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'Another island in the Great Ocean has many sinful and malevolent women, who have precious gems in their eyes.' In hisBook of Marvels and Travels, Sir John Mandeville describes a journey from Europe to Jerusalem and on into Asia, and the many wonderful and monstrous peoples and practices in the East. He tells us about the Sultan in Cairo, the Great Khan in China, and the mythical Christian prince Prester John. There are giants and pygmies, cannibals and Amazons, headless humans and people with a single foot so huge it can shield them from the sun . Forceful and opinionated, the narrator is by turns bossy, learned, playful, and moralizing, with an endless curiosity about different cultures. Written in the fourteenth century, theBookis a captivating blend of fact and fantasy, an extraordinary travel narrative that offers some revealing and unexpected attitudes towards other races and religions. It was immensely popular, and numbered among its readers Chaucer, Columbus, and Thomas More. Anthony Bale's new translation emphasizes the book's readability, and his introduction and notes bring us closer to Mandeville's medieval worldview.
Anthony Blake is Reader in Medieval Studies, Birkbeck College, London. He has published widely on various medieval topics, including Anglo-Jewish history, the poetry of Chaucer and Lydgate, the cult of St Edmund and fifteenth-century literature. His most recent book is Feeling Persecuted:Christians, Jews and Images of Violence in the Middle Ages.