CULTURAL TRANSLATION IN EARLY
This groundbreaking volume gathers an international team of histor-
ians to present the practice of translation as part of cultural history.
Although translation is central to the transmission of ideas, the
history of translation has generally been neglected by historians,
who have left it to specialists in literature and language. This book
seeks to achieve an understanding of the contribution of translation
to the spread of information in early modern Europe. It focuses on
non-fiction: the translation of books on religion, history, politics and
especially on science, or â€˜natural philosophyâ€™ as it was generally
known at this time. The chapters cover a wide range of languages,
including Latin, Greek, Russian, Turkish and Chinese. The book will
appeal to scholars and students of the early modern and later periods,
and to historians of science and of religion, as well as to anyone inter-
ested in translation studies.
B U R K E is retired Professor of Cultural History at the
University of Cambridge and Life Fellow of Emmanuel College. His
most recent publications include What is Cultural History? (2004) and
Languages and Communities in Early Modern Europe (2004).
R. PO-CHIA HSIA is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History at
Pennsylvania State University. He is the author and editor of numer-
ous books, including The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540â€“1770 (2nd
edition, 2005) and the sixth volume of The Cambridge History of
Christianity: Reform and Expansion, 1500â€“1660 (2007).
CULTURAL TRANSLATION IN
EARLY MODERN EUROPE
R. PO-CHIA HSIA
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Notes on contributors page vii
Peter Burke and R. Po-chia Hsia 1
PART I TRANSLATION AND LANGUAGE 5
1 Cultures of translation in early modern Europe
Peter Burke 7
2 The Catholic mission and translations in China, 1583â€“1700
R. Po-chia Hsia 39
3 Language as a means of transfer of cultural values
Eva Kowalska 52
4 Translations into Latin in early modern Europe
Peter Burke 65
PART II TRANSLATION AND CULTURE 81
5 Early modern Catholic piety in translation
Carlos M. N. Eire 83
The translation of political theory in early modern Europe
Geoffrey P. Baldwin 101
7 Translating histories
Peter Burke 125
8 The Spectator, or the metamorphoses of the periodical:
a study in cultural translation
Maria Lucia Pallares-Burke 142
PART III TRANSLATION AND SCIENCE 161
9 The role of translations in European scientific exchanges
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
Isabelle Pantin 163
10 Scientific exchanges between Hellenism and Europe:
translations into Greek, 1400â€“1700
Ottoman encounters with European science: sixteenth-
and seventeenth-century translations into Turkish
Feza Gunergun 192
Translations of scientific literature in Russia from the
fifteenth to the seventeenth century
S. S. Demidov 212
Notes on contributors
studied at Cambridge and was the Lloyd Fellow of
Christâ€™s College, and lectured at Cambridge and Yale before his appoint-
ment as Lecturer in the Department of History, Kingâ€™s College London.
He has published on early modern intellectual history and political thought.
studied at Oxford and taught at the University of Sussex
P E T E R B UR KE
before moving to Cambridge, where he was Professor of Cultural
History until his recent retirement. He is a Life Fellow of Emmanuel
College, Fellow of the British Academy and Academia Europea. He has
studied the transmission of knowledge in Europe from the Renaissance
to the Enlightenment and published A Social History of Knowledge
(2000). He has been working on the social history of language for
nearly thirty years and his publications on the subject include
Languages and Communities in Early Modern Europe (2004).
studied at M. V. Lomonosov University,
S E R G E I S E R G E E V I C H D E M I DO V
Moscow. He is Director of the Department of the History of Mathematics,
the S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology of
the Russian Academy of Sciences and holds the chair of the History of
Mathematics and Mechanics of the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics
at M. V. Lomonosov University. He was vice-president of the International
Academy of the History of Sciences (1997â€“2005). He is the author of more
than 200 studies in the history of science.
C A R LO S M . N . E I R E
is the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and
Religious Studies at Yale University. Before joining the Yale faculty in
1996, he taught at St Johnâ€™s University and the University of Virginia. He
is the author of War Against the Idols (1986), From Madrid to Purgatory
(1995) and Reformations: Early Modern Europe 1400â€“1700 (forthcoming,
2007). His memoir of the Cuban Revolution, Waiting for Snow in
Havana (2003), won the National Book Award for non-fiction.
