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Polo expedition

Expedition series By Fiona Macdonald. Magellan, a Voyage around the World. Marco Polo, A Journey through China. Watts Pounds 9.99 each.

The journey of Ferdinand Magellan in search of a Westward route to the Spice Islands was completed as a round-the-world voyage by one of his ships - the Vittoria - after Magellan himself was killed in the Philippines.

It was an unimaginably bold enterprise, more so than the Apollo expeditions to the Moon, given the length of time it took (three years), the unknown nature of what was to be faced, and the degree of suffering involved. Much the same can be said about Marco Polo's 20-year overland exploration of the Far East in the 13th century.

These two books tell the stories magnificently. They are rich with excellent illustrations and filled with readable information, often in the form of extended picture captions.

The amount of detail they manage to pack in - background information about life in towns, about ships, food, customs, crafts, as well as the basic stories - is astonishing, and yet such is the quality of illustration and design that everything is accessible and enticing to the eye.

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