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Marco Polo was the most famous traveller of his time. His voyages began in 1271 with a visit to China, after which he served the Kubilai Khan on numerous diplomatic missions. On his return to the West he was made a prisoner of war and met Rustichello of Pisa, with whom he collaborated on this book. The accounts of his travels provide a fascinating glimpse of the different societies he encountered: their religions, customs, ceremonies and way of life; on the spices and silks of the East; on precious gems, exotic vegetation and wild beasts. He tells the story of the holy shoemaker, the wicked caliph and the three kings, among a great many others, evoking a remote and long-vanished world with colour and immediacy.
Marco Polo was born in 1254, joining his father on a journey to China in 1271. He spent the next twenty years travelling in the service of Kubilai Khan. There is evidence that Marco travelled extensively in the Mongol Empire and it is fairly certain he visted India. He wrote the travels whilst a prisoner in Genoa. Ronald Latham has published widely on Medieval studies. He died in 1992.