Notes on contributors
(born Baytop) is Professor of History of Science at
F E Z A GU N E R G UN
Istanbul University. She graduated from the Faculty of Chemical
Engineering (Istanbul University) in 1980 and started research on the
inorganic drugs used in Ottoman medicine during the fourteenth to
seventeenth centuries for her doctoral study. Her current researches
focus on the history of science in Turkey during the modernization
period (eighteenth to twentieth centuries) of the Ottoman Empire with
a special emphasis on the introduction of modern sciences to Turkey.
She has also published articles on the history of chemistry and medicine
in Turkey. She is the founder and editor of the Turkish academic journal
Osmanli bilimi arastirmalari (Studies in Ottoman Science).
R . PO -CHIA HS I A is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History at the
Pennsylvania State University. He has published extensively on the
history of the Reformation, Christianâ€“Jewish relations, and on the
cultural encounter between early modern Europe and China. His
latest publications include Jesuit Missionaries in China and Vietnam
(2006) and the edited volume, Cambridge History of Christianity, vol.
VI: Reform and Expansion, 1500â€“1660. He is an elected member of the
Academia Sinica, Taipei.
E V A KO WA L S K A ,
Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of History, Slovak
Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, studied history and philosophy at
the Comenius University there. She specializes in religious and cultural
history in early modern Hungary, focusing recently on the confessional
exile in Central Europe in the seventeenth century. She has written two
monographs, one on the public school reforms of Maria Theresa and
Joseph II (1987) and the second on the Lutheran community in Slovakia
in the eighteenth century (2001). She has also published more than
ninety articles and chapters in books (most recently in the Concise
History of Slovakia, 2001).
was born in Athens, studied in France and took
E F T H Y M I O S NI C O L A Â¨ D I S
his doctorate at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. After
working at the National Observatory of Athens (1979â€“84), he joined the
programme of the history of science of the National Hellenic Research
Foundation in 1984, becoming its director in 2003. He is Secretary
General of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of
Science / Division of History of Science and Technology. His main
publications are concerned with the history of science during the
Byzantine and the Modern Greek period (Ottoman period and Greek
Notes on contributors ix
state) and on the spreading of European (classical) science towards the
M A R I A LU C I A P AL L AR E S -BURKE
studied and taught in the Faculty of
Education, University of Sao Paulo, before coming to England where
she is Associate of the Centre for Latin American Studies, University of
Cambridge. Her doctoral thesis, published in 1995, was a study of the
English journal The Spectator. Since then she has published NÂ´sia Floresta,
O carapuceiro e outros ensaios de traducao cultural (1996); a collection of
nine interviews with historians, The New History: Confessions and
Conversations (English version, 2002); and an intellectual biography of
the young Freyre, Gilberto Freyre: um Vitoriano dos tropicos (2005).
is Professor of Renaissance Literature at the University
of Paris X-Nanterre, and she participates in the research programme of
the Observatoire de Paris (CNRS, SYRTE), in the section dedicated to
the history of astronomy and related fields. Besides critical editions of
works by Galileo and Kepler, she has published La poesie du ciel
en France (1995) and Les Freart de Chantelou: une famille dâ€™amateurs
au XVIIe siecle (1999). Her current project is a study of cosmological
thought in Renaissance northern Europe, from Regiomontanus to
Peter Burke and R. Po-chia Hsia
Just as the Tower of Babel collapsed because its builders were dispersed by
the diversity of tongues, the House of the European Community would
surely fall if deprived of its army of interpreters: for who would know the
differences between cod, kabeljauw, morue and bacalhau (the most dedi-
cated gourmands excepted) and be able to smooth over rival national
claims to fishing rights and sauce preparations but the dedicated translators
and interpreters of the EU?
