Thomas Coryat on Canals


Englishman Thomas Coryat visited Venice in 1611 and described the canals:

“The channels (which are called in Latin euripi or the channels, aestuaria, that is, pretty little armes of the Sea, because they ebbe and flow every sixe houres) are very singular ornaments to the citie, through the which they runne even as the veynes doe through the body of a man, and doe disgorge into the Canal il grande, which is the common receptacle of them all.”

Interesting comparison to human veins! It shows he had a knowledge of anatomy as well.

“They impart two principall commodities to the citie, the one that it carryeth away all the garbage and filthinesse that falleth into them from the citie, which by meanes of the ebbing and flowing of the water, is the sooner conveighed out of the channels, though indeede not altogether so well, but that the people doe eftsoones adde their owne industry to dense and purge them: ….”

I’ve seen some interesting things floating in the canals, “garbage and filthinesse.” What’s the worst that you’ve seen? (Or do you even want to commit it to words??)

“…The other that they serve the Venetians instead of streetes to passe with farre more expedition on the same, then they can do on their land streetes, and that by certaine little boates, which they call Gondolas the fayrest that ever I saw in any place.”


Watch this blog for the next post, where I will continue with Coryat’s descriptions of the gondola, that “fayr” boat which he so favors.


About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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5 Responses to Thomas Coryat on Canals

  1. peter maher says:

    Coryat wrongly terms ‘euripi” as Latin; but it’s Greek. Then comes cacography: The OCR (optical character recognition) machine goofed: it read as “d” what in the original text must have been cl; clense; in Coryat’s second paragraph (modern CLEANSE).

    • You know, I figured there were some errors in the recording of Coryat’s diary, but my local library doesn’t have a copy, so I was relying on the projectgutenberg version. Thanks for clearing up the errors.

  2. Nancy Schwalen says:

    I love the “veins” image; it makes infinite sense.

  3. peter maher says:

    more OCR errors: clam/dam; and watch out if you write capitals: FLICK YOUR BIC

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