Mandeville, Sir John

Mandeville, Sir John, 14th-century English author of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Originally written in Norman French, the work became enormously popular and was translated into English, Latin, and most European languages. It purports to recount the author's travels through Jerusalem, Egypt, Turkistan, India, China, and other places. Actually it is a skillful compilation from the recorded travels of other people—e.g., Marco Polo, Ordoric of Pordenone, and William of Boldensele—into which Mandeville interpolated extravagant details of medieval lore. Many scholars believe that Mandeville was a pseudonym and that the work was written by Jean de Bourgogne (or Jean à la Barbe), physician of Liège, or by Jean d'Outremeuse (1338–1400), citizen of Liège and composer of fabulous history. A growing number of scholars, however, contest that the book was composed, as reported in the text, by John Mandeville. Biographical details are not wholly clear, but he seems to have been born at St. Albans in the late 13th cent., to have spent the prime of his life on the Continent, and to have completed the book by 1356 as a travel romance, rather than as an authentic account. For a lucid discussion of the whole scholarly problem and of Mandeville's artistry, see J. W. Bennett, The Rediscovery of Sir John Mandeville (1954).

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