) there are people with big ears until the knees and other hermaphrodites; he also exposes the spherical state of the Earth. Marco Polo referred to no less wonders. The Far East countries were favorable to have some rarities, according to the European mentality of the period. If you look for an example of fabulous and imaginative work, you will find the travels. About the author there is little to know but for what he said. He was English, from Saint-Alban, in 1322 he had to escape to Egypt after he killed a man in duel. The remorse drove him to the Holy Land, the first part of his book is a description of his journey to the real life scenarios of Jesus. As he was on his way to Orient he decided to continue to the East. He became a mercenary at the sultan’s service, at that moment fighting against the Bedouins. From Egypt he went to Palestine, following the Silk Road and he visited India, the inside of Asia and China. He served for fifteen years in Gran Kan’s army. The adventure lasted 34 years. When he came back to Europe he visited Liège, where he delivers the manuscript of his travels to the doctor John of Burgundy, who published it.
The notebook of the English knight was in French, and before the historians of critic tendency questioned him, John of Burgundy himself confessed in his deathbed that he was the author. The English knight went from traveler of lively imagination to inexistent personality in a short time, although his name continued to be spread all over Europe.

 

THE DUKE OF BERRY AND ISABELLA I OF SPAIN HAD A COPY

The Duke of Berry had an extensive book of travels of 594 pages bound in an only volume kept in the BnF, Ms. Fr. 2810 that includes Mandeville’s work and Marco Polo’s among other books of travel.
By the same token, Isabella I of Castile had a copy, as Cristopher Columbus had one too which he carried with him on his travel to the New World. He referred to Mandeville and his reflections about the spherical Earth and the possibility of its circumnavigation to gain the economic support of Queen Isabella. According to Samuel Woodburn’s (1785-1853) note in the Add. Ms. 24189, the manuscript was acquired to ‘M. Pesch’, who had reportedly acquired it in Rome from a monk who said he had obtained it from the Vatican Library where it should have arrived from Spain soon after Granada’s Conquest, probably as a present of Isabella the Catholic to Pope Alexander VI, Borgia, acknowledging them the title of Catholic Monarchs through the Papal bull Inter Caetera in 1493.
This work arrives to Spain through the Aragon Crown in the XIV century. Its influence can be perceived in Joanot Martorell’s Tirant lo Blanc (quoted in the Quixot by Cervantes as one of the best books in the world in his own words) to whom he dedicates a chapter to the knight Mandeville.

 

EXCLUSIVE PARCHMENT DYED IN GREEN ILLUMINATED BY THE MASTER OF THE USUARD MARTYROLOGY

Our manuscript is superbly illuminated with 28 miniatures full-paged, it is absolutely unique for being the only codex in the world over parchment dyed in green. The manuscripts over purple or black background were extremely rare in the history of book illumination, there are only ten copies kept of these kind of books. The Add. Ms. 24189 pf the British Library is even more remarkable and absolutely exclusive for being the only one in the world over a parchment dyed in green. The dyed manuscripts required a longer process of elaboration and were considerably more expensive than the conventional ones. The parchment had to be sunk in a solution to obtain the desired color and for the illumination they needed gold and lapis lazuli in great quantities. They were always destined to the most distinguished clients that wished to have books of exclusive appearance, different from the common, and they were enjoyed with a characteristic feature of a social class that considered itself an aesthetic elite. The Burgundy Dukes showed predilection for this kind of manuscripts. It can also be remarked in this codex its marvelous electric blues in which authentic lapis lazuli was used, a great use of the gold leaf and which deserved to be known as Book of the Marvels of the World and that influenced Columbus and Tirant lo Blanc among others. It was reproduced in more than 250 copies in ten languages and was spread all over Occident that the Earth was spherical.
The current codex was thought more as an art work than as a book, since it lacks the text, only describing some of the main characters. It has a special meaning in the illumination of the International Gothic style due to its exact observation of the nature and architecture, as well as for the reproduction of the fashion of the period.

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