[BARBARO, Giosafat, et al.]
RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
Viaggi fatti da Vinetia, alla Tana, in Persia, in India, et in Costantinopoli […]Venice, nelle case haer. Aldo Manuzio, 1545
8vo, 7 parts in 1, ff. 163 (i). Roman letter and italic. Printer’s device to title page and verso of last. A little finger-soiling, faint oil stain to lower edge of first quire, a few outer margins lightly waterstained, printer ink smudges to ff. 65, 67 and 68. Small expert repair to t-p due to ms. erased ex libris. A very good copy in C18 vellum over boards, missing label, marbled endpapers, all edges blue. Bookplate of coronated monogram of ‘A M E’.
Second and ‘much better printed’ (Renouard 134:18) edition of this collection of travel narratives, edited by Aldo Manuzio. The work includes the accounts of seven adventurous voyages to the East made by Venetian merchants and diplomats during the XV and XVI centuries.
The collection begins with the two travels of Giosafat Barbaro (1413-1494) to Tana and to Persia. Tana was a major commercial emporium of the Serenissima near the Sea of Azov where Barbaro spent 15 years. When the Tatars advanced on Tana in 1438, he went as an emissary to the Khan to persuade him not to attack: in this occasion, he came to know the Tatars and their customs. During the Venetian conflict with the Ottomans, he was sent as ambassador to Persia, and his accounts are considered the first among those of Venetian travellers to provide authentic information regarding this region and its inhabitants. Barbaro’s curiosity for unfamiliar places brought him to extensively visit Georgia and Crimea, the cities around Black Sea, the ruins of Persepolis and of Pasargadae, as well as to organise an expedition to dig up a treasure in Transcaucasia. Much of the information he provides regarding the khanate of the Great Horde, Giordania and Persia cannot be found in any other sources.
Ambrogio Contarini (1429-1499), nobleman and diplomat, is the author of the third narrative. Sent as a Venetian envoy to Persia in 1473, he was not successful in convincing the sovereign, Uzun Hasan, to attack the Ottomans. However, he remembers positively his permanence at the King’s residence at Spaam: here, he met Barbaro and was offered an abundant meal while sitting on traditional rugs. During his voyages, he travelled through Eastern Europe, Russia, the Tartar desert, Crimea and Caucasia.
Little is known of the next explorer, Aloigi di Giovanni (early XVI century), who, in the introduction to his two narratives, proudly states that he saw the entire world. He travelled from Alexandria to Ethiopia, then to ‘happy and desert’ Arabia, to Persia and finally arrived in India. In 1532 in Lisbon, di Giovanni met Andrea Colombo, nephew of Cristoforo Colombo, and together they embarked on a second voyage to India (‘Colocut’). The author praises the famous navigator for discovering the route to the ‘West Indies’, which is the term that European used at the time to refer to the Americas.
The anonymous author of the sixth narrative is Benedetto Ramberti (1503-1547), mentioned in the preface. Proofreader of texts for the Aldine Press, Ramberti wrote about his voyage to Turkey in three books. The first is concerned with his journey from Venice to Constantinople, the second describes the sultan Soleyman and his court, while in the third the author dwells upon the customs and laws of the Ottomans.
The last narrative is written by an anonymous sailor who travelled in the entourage of Antonio Barbarigo (to whom the collection is dedicated) from Venice to Alexandria, and then to India following the sultan Soleyman in his conquest of the city of Diu. Unlike the others, this account resembles a logbook: all the events in the troubled journey are recorded by date, and the author keeps track of the miles travelled every day.
An engagingly written collection of journeys capturing the adventurous spirit of Renaissance Venice.USTC 803157; Graesse VII 295; Adams 624; Renouard 134, 18; Blackmer 1071; Göllner 861; BM STC It. p. 412; not in Alden.