Marco Polo's Travels
(1300 A.D.) Latin
Book 3, Chapter 4
[The following text led to the discovery of America. These passages,
written by Marco Polo, motivated Christopher Columbus to find an alternative
route to the Indies. Going Eastward had become almost impossible since
the Middle East was occupied by Muslims who would not allow Christians
It should be understood that the sea in which the Island
of Zipangu [Japan] is situated is the sea of CHIN, and so extensive is
this eastern sea that according to experienced pilots and mariners, who
should know, it contains no fewer than 7,440 islands, mostly inhabited.
It is said that every one of the trees which grow in them gives off a fragrant
odor. They produce many spices and drugs, particularly aloes, and much
pepper, both white and black.
It is impossible to estimate the value of gold and other
articles found in these islands. Their distance from the continent is so
great, and the navigation so difficult, that vessels sailing there do not
reap large profits; for they consume a whole year in the voyage.
We shall her treat no further of these countries and islands
because of my not having visited them personally and their not being under
the dominion of the Great Khan.