If communication between languages and cultures is an assumed and
accepted fact in our contemporary world, it was by no means self-evident in
the past. Yet all major cultural exchanges in history involved translation: be
it the rendering of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit and Pali into Chinese
during the early medieval period; or the transmission of Greek philosophy
into Arabic in the early medieval, and the subsequent translation of the
same texts from Arabic into Latin during the high medieval centuries; or
the more recent translations of Western texts into Japanese and Chinese
that marked the modernization of those two East Asian civilizations in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
All the same, it was Europe that represented the scene of the most
sustained and intense cultural transfers throughout its long history, a
process marked by an enormous effort in translation: of religious, scientific,
political and literary works from a large variety of vernaculars into Latin and
vice versa, and of vernaculars crossing national and linguistic boundaries.
The essays in this book, which emerged out of a series of workshops
on cultural exchange funded by the European Science Foundation, are
concerned with what might be called the cultural history of transla-
tion, especially in early modern Europe, from the Renaissance to the
Enlightenment. The idea that translation has a history is an old one, but
until quite recently this history was an academically marginal activity,
pursued on the fringes of literary and religious history.
P E T E R B U R K E A N D R . P O -CHIA H S I A
Studies of comparative literature, for instance, have long been concerned
with the reception of famous authors in other countries, such as Ariosto in
France, Cervantes in England or Richardson in Germany.1 Literary studies
of the Renaissance focused on translations from the classics into the
vernacular, like the versions of Plutarch by Jacques Amyot or Thomas
North, together with a few famous translations from one vernacular to
another, like John Florioâ€™s English version of Montaigne.2 Studies of the
Reformation noted the importance of translations of the Bible by Luther
and his followers in England, Denmark, Sweden and elsewhere.3
Alternatively, following the model of comparative literature, they discussed
the influence of Luther in France or Erasmus in Spain.4
To give translation a more central position in academe was the aim of
the movement for Translation Studies in the later 1970s. Two ideas discus-
sed at this time are particularly important for the cultural history of trans-
lation. Earlier books on the art of translation were generally normative, but
the focus of Translation Studies â€“ like that of sociolinguistics â€“ was and is
descriptive, stressing what translators actually do rather than what they
should do. In the second place, where earlier studies had focused on the
source, such as Ariosto or Calvin, the new studies â€“ like the theory of
â€˜receptionâ€™ and the history of reading â€“ focused on the audience, viewing
translations as â€˜facts of the culture which hosts themâ€™ and as agents of change
in that culture.5 Cultural exchange was viewed from a new perspective, that
of the horizon of readers and their culture, whether we call it the â€˜host
cultureâ€™ or the â€˜target cultureâ€™.6
In a famous early map of the new field, James Holmes distinguished
between theoretical and descriptive studies of translation, but allocated
little or no space to history. The early years might be described as the
â€˜theoretical momentâ€™ in Translation Studies, a time of an emphasis on
systems associated with Itamar Even-Zohar and Gideon Toury.7
Since that time, however, what might be called a â€˜historical turnâ€™ has
begun, a growing awareness of the historicity of what a recent study calls
â€˜constructed â€“ and often contingent â€“ linguistic equivalencesâ€™.8 Some lead-
ing figures in the new field, notably Antoine Berman, Theo Hermans,
Lawrence Venuti, Anthony Pym and members of the Gottingen school
such as Wilhelm Graeber and Genevieve Roche, take history seriously.9 The
Cioranescu (1938); Fitzmaurice-Kelly (1906); Beebee (1990).
Matthiessen (1931); Highet (1949), 104â€“26. 3 Stolt (1983). 4 Moore (1930); Bataillon (1937).
Holmes (1972); Toury (1995), 7â€“19, 24, 27. 6 Liu (1995), 26â€“8.
Basnett (1980); Munday (2001). 8 Liu (1999), 5.
Berman (1984); Hermans (1985); Graeber and Roche (1988); Venuti (1995); Pym (2000).
FIT (Federation Internationale des Traducteurs) has set up a Committee
for the History of Translation, and a Directory of Historians of Translation
has been published.10
Even today, though, workers in this field have less to say about the
contrasts between cultures than between individual translators, less about
long-term trends than about short-term processes, and less about the
history of practice than about the history of theory.11 It is hoped that the
essays in this volume (by ten contributors who between them speak nine
native languages) will do something to fill these gaps.
