The Defective Version of Mandeville’s Travels

Bibliographic Information


Medieval Title: 

Mandeville’s Travels



John Mandeville. Originally recorded by a French Benedictine Monk.



A Middle English translation of the French Insular version, c. 1377-1385. No extant manuscript survives from before 1400.


Textual Information

Brief Summary:

This texts lists the travels of John Mandeville and the relics and holy places he encounters on these travels, while also lamenting the fact that the Holy Lands are no longer in the hands of Christians. One of the first places Mandeville describes is the church of Saint Sophia in Constantinople. He states the church holds the sponge and the rod (used to give Jesus a drink while he was on the cross) as well as one of the crucifixion nails. Mandeville describes the making of the True Cross, explaining that it was reportedly made from four different trees. He states that the True Cross was buried on Mount Caluarie and only discovered two hundred years later by Saint Elene. Mandeville lists several relics and their current locations according to his own knowledge, claiming that one of the nails and other relics were sent to the Constantine’s chapel in France while half of the Crown of Thorns is in Paris and the other half is in Constantinople. He also points out that Emperor of Almayn has the shaft of the spear, but that the head of spear is held in Paris.

Mandeville’s texts explains that Saracens have control of holy places, such as the church where Adam, Abraham, Jacob and others have been buried. He informs readers that the Saracens will not allow any Christian or Jewish men to enter the church, except with special permission from the sultan. This is also stated to be true of the Church of the Sepulchre.


Relics Appearing in Text:

Crucifixion Nails
Sponge and Rod
Crown of Thorns


Manuscripts, Editions, and Translations


33 extant Manuscripts, 6 fragments and extracts.

Sample manuscripts include:

Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS. Dd. i. 17
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Rawlinson D. 99
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Rawlinson D. 101
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 33
London, British Museum, MS. Harley 2386
London, British Museum, MS. Harley 3954
London, British Museum, MS. Cotton Titus c. xvi

List of Editions of the Medieval Text: 

John Mandeville. The Defective Version of Mandeville’s Travels. Edited by M. C. Seymour. EETS o.s. 319. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

John Mandeville. Voyages and Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Edited by Arthur Layard. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1898. Available online:




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