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Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 647 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels Volume 01.

In the accompanying commentary by Abu Zeid, we are informed that the date of the narrative was of the Hegira 237, A.D. 851, which circumstance was probably contained in the missing part of the manuscript; but though written then, it is probable that the first journey of the author was undertaken at least twenty years before that date, or in 831, as he observes, that he made a second journey into the same countries sixteen years afterwards, and we may allow four years for the time spent in the two journies, and the intervening space, besides the delay of composition after his last return.  Though not mentioned, it is probable his travels were undertaken for the purpose of trade, as we can hardly suppose him to have twice visited those distant countries merely for the satisfaction of curiosity.

With regard to the second treatise or commentary, it seems probable, that when the affairs of China became better known, some prince or person of distinction had desired Abu Zeid to examine the former relation, and to inform him how far the facts of the original work were confirmed by succeeding accounts.  The date of the commentary is not certainly ascertainable; yet it appears, that Eben Wahab travelled into China A.H. 285.  A.D. 898, and that Abu Zeid had conversed with this man after his return, and had received from him the facts which are inserted in his discourse, which therefore is probably only sixty or seventy years posterior to the actual treatise of the nameless traveller.

[1] Translation from Renaudot, 8vo.  Lond. 1733.  See likewise Harris, I.
    522.

SECTION I.

Original Account of India and China, by a Mahomedan Traveller of the Ninth Century.

The third of the seas we have to mention is that of Herkend[1].  Between this sea and that of Delarowi there are many islands, said to be in number 1900, which divide those two seas from each other[2], and are governed by a queen[3].  Among these islands they find ambergris in lumps of extraordinary bigness, and also in smaller pieces, which resemble plants torn up.  This amber is produced at the bottom of the sea, in the same manner as plants are produced upon the earth; and when the sea is tempestuous, it is torn up from the bottom by the violence of the waves, and washed to the shore in the form of a mushroom or truffle.  These islands are full of that species of palm tree which bears the cocoa nuts, and they are from one to four leagues distant from each other, all inhabited.  The wealth of the inhabitants consists in shells, of which even the royal treasury is full.  The workmen in these islands are exceedingly expert, and make shirts and vests, or tunics, all of one piece, of the fibres of the cocoa nut.  Of the same tree they build ships and houses, and they are skilful in all other workmanships.  Their shells they have from the sea at certain times, when they rise up to the surface, and the inhabitants throw branches of the cocoa nut tree into the water, to which the shells stick.  These shells they call Kaptaje.

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