In any case, the turn towards history within Translation Studies has not
yet been matched by a turn towards the study of translation on the part of
historians, even cultural historians. A second aim of this volume is there-
fore to encourage a dialogue between workers in Translation Studies and in
cultural history. Central to such a dialogue is the notion of translation
between cultures as well as between languages, in other words the adapta-
tion of ideas and texts as they pass from one culture to another. This notion
informs the chapters by Burke, Hsia, Baldwin and Pallares-Burke in
A third aim of the volume is to complement existing work on the history
of translation by compensating for absences. Where earlier work privileged
literary translation, this volume privileges non-fiction, the transmission of
information and knowledge from one language to another. One chapter
focuses on political texts (Baldwin), another on historical texts (Burke), a
third on periodicals (Pallares-Burke). Where earlier work on religious texts
privileged the translation of the Bible and of the writings of the reformers,
in this volume Eire focuses on the diffusion of works of piety (examined
from an international viewpoint), while Kowalska views the Czech
Protestant Bible from a Slovak perspective. Four chapters (Demidov,
Gunergun, NicolaÂ¨dis and Pantin) are concerned with the translation of
works of science or â€˜natural philosophyâ€™, as it was generally known in the
early modern period. They contribute to the understanding of the role of
interlingual translation in that larger movement of the â€˜making of natural
knowledgeâ€™, the translation of local knowledge into universal science.12
So far as different languages are concerned, earlier work has concen-
trated on translations from Latin and Greek into the vernacular.13 This
volume, by contrast, emphasizes translations between vernaculars and also
Delisle and Woodsworth (1995).
On the history of theory, Kloepfer (1967); Kelly (1979); Ballard (1992); Robinson (1997).
Golinski (1998). 13 Bolgar (1954); Schweiger (1830â€“4).
P E T E R B U R K E A N D R . P O -CHIA H S I A
the neglected yet important topic of translation from the vernaculars into
Latin (Burke). The contributors (especially Demidov, Gunergun and
NicolaÂ¨dis) examine European peripheries as well as centres and extend
their researches to the world beyond Europe (Hsia).
Earlier studies of translation have concentrated on printed translations,
though the history of interpreting has been studied by some scholars,
including one of the participants in our workshops, Dejanirah Couto.14
However, three contributions to this volume (once again, Demidov,
Gunergun and NicolaÂ¨dis) emphasize the importance of manuscripts in
the so-called â€˜age of printâ€™, especially in the eastern half of Europe.
There remains much work still to be done on the cultural history of
translation. The purpose of this volume is to make better known what has
been done already, to offer a few more contributions to encourage readers
to enter this fascinating field.
Translation and language
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe
Translation is always a shift not between two languages but between
two cultures (Umberto Eco)
This essay has two aims: to present a general survey of translating in early
modern Europe and to discuss translation between languages in the context
of translation between cultures. Differences between cultures as well as
languages reduce what has been called the â€˜translatabilityâ€™ of texts. A major
problem for anyone translating comic literature, for instance, is that the
sense or senses of humour of different cultures, â€˜cultures of laughterâ€™, as
they have been called, are very different. Jokes fail to cross frontiers. In
similar fashion they often go stale over the centuries or become unintelli-
gible, like the references to the horns of husbands in Shakespeare, which
may have had Elizabethan audiences rolling in the aisles of the Globe, but
are greeted with silence today.2
If the past is a foreign country, it follows that even the most monoglot of
historians is a translator.3 Historians mediate between the past and the
present and face the same dilemmas as other translators, serving two masters
and attempting to reconcile fidelity to the original with intelligibility to
For example, should one speak of the â€˜policyâ€™ of a medieval king? The
word does not occur in medieval texts. It was not necessary, since a
medieval king did not have to convince voters to elect him by presenting
them with a programme for future action. A policy in the sense of some
I should like to thank my colleagues in the ESF project on cultural exchange, the Royal Library in The
Hague, The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Mark Goldie of Churchill College and Aleka
Lianeri of Darwin College for helping me in different ways in the writing of this essay.
