Viking has landed A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages by Anthony Bale in an exclusive submission.
World rights were acquired by Viking editorial director Tom Killingbeck from Veronique Baxter at David Higham Associates, and the book will be published in spring 2023.
Using authentic sources of medieval travel writing and new translations of contemporary accounts from as far and wide as Turkey, Iceland, Armenia, north Africa and Russia, A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages invites the reader to travel across a medieval world “punctuated with marvels and prodigies, miraculous wonders and long-lost landmarks”.
The synopsis explains: “Structured as a journey from western Europe to the Far East and the Antipodes, taking in everything from silk routes to walking tours of Istanbul and Jerusalem, from tours of the court of the Khan in present-day Beijing to the marvels of medieval Ethiopia, A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages will blur the distinction between real and imagined places, offering the reader an encyclopaedia of wondrous stories and peoples, but also a vivid and unforgettable insight into how medieval people understood their world. Like a real travel guide, it will also offer tips on useful phrases, where to stay and eat, and how to avoid bandits, disease and other dangers of the road.”
Bale is Professor of Medieval Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. He has edited and translated several medieval texts, and new translations and editions of The Book of Marvels & Travels by John Mandeville, The Book of Margery Kempe and Medieval English Travel, all with Oxford University Press. His new study of Margery Kempe will appear from Reaktion Books this year. He is currently president of the New Chaucer Society.
He said: “I’ve been travelling through the Middle Ages for many years in my research and teaching. I’m really excited to be bringing these voyages and destinations to new readers in A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages. As my point of departure I’m taking St Augustine’s famous quotation, 'The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.'”
Killingbeck added: “Anthony has written an irresistible proposal—using the tropes of the travel guide to conjure the sights, sounds and smells of the medieval world, he helps us to reach a new understanding of the Middle Ages with a narrative voice somewhere between Margery Kempe and Jan Morris. In the course of the book he takes us from familiar pilgrim trails to lands of wild and flamboyant imagination; but as well as a mapping of the medieval mind, this book is also a revelatory meditation on travel, and the nature of travel writing itself. At a time when we are all grounded, it’s a book you’ll simply want to escape into, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to publish it.”