The Traveller and the Book
the decline of Roman power,
continued in the Graeco-Roman tradition, but from the Seventh Century the
rise of the Arab empire, and the extraordinary flowering of the Islamic culture
that followed, eclipsed
nearly a thousand years the flow of ideas in technology and science was largely
from the learning of
European naval expertise led to discoveries from the Fifteenth Century which
opened up still further possibilities for trade - a route to
the start of the Eighteenth Century,
the mid-1700s the so-called Industrial Revolution began in
little more than a century, the revolution in
of trade goods entirely outstripped that of
much the same way as
But this enormous history is driven by the traveller and the book - experience and writing.
Processes in which knowledge spreads across long distances or over vast areas as an incidental effect of other diffusion processes such as the expansion of empires or the spread of religions.
What is the purpose of the traveller?
and link to Utopian narrative.
What kinds of Knowledge and information travels? Religious? Foodstuffs and spice? Books and papers from far lands? Stories?
K and I are not necessarily the same: K precedes I?
I need to know how to write to inform?
And in which dimensions? Space and Time? The latter entails antiquarian curiosity? The former - dreams of others' experiences?
Characteristics of Knowledge transmission
Traveller networks before the book
Knowledge processes may be of trans-regional and cross-cultural character,
they may also be corridor-like, connecting distant regions by a thin and fragile chain of transmission, for instance, a trade
route like the
As knowledge is but a fellow traveller in these processes, the results of transmission are often only of a transitory nature but have the possibility of the long-lasting sedimentation of at least some achievements, such as practices of writing and calculating that later became relevant to the appropriation of scientific knowledge.
This kind of knowledge globalization began with the emergence of institutions bundling cultural activities such as centres of trade and production, states, and world religions.
As a consequence, transmission processes themselves became institutionalized. Commercial, military, and missionary activities provided new stimuli for knowledge transmission.
“cultural exchanges between the East and the West including international trade and religious activities from the 2nd century to the early 15th century, before the New World came onto the horizon” (Hahn)
Alexander the Great extended the horizons of both the Greek and the Asian worlds. Western scholars gained access to Babylonian and Indian knowledge of mathematics and astronomy.
But what kinds – can we divide K into ‘useful’ and ‘existential’?
And....Just as language traces/maps thought; so maps themselves trace experience and guide new experiences and possibilities
The Importance of the map
Useful: “Adventurous and well-travelled merchants made history as they acquired knowledge of global natural environments, and they recorded their discoveries in simple visual representations.” = maps = powerful storage devices for info.
But where Hahn notes: “cartography ….reflects the state of cultural activity, as well as man’s perception of the world” can we then still offer our division of knowledge? Does cartography span both?
Examining world maps from say Ptolemy’s world map (150 AD) onwards to others at the dawn of the modern age (16th C), we may learn of exchanges of culture and civilization between the East and the West.
“comparatively little information was added to it until the 15th century”
The world as depicted by Ptolemy was gather from one Marinus of Tyre and though much of it was wrong, it was broadly right except of course there were large lumps of space simply called ‘terra incognita’
Ptolemy’s world map is the most efficient device for the storage of geographical information collected by international merchants up to the middle of the 2nd century.
As the ancient world came to
an end and
And moreover it is this and related forms of knowledge and its transmission that gives dominance to the Muslims in trade:
commerce remained largely in the hands of Muslim merchants until the arrival of
Portuguese in the
Arabic documents from the medieval period suggest that the semi-annual reversal of surface currents in the North Indian Ocean was discovered in the 9th or 10th century as well as a theory of tides based on the lunar cycle.
Arabs as the librarians of global info networks - the collected as well as used the stored knowledge revealed in the maps as well as developed more understanding of the winds and the stars for further travel...which gave them geo-political and economic dominance for a while
The rise of Islam in the
Idrisi methodology: To produce the work, al-Idrisi interviewed experienced travelers individually and in groups on their knowledge of the world and compiled "only that part... on which there was complete agreement and seemed credible, excluding what was contradictory
for he who longs to travel the world was an Arabic geographical book
13th-14th C: Abraham Cresques compiled a world chart, known as the Catalan
Atlas, in 1375 and he was called to
The accumulated learning of the Greeks,
the Romans, the Muslims and the Chinese was absorbed in the Catalan Atlas of
Abraham Cresques. This was compiled in 1375, the dawn of discovery of the
Cresques was supplied with copies of Marco Polo’s Book and Friar Odoric’s Description of Eastern Regions.
