Les cartes de la famille Polo

Un ensemble de cartes et de documents, pour la plupart conservés dans une collection privée (désignée sous le terme de Collection Rossi), est attribué aux descendants de Marco Polo, voire au voyageur lui-même. Leo Bagrow avait publié un article à leur sujet en 1948 dans la revue Imago mundi1 . Depuis, pratiquement personne ne s’était intéressé à ces documents, qui étaient généralement considérés comme des faux ou, pour le moins, des documents suspects2 .

Un livre vient tout juste de sortir, qui offre un examen complet de ces documents et cherche à retracer leur origine et leur histoire :

Benjamin B. Olshin, The mysteries of the Marco Polo maps, The University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Voici le lien vers le site de l’éditeur, qui offre le résumé suivant:

In the thirteenth century, Italian merchant and explorer Marco Polo traveled 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’s new evidence for this historical puzzle: a very curious collection of fourteen little-known maps and related documents said to have belonged to the family of Marco Polo himself.

In The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps, historian of cartography Benjamin B. Olshin offers the first credible book-length analysis of 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 Jeffrey Pendergraft. 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? Did Marco Polo entrust the maps to Admiral Ruggero Sanseverino, who has links to Rossi’s family line? Or, if the maps have no connection to Marco Polo, who made them, when, and why?

Regardless of the maps’ provenance, Olshin’s tale—stretching from the remote reaches of the northern Pacific to early Chinese legends—takes readers on a journey confounding yet fascinating, offering insights into Italian history, the age of exploration, and the wonders of cartography.

Ainsi que la table des matières :

List of Illustrations
Introduction

1 The “Marco Polo Maps” and the Polo Family
2 Who Was “Biaxio Sirdomap”?
3 To the Distant East
4 The Daughters’ Maps
5 Chronicles and Histories
6 Maps of the New World
7 Conclusions and Future Directions

Acknowledgments

Appendix 1: An Inventory of the Documents
Appendix 2: A Partial Genealogy of the Rossi Family
Appendix 3: Genealogy of the Family of Marco Polo the Traveller

Notes
Bibliography
Index

N’ayant pas encore eu le livre entre les mains, il m’est impossible de me prononcer quant à son contenu et surtout quant aux cartes elles-mêmes. Si vous l’avez lu, votre avis est le bienvenu. J’essaierai, quant à moi, de revenir ici à son sujet lorsque je l’aurai lu.

  1. L. Bagrow, “The maps from the home archives of the descendants of a friend of Marco Polo”, Imago Mundi, 5 (1948), p. 3-13 []
  2. On remarque, de ce point de vue, que la référence à l’article de L. Bagrow figure dans la section “Cartographic fakes and forgeries” de la bibliographie mise en ligne sur le site http://www.maphistory.info/index.ht []

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