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rious and accidental circumstances. Among some nations, commercial enterprize has been the first moving principle--the merchant has been impelled by the desire of gain to brave the dangers of unknown coasts, and the camel or the caravan been the foremost to track the almost pathless desert. In others, military adventure, and the necessity of obtaining the information required for political administration, has led the way to hostile countries, and a conqueror's army has framed the road to be afterwards trodden by the humble but more lasting footsteps of science. Under the Arabian chalifs, when the arms of the true believers had brought under Mussulman sway so vast a portion of the known world, the want would soon arise, and the opportunity be readily supplied, for procuring accurate information concerning the inhabitants and local peculiarities of the conquered provinces. Individuals, stimulated sometimes by prospects of pecuniary advantage, and sometimes by the tales of wonder related by those who returned from the scenes of distant enterprise, traversed the wide extent of Mahometan dominion, and published, for the gratification of the curious, the journals of their progress. The earliest known volumes of such travels are those of Wahab, who travelled through India, China, and other parts of the East, in the year 851 ; and Abn Zeid al Hassan, who followed nearly the same course in 907.
When the Arabians became students of Greek literature, they rapidly availed themselves of the proficiency and experience of its philosophers and mathematicians, and thenceforward their inquiries assumed a more scientific form. Geography, once again took its mathematical character; and science purified and directed the investigations, the results of which had before been communicated merely in narrative or topographical description. The pursuit was eagerly cultivated : the students of Sora and Pundebeta were encouraged to follow up inquiries of so much practical importance; and we find the patronage of the chalifs of Bagdad directed towards superintending the admeasurement of a degree of the earth's circle, and other scientific experiments, which reflect the highest credit on the monarchs of that truly-illustrious dynasty. The works of Ptolemy were translated for the use of the Arabian scholars; and the longitude and latitude of places were laid down on their maps, on the principles of that great geographer. . Unfortunately for the curious inquirer into the real state of geographical and historical knowledge during the middle ages, comparatively little remains of the works of the men thus, as it were, raised up by the hand of Providence to rekindle and transmit the lamp of ancient learning. Of many, we only know that such things were ; and most of those which have survived, exist only in scattered portions, in the form of extracts and abridgments. For this loss we have chiefly to thank the pious zeal of the narrow-minded bigot Ximenes, who wantonly committed to the flames the fruits of that singular union in the cause of learning and science between the rival professors of the. Christian, Jewish, and Mahometan faiths, which adorned the Moorish dynasty of Spain.
The work of Ebn Haukal (who travelled in the beginning of the tenth century, and wrote a very copious geographical work, compiled from his own observations in various Mahometan nations,) exists in an abridged translation, in the Persian language; and appeared in English, from the pen of Sir William Ouseley, in the year 1800. But the most celebrated of the Arabian descriptive geographers was Scherifal Edrisi, who flourished in the middle of the twelfth century. He was a student at the University of Cordova, travelled over various countries, and concluded his wanderings at the hospitable court of Roger, King of Sicily, where he published the result of his inquiries, in an elaborate work; extracts from which alone are extant, although it once formed the manual of the Mahometan schools. Essachalli * wrote at the same court, and under the patronage of the same monarch, a similar work, which was translated, by the order of the king, into Latin, for the instruction of his Christian subjects. In the same century, we find another Moorish Spaniard, Ebn Albaithar, travelling through Asia and Africa, to enlarge his physical and botanical knowledge, hospitably received and patronized by Saladin, the celebrated antagonist of Richard Cour de Lion; and, at length, returning to his native land, to record his observations. To these productions may be added, at a late period, that of Abul Abbas Ahmed Ebn Chaled, a Syrian of the twelfth century, author of “ Hortus Mirabilium terræ;" and the more celebrated work of Abulfeda, who flourished in the fourteenth century.
The nations of the West were indebted, for several centuries, to these sources of original information, and to the Arabian translations of classic authors, for almost all the knowledge which could be obtained by a student, even under the most favourable circumstances, of foreign geography, natural history, and statistics. But the wars which religious · zeal excited them to prosecute, for the recovery of the Holy Land, against these their instructors, obviously facilitated and forced upon them the necessity of acquiring practical information, as to the seat of the war, and the intervening territories. Thus the Ma-'
* There seems to be some probability that · Essachalli and Edrisi may be one and the same person.
hometan powers became once more instrumental in conveying to our forefathers a branch of knowledge which opened the road to splendid commercial enterprize, as well as scientific research.
The rage for warlike adventure, and the fervor of religious enthusiasm, was at length cooled by the dreadful reverses which attended the Christian arms in the East; and the monarchs of Europe recalled their followers to their deserted homes, to culo tivate the arts of peace, and meditate more innocent, if not more efficacious, means of converting infidels. But the exaggerated accounts of the wonderful exploits of the holy warriors, and the singular customs of nations and appearances of nature, reported by the returning pilgrim, still incited the curious to inquiry into these new and astonishing topics of conversation ; while the reports of the dangers and perils to be encountered rather increased than damped the desire of the pious devotee to visit those scenes, which were consecrated in his inmost affections, by the narrations of holy writ, and the encouraging promises of prophetic inspiration. The state of religious warfare, and the feverish peace which succeeded it, were thus alike stimulants to the cultivation of geographical research, and to the appetite for foreign discovery. The crusader had, to his cost, found out the miserable imprudence of leading his armies through unknown climes ; the more humble missionary and pilgrim, who succeeded him, had ample time and opportunity to familiarize himself with the habits and economy of countries, where some sort of conformity was necessary, to insure protection and safe conduct; and even the gallant knight errant did not always trust himself without guide or direction on the eccentric paths of chivalrous emprize. .
The few accounts of the wanderings of travellers which appeared during the early periods of European literature, partake, of course, very strongly of the motives which incited these undertakings; and are always strongly tinctured by the peculiar circumstances of the artificial state of society, under which they were accomplished and recorded. The spirit which animated the breast of most was one of ardent religious feeling, partial, bigoted, and self-sufficient. The traveller set out as a pilgrim, a merchant, or an adventurer, with little or no previous preparation, without observation or knowledge, either of the earth, or of those who were upon the face of it, ready in every thing to hear and see wonders, and to record the marvellous reports of others, where the subject did not fall within his own inspection. He pretended to none of the qualifications which would facilitate his inquiries, enable him to judge correctly, or describe with fidelity. "His mind was, at the outset of his journey, full of romantic tales, and anile fables, which he had never
learnt to distinguish from historic truth, and he came back with magnified impressions of all he saw, and credulous belief of all he was told. Thus provided, he compiled his narrative from recollection, for the amusement and instruction of those who re- . lished only miraculous legends, and would have been impatient at the obtrusion of the uninteresting details of statistical observation, or scientific views of man or nature.
Travels were, in such times, therefore, related as history was fabricated. The real facts, where they were suffered to appear through the veil of fiction, served only as a frame-work for inventive ornament; and if, in either one or the other, truth has by any accident been preserved, we are generally indebted to any thing rather than a disposition in the author to place it before us in its naked reality. Not that we would ascribe any thing like wilful falsehood to many of these worthies, or insinuate, for a moment, that deception was intended by such men as Marco Polo, or Mandeville. For we think, on the contrary, the world has been much too critical and hasty in its decisions on the veracity, and even the judgment, of these travellers. Their works appear under every disadvantage of mis-translation into foreign tongues, mistakes in copies, abridgements, and interpolations; and yet, nevertheless, we shall have occasion to remark, with relation particularly to the author whose work is before us, that what is told by them on their own evidence of inspection or information on the spot, is commonly perfectly correct, and judiciously narrated. The bad name which such writers have unjustly acquired, is owing to the same causes which procured them the equally ill-judged admiration of the readers of their day; namely, the amazing credulity of their contemporaries, and the little pains which have since been taken to separate the matter of lightly-received hearsay from that of experiment and personal observation : which are blended together more from want of judgment, than of honesty or veracity.
Defective as they may be, these publications at all events excited curiosity, if they could not gratify rational inquiry. Traveller upon traveller, in rapid succession, visited foreign climes ; commercial advantages were noticed, and the spirit of enterprize which they aroused created a demand for similar information. The reign of deception, at length, gradually declined and fell; and that of useful investigation quickly sprung up in its place.
The first efforts of European inquiry were all directed towards the East. All Christians bowed in spirit, as well as body, towards that sacred quarter of the globe, which dwelt in their deepest and holiest affection; which offered, too, to the mercenary, the brightest prospects of pecuniary advantage; so that its riches dazzled the eyes of the worldly-minded, at the same time that its connection with the records of revealed truth inshrined
ediate doccurate and Progress. The geography was
it in the heart of the devotee. In the mean time, however, Europe continued, for a long period, lamentably deficient in acquaintance with its own immediate geography. The chronicles of all parts are full of the most egregious and palpable blunders with regard to countries even immediately neighbouring to those of the authors, and this to such an extent as often to render them completely unintelligible. We are even told of the worthy monks of Tournay seeking in vain, for two years, the Abbey of Ferrieres, during the eleventh century; and with such a fact before us, we shall not be inclined to rate very highly the famous maps of Charlemagne, engraved on silver platters, which probably, if they had survived, like that of Turin, published by Passini, would be equally decisive, not of the knowledge, but of the utter ignorance of the age. It certainly was not till the commercial spirit of the free towns of Germany, the Italian republics, England, and Holland, had imperceptibly arisen, and diffused itself very widely, that this ignorance was, to any considerable degree, removed. Asiatic geography and statistics had made a much earlier progress. The Arabians had, of course, been most accurate and detailed in their accounts of their own immediate domain; the Crusaders had traversed the same quarter repeatedly; the fleets of Venice, Genoa, and Florence, had profited by the opportunity to engage in extensive commerce, and though prevented, by the ruling dynasty of Egypt, from pursuing the trade to India by the Red Sea, they opened an avenue to its treasures from the Black Sea, and organized a traffic, by means of caravans, to China and Hindostan, which lasted more than two hundred years. In addition to the crusades, the ravages of the Mogul Tartars, which put not only Asia, but Poland, Silesia, and Hungary, in consternation, led to an acquaintance with the remotest parts of the East. The Roman Pontiffs sought by missionaries to avert the storm ; and these apostles traced the course which Christian merchants followed beyond the Black Sea and the Caspian. The boundaries of knowledge were extended, and the missionary long served as a channel of communication between the two continents. Even in the fourteenth century, we find an European bishop at Pekin. St. Louis sought to enter into a political connexion with the Mogul Chan, in 1253; and Henry III., of Castile, with Timur, in 1394. • In the thirteenth century appeared Vincentius Belovacensis (de Beauvais), who wrote the Bibliotheca Mundi ; and Roger Bacon, in his Opus Majus, gave an accurate and judicious account of Europe, Asia, and Africa ; and pointed, with the finger of prophecy, to the probability of the existence of that western world which, two hundred years afterwards, was discovered by Columbus. These are, however, but meagre materials;