In the Atlas he marked cities and stations along the overland routes, including that followed by Nicolo and Maffeo Polo on their first journey.
“He also marked a more southerly silk route and the one
on the Polos followed on their second outward journey
except for a detour through Ormuz at the bottom of
The Silk Road was a main trading route that linked West to East but it also bore scholars, teachers, missionaries, and monks of different beliefs and practices, who met to exchange ideas.
Marco Polo’s description of the East became one of the most popular books in the West.
Marco Polo can be attributed to being the spark for the Age of Exploration. His book "The Travels of Marco Polo", proved to be the most influential factor in the many European adventurers exploring the world. People like Christopher Columbus, Magellan, and Gama, all were caught up with the curiosity of the unknown, and trekked to discover the undiscovered of which would be the homes of civilizations unseen to the Europeans before...
After the compass
And the conclusions we might draw from these linkages are…?
BTW: ‘chart’ and ‘map’: the Latin word ‘charta’ denotes paper and ‘mappa’ means cloth.
The spread of
advanced knowledge from the centres to less developed scholarly traditions at
the European periphery was not a simple transfer. The case of the
establishment of Newtonian science in the Greek-speaking regions of the
The production and dissemination of scientific knowledge as a fellow traveller of colonization, can, by active accommodation to new circumstances, become a powerful motor of decolonization.
The transmission of new technological and scientific
knowledge under the conditions of external pressure often provoked an immune
response mobilizing or newly inventing local knowledge traditions. In
Epistemological aspects of knowledge acquisition
In a diary of his travels in
Four centuries later, the Franciscan brother William of Rubruck in his narrative of his journey to the court of the Great Khan in Mongolia made by order of King Louis IX of France observed that ‘the ordinary money of Cathay is a piece of paper made out of cotton, a handbreadth in width and length, and on which they stamp lines like Mangu’s seal’.
Friar Odoric’s Description of Eastern Regions. (link to reception history of Father Odorico's his travel narrative, now known as his Itinerarium or Relatio
And note how various additions and redactions were used to further religious identities
The significance of the pilgrimage as k-transmission
At Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh in the 1960s, the Indian government set up a (temporary) family-planning exhibition and a clinic to spread knowledge on family-planning techniques to the thousands of pilgrims who flocked to the city each year. The rationale for this choice was that ‘the large number of pilgrims who assemble at sacred places with no cost to the government (could) provide an inexpensive method for the dissemination of new ideas even to the remoter corners of the country.
Types of travellers:
Religious travellers –
Father Pires discusses the trading role of Portuguese
Jesuit priests (17th C) and more generally the wide range of goods
and foodstuffs known to portuguese travellers
that circulated in
And Davids notes:
Although transmission of useful knowledge was not the prime object of their trip, it was nevertheless one of the effects that their travelling produced. The knowledge in question could also have been communicated by for example merchants, teachers or craftsmen through fairs, schools or training schemes), but from early times religious men or people who travelled for religious reasons evidently acted as carriers of useful secular information.
In the course of their journeys, pilgrims, monks or missionaries frequently passed through many different countries and had the opportunity to get acquainted with a wide variety of cultures, economies, societies and natural environments. And the men in holy orders who set on distant journeys often belonged to the literate elite of their day. They were thus able to transmit their observations and experiences in writing, which could give these a wider circulation than if they were only communicated orally.
Religious travellers are here regarded as one of the
connecting links between different parts of Europe and Asia. Pilgrims, monks, missionaries, or clerics on a diplomatic
mission could serve as carriers of useful knowledge between areas like
When in the early 16th century the Portuguese reached
Gerardus Mercator's placing of the
It was a small group of Jesuits, led by Matteo Ricci who, being able both to
To resolve the China-Cathay controversy, the India Jesuits sent a Portuguese
lay brother, Bento de Góis on an overland expedition
north and east, with the goal of reaching
It was his expedition that made "
The Book as Traveller
And what of the book as a printed book by the new trade of printing (15th C +)
Variety and motive of Reading Books
The Book against the traveller
Darnton's idea of the communications circuit of Books