CONTI, Niccolò

CONTI, Niccolò (De’ C., Niccolò di Giovanni Conti di Chioggia). Chioggia near Venice c. 1395 — Chioggia (?) Summer 1469. Italian (Venetian) Traveller in India. He spent twentyfive years travelling and trading in the East, accepted Islam and was thus capable of visiting many countries. In 1414 (or 1419) he was already in Damascus and started his travel through Baghdad, Basra and Ormuz (learnt Persian) to India. He visited Cambay, Vijayanagar (“Bizenegalia”) and Mylapore, then Ceylon, Sumatra and Burma, the Ganges Delta (and perhaps inland), apparently even Java. Returned through Quilon, Calicut, Cambay, Aden, Jidda and Cairo. After returning to Italy in 1439/42 he went to the Pope Eugenius IV and as a penance for renouncing Christianity during his travels was required to recount his ventures to the papal secretary, the famous Humanist scholar Poggio Bracciolini, who wroted it down in Latin and thus saved him from oblivion (but apparently also distorted names and distances). The rest of his life Conti spent in his native Chioggia, were he is several times mentioned in documents because of minor public duties carried by him. Apparently married an Indian woman, who died in Egypt, but his two surviving children he brought to Italy. His testament was opened on 10.8.1469. His is valuable as a contemporary account of Vijayanagar and other places. His information was also used in Fra Mauro’s map.

Publications: The account of his travels was included by the Humanist Poggio Bracciolini in book IV of his De varietate fortunae (now edited by O. Merisalo, AASF B 265, Helsinki 1993, book IV first printed in 1491, also included by Ramusio in his Nauigationi e viaggi).

– Italian first by Ramusio (1550), now by M. Longhena, Viaggi in Persia, India e Giava di Nicolò de’ Conti, Girolamo Adorno e Girolamo da Santo Stefano. 259 p. Milano 1929 (Conti on p. 117-196).

Sources: I. Baumgärtner, Literature of Travel and Explor. 1, 2003, 277-279; *H. Cordier, “Deux voyageurs dans l’Extrême-Orient … Essai bibliographique. Nicolo De’ Conti – Lodovico de Varthema”, TP 10, 1899, 390–404;Oaten 1909, 29-32; F. Surdich, D.B.I. 28, 1983, 457-460; Tucci 2005, 51; Enc. Brit.; Wikipedia.

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