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Anthony Bale, trans.Sir John Mandeville’s The Book of Marvels and Travels

Oxford University Press, 2012

by Carla Nappi on November 2, 2012

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Anthony Bale

Anthony Bale’s new translation of Sir John Mandeville’s classic account is an exciting and engaging text that’s accessible to a wide range of readers. The Book of Marvels and Travels (Oxford University Press, 2012) recounts a fourteenth-century journey across the medieval world, albeit one that was likely written as the result of a voyage through libraries and bookshops. Mandeville (whomever he was – and we talk about this issue in the course of our conversation) offers extended discussions of the “Great Khan” of Cathay and of Prester John’s kingdom in India, peppering his tales with stories of dragons, descriptions of man-eating creatures that were half-hippopotamus and half-human, images of foreign alphabets, and many, many others. Bale’s translation is both fluidly rendered in an easily readable modern English prose, and supported by helpful annotations that situate Mandeville’s stories within a wider historical context, and explain Bale’s choices as a translator in terms of the broad range of printed and manuscript editions of Mandeville’s text. Over the course of our conversation we spoke about some especially memorable moments in the book, as well as Bale’s approach to rendering this fascinating but challenging work. Enjoy!

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