Unger, Schultze and Turk (1995). 3 Cohen (1997), 297. 4 Evans (1994).
principles or strategies underlying everyday political action, from doing
justice to extending his realm, he may have had, but a policy in the modern
sense of programme is an anachronistic concept.
Again, can a historian speak of â€˜propagandaâ€™ for Louis XIV? In its political
sense, the term was coined in the late eighteenth century in order to
compare techniques of political persuasion with techniques of religious
conversion as practised by the Catholic Church and its institutions â€˜for
the propagation of the faithâ€™ (de propaganda fide). On the other hand, writers
and artists in the service of Louis not only glorified the king in general
but justified particular actions such as the expulsion of Protestants from
France in 1685.5 I would therefore argue that to speak of â€˜propagandaâ€™ for
Louis is culturally appropriate even if it is technically anachronistic. It is a
free translation but not an unfaithful one.
The term â€˜cultural translationâ€™ was originally coined by anthropologists
in the circle of Edward Evans-Pritchard, to describe what happens in
cultural encounters when each side tries to make sense of the actions of
the other.6 A vivid example, famous among anthropologists, is Laura
Bohannanâ€™s account of how she told the story of Hamlet to a group of
Tiv in West Africa and heard the story â€˜correctedâ€™ by the elders until it
finally matched the patterns of Tiv culture.7
Working as they often do in situations where the cultural distance
between themselves and their informants is unusually great, anthropolo-
gists are well aware of the problem of untranslatable terms (some of which,
like â€˜totemâ€™ and â€˜tabooâ€™, they have introduced into European languages) as
well as the more general problem of communication between natives of
one culture and natives of another. They are becoming increasingly con-
scious of both the linguistic and the wider cultural problems involved in
turning conversations with informants into their own academic prose.8
The concept of cultural translation has recently been taken up by a
group of literary scholars concerned with the translatability of texts.9 It may
also be used to refer to visual images (discussed by Hsia below) and to
everyday life. It has often been suggested, from August Schlegel through
Franz Rosenzweig to Benvenuto Terracini, Octavio Paz and George Steiner,
that understanding itself is a kind of translation, turning other peopleâ€™s
concepts and practices into their equivalents in our own â€˜vocabularyâ€™. As
Beidelman (1971); a critique in Asad (1986); cf. Palsson (1993), Kissel (1999), Howland (2001); and
Rubel and Rosman (2003).
Bohannan (1971). 8 Sturge (1997); Tihanyi (2004). 9 Budick and Iser (1996).
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 9
Paz puts it, â€˜learning to speak is learning to translateâ€™ (aprender a hablar es
aprender a traducir).10
Within contemporary Western culture, for instance, most people do not
understand the technical language used by lawyers, doctors and many
different kinds of scientist. This was already becoming a problem in the
seventeenth century, when the Dutchman Adriaan Koerbagh published a
dictionary of legal terms in the vernacular in order to help ordinary people
avoid being manipulated by the lawyers.11 The task of translating law or
medicine in the sense of taking legal or medical ideas across linguistic as
well as social frontiers is even more difficult.12 So is the translation of gods,
to be discussed below in the context of Christian missions in Asia and the
Translation implies â€˜negotiationâ€™, a concept which has expanded its
domain in the last generation, moving beyond the worlds of trade and
diplomacy to refer to the exchange of ideas and the consequent modifica-
tion of meanings.14 The moral is that a given translation should be regarded
less as a definitive solution to a problem than as a messy compromise,
involving losses or renunciations and leaving the way open for renegotiation.
