National Geographic : 1893 Apr 7
Travels of Marco Polo. occupying important positions. On their return they sailed through the China sea and Indian ocean to India, stopping at the Philippine and Spice islands, Sumatra and Ceylon; from India they traveled by land through Persia and Asia Minor, and by the Black and Mediterranean seas to Venice. Soon after his return Marco Polo was taken prisoner by the Genoese, and during his captivity wrote an accurate description of the countries through which he traveled and in which he had lived so many years, and of the island of Cipango or Japan,with its inexhaustible riches of gold and pearls, 500 miles east of China. He also de scribed the voyages of the Chinese to the islands of the Pacific, to Ceylon, and to India, and of the rich trade carried on by the Mo hammedans between the Spice islands, India and the Mediterra nean. These travels became gradually known to geographers, and in the fifteenth century gave a new impulse to geographic study. About the same time the old maps of Ptolemy, which had been hopelessly obscured by the graphic fancies of the cosmographers of the dark ages, were, with his writings, brought from the East to Italy. The maps of the dark ages showed the Mediterranean and the countries around it, Arabia. Persia, Media, Gog and Ma gog, and a little of northern Africa; but so vaguely and incor rectly that today one would scarcely recognize these countries on existing maps. Toscanelli, an Italian, prepared a map about 1474, taking the travels of Marco Polo as his guide. On other maps Cathay, or China, had been delineated as east of Europe; Toscanelli's trans ferred it to the west. His map shows the Atlantic ocean, Cipango 100° west of Europe, and still further westward, Cathay. He sent a copy of this map to the king of Portugal, and subsequently another to Columbus, urging him to make his contemplated voy age to " The land where the spices are born, where the temples and royal palaces are covered with planks of gold " (plate 3*). Let us consider the condition of Europe at the time of the voy ages of the Northmen to America, and the great changes which were gradually preparing the way for the colonization of America. For nearly one thousand years B C the ships of Tyre and Sidon, Alexandria and Greece, sailed through the Mediterranean into the Atlantic ocean as far as Britain. The early sailors were more adventurous and their ships more seaworthy than those of * Reproduced from Fiske, op. cit., p. 357.
1893 Apr 29
1893 Mar 20