Marco Polo's Will

Marco Polo's Will

Venice (Italy) — 1319–1324

The last will and testament of Marco Polo is a precious historical document giving insight into the mind of history’s most famous traveler

  1. Marco Polo (1254-1324) travelled across Asia and spent years at the Chinese imperial court

  2. He returned to Venice after decades of adventure and settled into the life of a merchant

  3. The dying Polo made donations, forgave debts, and freed a Tatar who had served him for years

Marco Polo's Will

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Marco Polo's Will

Although many doubted his tales for centuries, Marco Polo is now recognized as the greatest traveler of the Middle Ages and represents one of the most important sources on China and Asia in general during the late 13th century. Polo spent the last 20+ years of his life in the relative quiet and complacency of a Venetian merchant before dying in 1324. His last will and testament is a fascinating document that offers the reader and inside glimpse into the character of this famous historical figure. Recorded on fine sheepskin but written hastily in a sloppy hand, most historians today view this document as proof that Polo’s travelogue was not a work of fiction but in fact a rare and precious account of medieval Asia.

Marco Polo's Will

Written on sheepskin parchment, the last will and testament of Marco Polo (1254-1324) is a fascinating and priceless historical document and a glimpse into the life and attitudes of the most famous traveler of the Middle Ages. The document was not signed by Polo, who was probably struggling to maintain conscious, but validated it through the signum manus practice of merely touching the document with witnesses. It cannot be said for certain when Polo died but it was likely sometime between the sunsets of the 8th or 9th of January 1324. The contents of the will are generally agreed to be a confirmation that Polo’s travels to China were in fact real and that his accounts can thus be generally trusted. Few other wills are as historically significant as that of the famous Marco Polo.

The Exciting Life of Marco Polo

In 1271, Marco Polo undertook the journey to Asia with his father and uncle. Their path drove them from Palestine across Persia, Pakistan, and the Pamir Mountains to China, to the court of the fabled Mongolian ruler Kublai Khan. Afterward the young Marco Polo won the trust of the Khan, he was allowed to undertake missions for him, which took him to the remotest regions of East Asia**. In 1292, Marco Polo took himself aboard ship across the Indian Ocean to Venice, where he remained and started a family. During the Venice’s war with Genoa, the pioneer was kept prisoner in a tower for three years together with a writer of the name Rusticello, who would preserve Polo’s adventures for posterity.

The Anticlimactic Death of a Legend

After returning to Venice, Polo eventually took over the family business ca. 1300 and assumed the typical life of a Venetian merchant. Little is recorded about him in the next two decades and was confined to his bed by 1323. The 70-year-old Polo was facing his own mortality in early January of 1324 when he summoned the priest-notary Giovanni Giustiniani to his home, who made notes in an awkward and careless script concerning donations to churches, debts forgiven, and the freeing of a Tatar servant who had accompanied him from Asia, who he left 100 lire of Venetian denari. An inventory of Polo’s possessions included precious gems and exotic items from the Far East, such as expensive musk. Interestingly, Polo left almost everything to his wife and three daughters, breaking with the custom of men without sons leaving their property to a male member of his extended family.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Marco Polos Testament
Il Testamento di Marco Polo
Ego Marcus Paulo volo et ordino
Size / Format
1 folio / 67.0 × 27.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1319–1324
Style
Language

Available facsimile editions:
Marco Polo's Will
Scrinium – Venice, 2018
Limited Edition: 185 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Marco Polo's Will

Scrinium – Venice, 2018

Publisher: Scrinium – Venice, 2018
Limited Edition: 185 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Attilio Bartoli Langeli
Language: Italian
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.
You might also be interested in:
Book of Marco Polo
Book of Marco Polo
Antwerp (Belgium) – 1485

The crucial source of information about China for centuries: Christopher Columbus' personal copy of Marco Polo's famous travelogue

Experience More
Marco Polo - The Book of Wonders
Marco Polo - The Book of Wonders
Paris (France) – 1410–1412

Monopods, spice traders, and foreign realms: the adventures of Marco Polo illuminated by the Boucicaut Master and the Bedford Workshop

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher