After reading the third volume of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe, I’m interested in reading the travel writings of Marco Polo and Ibn Battouta. Do any Dopers have opinions on the best available translations for either or both of these works?
Don’t know, but AFAIK, all editions of Marco Polo’s supposed writings (actually written by a chap named Rusticello, IIRC) are translations. There are no surviving orginal manuscripts–and the surviving translations–of course–often contradict one another.
Most scholars of Ibn Battuta’s travels would not recommend to the layman reading his original work (the Rihla), as it is incredible contradictory and sketchy. Ross E. Dunn, a U of C professor who has done a lot over the last 25 years to make history interesting and accessible, wrote a book which covers Ibn Battuta’s travels, and interjects historical detail of the Middle East and Asia at the time which helps one understand the context better. It’s called The Adventures of Ibn Battuta:: a Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century.
I liked reading Dunn’s book because he uses Ibn Battuta’s travel to show some little known facts about Europe - Asia relations in the 14th century. I had no idea that European traders regularly came as far east as Habriz in modern-day Iran.
The only thing I found annoying is how much of a jerk Battuta was. Over the 24 years of his travels, he married many women, got them pregnant, and divorced them when he wanted to continue on his way.