Progress blog post 1

As a part of the “Life in Venice” section, our project aims to describe the life and travels of one of the most representative Venetian figures: Marco Polo. His journeys were the stepping stone towards modern cartography and the first real opportunity to open the cultural roads between the European and Asian cultures.

The main objective of our project is to reconstruct Marco Polo’s journey into the depths of Asia and back, using the books written on the subject. This journey will be materialized into a path on a digital map which will help to better understand and visualize the grandeur of his travels and accomplishments. In order to achieve this, we plan on using the Google Maps API for Javascript and automatically generate textual content regarding each journey / location marked on the digital map.

During the three full weeks that have passed, we have successfully gathered informational resources to sustain our project. As a main source of data, we are going to use the book called “The Travels of Marco Polo” (Figure 1.) by Thomas Wright. This is a translated version of the original book, written by Rustichello da Pisa under the close surveillance of Marco himself, during the time they were imprisoned together in Genoa. We have a PDF version of the book which greatly eases both the search and reading tasks. Secondary to this, we are going to use several websites which contain aggregated information from this and also other books written on the subject. Therefore, we will be able to confront information from different sources, in order to assure accuracy.

Figure 1.“The Travels of Marco Polo” by Thomas Wright

Given the nature of our project, we decided along with our supervisor, that instead of spending a week on website design (as planned), we should rather make sure that the project is feasible. By this, we mean that the map – the most important part of the project – is based on enough data. Therefore, we created the two sample maps of Marco Polo’s Journey (both the initial and return trips) using the Google Maps “My Maps” section to mark the journeys. Of course, we were faced with the problem of matching locations of the 13thcentury with those of the 21st. Fortunately, the web is rich in such information, because the travels of Marco Polo are of great interest to many scholars (however, we did not yet find a digital map of them). Therefore, we have found the desired correspondences with modern geography, which can be illustrated as an example in Figure 2. For a more detailed view of the journeys, please access the following links:

                                      Figure 2. The return journey of Marco Polo

Of course, these maps are merely the first step which has yet to be refined. Information shall be added with respect to his stay in every checkpoint, as well as observations along the trip between two halts, as indicated in the book. Moreover, we still need to add his travels within China, during his service in the court of Kublai Khan, which brought him the high status and appreciation of the Khan.

To conclude, we consider that the first steps towards accomplishing this project are promising and we are confident that we shall see it to an end, as expected.


[1] Wright T. The travels of Marco Polo The Venetian, London, Bohn, 1854, University of Virginia