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I had downloaded an .epub file of The Book of Wonder, by Marco Polo to my smartphone because I wanted to read about Marco Polo in his own words, not the dramatized, sensationalized versions I'd read in school. This book is from the 1400's, more than a century after Polo, but is considered to have been based on the book Polo dictated to a fellow prisoner of war while he was in an inter-Italian state war. That dictated text no longer exists.

I had forgotten about it until I learned I'd have to wait an hour to for a replacement tire for my car to arrive at the garage, so I looked through my phone's memory for something to pass the time, found it, began reading and couldn't put it down. A lot of information about the Polos' travels along the "Silk Road," including the Black Sea area, Armenia, Persia, etc. in the 1200's is included, in addition to the court of Kublai Khan, and gives you a greater understanding of the turbulence of the area between China and Europe and why the Europeans knew so little about China.  There are fascinating mentions of things you might not expect in the 1200's like oilfields and he describes something unheard of in Europe at the time, paper money:

"In this city of Kanbalu is the mint of Kublai Khan, the Grand Khan or lord of lords, who may truly be said to possess the secret of the alchemists, as he has the art of producing money by the following process. He causes the bark to be stripped from those mulberry trees, the leaves of which are used for feeding silk-worms, and takes from it that thin inner rind which lies between the coarser bark and the wood of the tree. This being steeped, and afterwards pounded in a mortar, until reduced to a pulp, is made into paper, resembling (in substance) that which is manufactured from cotton, but quite black. When ready for use, he has it cut into pieces of money of different sizes, nearly square, but somewhat longer than they are wide. Of these, the smallest pass for a denier tournois; the next size for a Venetian silver groat; others for two, five, and ten groats; others for one, two, three, and as far as ten besants of gold. The coinage of this paper money is authenticated with as much form and ceremony as if it were actually of pure gold or silver."


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On 2/16/2019 at 8:19 AM, late said:

That's a really good book.

What my Mom did was put it in my hands open to page one. One paragraph and I was hooked. We've shipped it around to all our friends, getting a new copy when it doesn't come back.

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