In the case of the early modern period, the idea of negotiated translation
seems particularly appropriate to the mission field. Christian missionaries
had to decide how far they could go in adapting (or as was said at the time,
â€˜accommodatingâ€™) the Christian message to the culture in which they were
working. In China, for example, Matteo Ricci discovered that if he dressed as
a priest no one would take him seriously, so he dressed like a Confucian
scholar instead, thus â€˜translatingâ€™ his social position into Chinese. He
allowed the Chinese whom he converted to pay reverence to their ancestors
in the traditional manner, arguing that this was a social custom rather than a
religious one. He translated the word â€˜Godâ€™ by the neologism Tianzhu,
literally â€˜Lord of Heavenâ€™, and allowed Chinese Christians to refer simply to
Tian, â€˜Heavenâ€™, as Confucius had done (further discussion below, pp. 39â€“51).
In Rome, the Jesuits were accused of having been converted to the
religion of the Chinese rather than converting them to Christianity.
What appeared in Beijing to be a good cultural translation looked more
like a mistranslation in Rome.15 Other missionaries refused to go so far as
Ricci, keeping their traditional black robes and also the Latin word Deus,
Glatzer (1953), 255; Terracini (1957), 39; Paz (1971), 7; G. Steiner (1975), 1â€“48.
Israel (2001), 187.
On law, Liu (1999) and Legrand (2005); on medicine, Chen (1999). On justice as itself a kind of
translation, White (1990).
Assmann (1996). 14 Pym (1993); Eco (2003). 15 Gernet (1982).
glossing rather than translating it (below, p. 48). These conflicts offer the
most vivid early modern examples of the problems of both interlingual and
Another way of discussing cultural translation is to speak of a double
process of decontextualization and recontextualization, first reaching out
to appropriate something alien and then domesticating it. Interlingual
translation may be regarded not only as an instance of this process but
also as a kind of litmus paper that makes it unusually visible â€“ or audible. It
may be illuminating to attempt to look at the process from a double
viewpoint. From the receiverâ€™s point of view it is a form of gain, enriching
the host culture as a result of skilful adaptation. From the donorâ€™s point of
view, on the other hand, translation is a form of loss, leading to misunder-
standing and doing violence to the original.
In any history of cultural exchange, translation between languages is
obviously of great importance. The relation between linguistic translation
and cultural translation has recently been the concern of a number of
perceptive studies focused on the movement of ideas such as liberty,
individualism and democracy from the West to China, Japan, West
Africa and elsewhere.16 The focus of these studies on translation between
continents is no accident. The greater the distance between the languages
and cultures involved, the more clearly do the problems of translation
appear. All the same, this approach may usefully be extended to cultural
exchange within Europe.
The translation of texts was central to the great cultural movements of
early modern Europe, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific
Revolution and the Enlightenment. In the Renaissance, for instance, trans-
lations from the classics (including translations from Greek into Latin) take
pride of place, but translations of major works of vernacular literature,
from the Orlando furioso to Don Quixote, were also influential. In the
Reformation and Counter-Reformation, as we shall see in Eireâ€™s chapter
(below, pp. 83â€“100), translations of Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, LuÂ´s de Ä±
Granada, Roberto Bellarmino and others played an important role. The
spread of the Scientific Revolution (discussed below, pp. 161â€“217) can to
some degree be measured by the translations of Galileo and Newton, and
that of the Enlightenment by those of Montesquieu and Locke.
Liu (1995); Sakai (1997); Schaffer (1998); Howland (2001).
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 11
Translations from the classics, like translations of major works of
vernacular literature, have often been studied. Hence this chapter, like
the rest of the volume, will concentrate on what has tended to be neglected,
translations of non-fiction written either in the vernaculars of early modern
Europe or in neo-Latin (studied in more detail below, pp. 65â€“80). A definitive
study, if such a thing is possible, will have to wait until a census has been
made of all the translations produced in early modern Europe, a task
beyond the powers of a small team, let alone an individual.
What can be done here is to place these texts in their cultural context,
including the systems or â€˜regimesâ€™ of translation prevalent in this period, in
other words the rules, norms or conventions governing its practice, both
the ends (or â€˜strategiesâ€™) and the means (the â€˜tacticsâ€™ or â€˜poeticsâ€™).17 The
following overview of these regimes, or as I prefer to call them, the â€˜cultures
of translationâ€™, in early modern Europe offers provisional answers to the
following six large questions: Who translates? With what intentions?
