This slim work of historical investigation covers three subjects: a 14th-century voyage across the North Atlantic; a 16th-century publishing event; and a 21st-century quest. Piecing together archival scraps, di Robilant discovers that Zen was a nobleman the young Tintoretto painted the family palazzo , a hydraulic engineer and a minor historian. A new doge, Andrea Gritti, was presiding over a period of renewal that stimulated the appetite for knowledge of a world emerging from medieval darkness.
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Di Robilant is excellent on the contextual background and its relevance to the text under scrutiny. Travel narratives were popular in the Age of Discovery, and the book about this ancestral journey sold well.
Zen wrote it, unusually, in Italian rather than Latin. What of the 14th-century voyage itself? He was probably in his mids when he left for the Sea of Flanders, and although he financed the voyage himself, for a period he traveled in the service of the enigmatic Prince Zichmni and his private army. The sailors weighed anchor for Engroneland Greenland and other destinations on the Viking trade route.
The suggestion of a pre-Columbian colony on the eastern seaboard has subsequently generated so much controversy that di Robilant presents the story in full in his own translation. The problem at the heart of this book is evidential unreliability — not an insignificant snag in a work of history.
Zen the Younger had only five letters and a chart to go on for his account, and even they were badly damaged. Did he extrapolate beyond the point of all credibility? His book has stoked controversy for several centuries, but when a 19th-century Danish geographer branded Zen the Younger an out-and-out liar, his reputation tumbled into long decline.
Title – Mohrbooks EN
Di Robilant strives to salvage his man. Not available in stores.
April 12, In stock online. June 5, Available in stores.
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