Travels of Sir John of Mandeville

Add MS 24189 - British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Alternate Titles:

I Viaggi di Sir John Mandeville , Los Viajes de Sir John Mandeville, Die Reisen des Ritters John Mandeville

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Alternate Titles

I Viaggi di Sir John Mandeville
Los Viajes de Sir John Mandeville
Die Reisen des Ritters John Mandeville

Extent / Format

32 pages / 22.5 x 18.0 cm

ca. 1410 - 1420

28 full-page miniatures

Short description

A royal manuscript from the early 15th century with one of the most fascinating texts of the Middle Ages: the travelogue of the mysterious Jean de Mandeville in the Holy Land and the furthermost and most exotic realms of the world as it was then known. Created for Johann Ohnefurcht, this gem came into the possession of the famous collector Jean de Berry shortly after its completion and remained thereafter in the possession of the French monarchy. Obviously, the handsome miniature decoration of the manuscript originated from the greatest masters of their time!

Facsimile editions available


The Travels of Sir Jean de Mandeville

Over the pilgrim trails to Jerusalem and its holy sites, the mysterious Jean de Mandeville, author of one of the most famous travelogues of the Middle Ages, next came to Egypt. From there, he is supposed to have continued with his expedition into the Middle East, to India, China, Africa, the island world of the Indian Ocean, and finally into increasingly exotic domains of the world. He claimed to have travelled over the course of 30 years, from 1322 to 1356, and in doing so saw regions, cultures, and wonders that no other western visitor before him caught a glimpse of. As a result, the descriptions of the land, each further and further removed from the known world, become more and more fantastical.

The Fascination of the Foreign

The success of his account was as great as The Travels of Sir Jean de Mandeville were fantastical. Whoever was really behind the mysterious pseudonym of Jean de Mandeville, who presented himself as an English knight, remains contested to this day. In any case, he came world famous as the composer of a compiled travelogue composed between 1357 and 1371 in French. In doing so, he not only made use of his own, presumably realistic experiences, but also numerous sources from historiography and literature, e.g. the Legenda Aurea by Jacobus de Voragine, the Rhabanus Maurus, or the Arthurian legend.

A Unique Manuscript

This novel-like travelogue by the mysterious first-person narrator Jean de Mandeville can be found in manuscript Français 2810 of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in the famous Book of Wonders. On 168 pages, the text is divided into two columns with gorgeous miniatures in the style of the early 15th century. Major miniaturists participated in the deisgn of an outstanding testimonial to this great period of French illumination: the Mazarine Master (49 miniatures), the Cité des Dames Master, and the Egerton Master (19 miniatures). They created fantastic scenery from new pictorial inventions, surrounded by fine ornamental gothic tendrils and with opulent gold on every page.

In the Possession of Nobles and Royals from the Beginning

The splendor of this jewel is reminiscent of a truly royal manuscript. It originated in Paris between January of 1410 and the end of 1412 for Johann Ohnefurcht. In 1413, he gifted the manuscript to his uncle Jean de Berry, whose coat of arms can be found in the manuscript. The magnificent edition of The Travels of Sir Jean de Mandeville passed through the hands of more famous owners until it reached King François I, whereby it found its place from then on in the royal library in Fontainebleau.

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