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Kallie Szczepanski

India in the 16th Century, through Italian Eyes

By November 4, 2012

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This is a Dutch view of Calicut, India first published in 1573.

The National Archives in New Delhi, India have on display a replica of the 16th century travelogue Itinerary, which was written by the Italian traveler Ludovico De Varthema. De Varthema spent 1502-1508 traveling around India, and then published his observations along with illustrations in 1510. His book became a best-seller in Europe, and was translated into many different languages.

De Varthema's travelogue gave Europeans a view of India's culture and customs at a time when there was not much contact between the two. He records weddings, Hindu holy men, kings riding elephants, and even the practice of sati. Indeed, this was the first popular book to describe India to a European audience since Marco Polo published his own travelogue, in the 13th century.

Image of 16th century Calicut from Hulton Archive / Getty Images.


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