Bible of Marco Polo

Bible of Marco Polo – Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – Pluteo 3, capsula 1 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)

Probably Paris (France) β€” Ca. 1230–1240

Said to have been brought to China by Marco Polo on his famous journey to the court of Kublai Khan: a European Bible manuscript from a private Chinese collection, rediscovered in the 17th century by the Jesuit Philippe Couplet

  1. The travelogue of Marco Polo (1254–1324) is one of the most popular and enduring stories from the Middle Ages

  2. Philippe Couplet (1623–1693) claimed to have discovered his Bible in a private collection in Cham Xo, Nanking Province

  3. Whether it belonged to Polo or not, it is an incredibly rare specimen of a European manuscript in China

Bible of Marco Polo

Facsimile Copy Available!
Formerly 5,800  β‚¬
Special Offer until 06/30/2024 (like new) 2,799  β‚¬
  1. Description
  2. Single Page
  3. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Bible of Marco Polo

Few medieval figures are as popular in the modern imagination as Marco Polo (1254–1324), who traveled overland with his father from Venice into the East, where he came to the court of the great Kublai Khan (1215–94). His famous travelogue is full of captivating stories and wondrous creatures and represents the first detailed European description of China, India, Japan and other parts of Asia. The so-called Bible of Marco Polo, which the Jesuit monk Philippe Couplet (1623–1693) discovered in a private Chinese collection in the 17th century, is said to have once belonged to the legendary traveler and trader, although historians have not yet been able to confirm this theory. Nevertheless, it is an extremely rare specimen of a European manuscript that came to China as early as the Middle Ages – probably on a Franciscan mission to the imperial court in Beijing.

Bible of Marco Polo

This is a truly fascinating Bible that has travelled as far and as wide as its namesake, Marco Polo (1254–1324), whose travelogue telling of his time at the court of Kublai Khan (1215–94) is the most famous in history. Polo does not seem to be a particularly devout man, no more so than any other member of the medieval laity, whose biblical knowledge is greatly exaggerated in the modern mind. Like most people, he simply saw people as Christian and non-Christian, and did not seem to be particularly interested in or judgmental of pagan beliefs. According to Philippe Couplet (1623–1693), a Jesuit missionary from Flanders who spend many years in China, he found this Bible in the home of a wealthy resident of Cham Xo, in Nanking Province who claimed the tattered codex (which was restored in the early 21st century) had belonged to his family for 400 years, since the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368). Upon his return to Europe, Couplet presented the Bible to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de’ Medici (1642–1723), telling him this pocket Bible made its way to China at the end of the 13th century with Marco Polo. This would mean that it was the only surviving manuscript brought to China between the 13th and 14th centuries by a Latin. Although it makes a good story, there is no tangible evidence that the Bible had actually been owned by Marco Polo. Scholarship indicates the work may have actually been given to the Mongol Emperor of China by a Franciscan missionary sometime in the 13th or 14th century. Nonetheless, the story and the connection to Marco Polo have endured, adding to the charm of this incredible codex, a true unicum!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
La Bibbia di Marco Polo
Bibel des Marco Polo
Size / Format
686 pages / 16.6 Γ— 10.8 cm
Origin
France
Date
Ca. 1230–1240
Style
Language
Script
Gothic Textura Formata
Illustrations
Numerous decorated initials
Content
Old and New Testaments
Previous Owners
Philippe Couplet (1623–1693)
Cosmio III. de’ Medici (1642–1723)

Available facsimile editions:
Bible of Marco Polo – Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – Pluteo 3, capsula 1 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – Rome, 2012
Limited Edition: 350 copies
Single Page

Bible of Marco Polo

Fol. 28r

This leaf of the well-traveled Bible is only about 50% preserved and extremely fragmented - the parchment looks downright pitted. This is not only due to the intensive use of the medieval manuscript, but mainly because of mould infestation. At some point, the manuscript must have been exposed to excessive humidity over a longer period of time, to which parchment, as an animal product, reacts quite sensitively.

Another remarkable characteristic is the minute and incredibly carefully executed script, which was applied to the small pages in two columns. The individual columns measure no more than 3.5 cm in width and 11.5 cm in height. Nevertheless, wonderful, small pen-flourish initials were set into this narrow justification, their ornaments filling even the smallest of spaces.

Bible of Marco Polo – Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – Pluteo 3, capsula 1 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Bibbia di Marco Polo

Publisher: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – Rome, 2012
Limited Edition: 350 copies
Binding: Brown leather with a central, round gemstone in a gold frame
Commentary: 1 volume
Languages: Italian, Chinese
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Formerly 5,800  β‚¬
Special Offer until 06/30/2024 (like new) 2,799  β‚¬
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