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Doubts raised on early Jew in China

NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (JTA) – The distinction of being the first European to visit China almost went to a Jew. Publisher Little, Brown and Company was set to publish a book claiming that an Italian Jewish trader, Jacob d’Ancona, traveled to China in 1270 – four years before Marco Polo, the Italian merchant who is traditionally given credit for establishing the first contact by a European with China. But the New York-based publishing house announced this week that it was postponing publication of the book, “The City of Light,” after scholars raised doubts about its authenticity. The book, which was featured in a front-page article in the Sept. 21 edition of The New York Times, was written by British author David Selbourne, who said it was based on a 13th-century manuscript written by d’Ancona. Selbourne, who said he translated and edited the manuscript after he found it in Italy, continues to vouch for its authenticity.