Marco Polo And The Mysterious Maps
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In the 13th century, Italian merchant and explorer Marco Polo travelled from Venice to the far reaches of Asia, a journey he chronicled in a narrative titled Il Milione, later known as The Travels of Marco Polo. While Polo’s writings would go on to inspire the likes of Christopher Columbus, scholars have long debated their veracity. Some have argued that Polo never even reached China, while others believe that he came as far as the Americas. Now, there is another piece of this puzzle: a very curious collection of fourteen little-known maps and related documents said to have belonged to the family of Marco Polo himself.
Historian of cartography Benjamin B. Olshin presents these artifacts, charting their course from obscure origins in the private collection of Italian-American immigrant Marcian Rossi in the 1930s; to investigations of their authenticity by the Library of Congress, J. Edgar Hoover, and the FBI; to the work of the late cartographic scholar Leo Bagrow; to Olshin’s own efforts to track down and study the Rossi maps, all but one of which are in the possession of Rossi’s great-grandson.
Are the maps forgeries, facsimiles, or modernized copies? Did Marco Polo’s daughters―whose names appear on several of the artifacts―preserve in them geographic information about Asia first recorded by their father? Or did they inherit maps created by him? Or, if the maps have no connection to Marco Polo, who made them, when, and why?
Dr Benjamin B Olshin is a former Professor of Philosophy, the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, and Design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He is a Fulbright scholar with over a decade of experience in international consulting, research, education/training, and design work in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Dr. Olshin has published and presented work in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Taiwan, Japan, and Indonesia. Over the course of his career, his research and other work has taken on many subjects, including maps and exploration, the history of technology, the philosophy of physics, and communication across cultures. He has written in a broad range of areas, including the history of cartography, the philosophy of science, and sociology of technology, and design. His latest book is Lost Knowledge: The Concept of Vanished Technologies and Other Human Histories. His other books are Deciphering Reality: Simulations, Tests, and Designs, and The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps.