Cosmography and sources

Another Venetian merchant who contributed to the knowledge of Asian geography was Niccolò di Giovanni Conti (ca. 1395-1469), who set out on a long journey to India, Indochina, and Borneo in 1414. Thanks to his fluency in Arabic and Persian, he acquired considerable knowledge of regions less explored by Marco Polo (1254-ca. 1324). When Conti returned to Venice after 25 years, Pope Eugene IV (1383-1447) ordered him to prepare an account of his travels as a form of penance for having abjured Christianity. Conti dictated his text to the Pope’s secretary, Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), who published it in 1448 as Book IV of De varietate fortune. The narrative was circulated in many manuscript copies and some vernacular editions in Tuscan and Venetian. The wealth of information on India and the multitude of islands in the Indian Ocean provided valuable source material for the world map of Fra Mauro (active ca. 1430-ca. 1459/1464), which, in the mid-15th century, offered the first comprehensive representation of the lands explored by Marco Polo.