What? For whom? In what manner? With what consequences?18
Who translates? The thousands of translators in Europe in this period may
be classified in various ways. For example, most translations were the work
of individuals, but teamwork can also be found at this time, as it had been
in the Middle Ages (in Toledo, for instance, and also in the Swedish
monastery of Vadstena). Thus the German publisher Zacharias Palthen
organized a team to translate the works of Paracelsus into Latin (below,
p. 173), while the poet Alexander Pope employed a team of collaborators to
help him translate Homer.19
Collaborative translation was especially common in the case of the Bible,
not only because the text was so long but also by reason of the responsibility
involved in interpreting the word of God. The English Authorized Version
and the Czech Kralicy Bible as well as a Dutch, a Danish, a Swedish and a
Finnish Bible produced in the early modern period were all the work of
committees of scholars (in the English case, six â€˜companiesâ€™, two based in
Oxford, two in Cambridge and two in London). The establishment of
these groups followed the model of the famous Septuagint, the seventy-two
scholars who were supposed to have assembled in Alexandria in order to
translate the Old Testament into Greek.
17 18 19
Pym (1998), 125â€“42. Lambert (1993). Pantin (below).
Another useful distinction between translators divides the amateurs
from the professionals. The vast majority of translators engaged in this
activity only once or twice in their lives. The amateurs include a number of
rulers or future rulers, among them Queen Elizabeth, James I, Philip IV
and Philip V of Spain and Ludwig Prince of Anhalt. Devotional writers
often translated other devotional writers (LuÂ´s de Granada and the Jesuit
Emmanuel Nieremberg, for instance, both translated Thomas Kempis).
Physicians translated herbals and works on anatomy (Annibale Briganti,
for instance, translated the herbals of GarcÂ´a de Horta and Monardes into
Italian). Historians translated other historians, as Leonardo Bruni trans-
lated or adapted Polybius and Procopius, while Johann Sleidan translated
Commynes. Artists and connoisseurs translated treatises on art and archi-
tecture (Richard Haydocke, a physician who was also an engraver, trans-
lated the Italian art theorist Lomazzo into English).
Women were relatively prominent in this field, probably because trans-
lation was considered more compatible than original writing with female
modesty. The tradition lasted a long time: in early twentieth-century
Germany, 40 per cent of the literary translations from English were the
work of women.20 In the early modern period, female translators included
the Italian Giuseppa-Eleonora Barbapiccola, the Pole Maria Sipayllowna,
the Germans Eleonora von Sporck and Louise Gottsched, the Danes
Dorothea Biehl and Birgitte Thott, the Swedes Catharina Gyllengrip and
Catharina and Maria Gyllenstierna and the Frenchwomen Genevieve
Chappelain, Anne Dacier, Susanne Du Vergerre, Octavie Belot and Emilie
Marquise du Chatelet. In England â€“ to mention only the best-known names â€“
there were Margaret Beaufort, Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Cary, Ann Cook, Ann
Lok, Jane Lumley, Margaret Roper, Mary Sidney and Margaret Tyler.
By contrast with the many amateurs, a relatively small number of
translators were professional, at least in the general sense of devoting a
considerable amount of their life to this task, often for money. Translators
of texts were among the first authors to be paid for their work and most
early modern writers who aspired to live by their pen, from Erasmus to Dr
Johnson, engaged in translation among other literary activities. By the end
of the period a few of them were able to make a reasonable amount of
money in this way. The group included one woman, Elizabeth Carter, who
was said to know ten languages and translated from four of them â€“ Greek,
Latin, French and Italian. Carter earned 1,000 guineas from her translation
Pym (1998), 144.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 13
of Epictetus, while Alexander Pope received ÂŁ4,500 for the English Odyssey,
passing on a fraction of that sum to his collaborators.
The professionals include a substantial number of oral translators.
Interpreters were often appointed by governments and sometimes trained
in special schools, in Vienna, for instance, in Venice, or in Paris, where the
students were known as â€˜les jeunes de languesâ€™.21 Their position might be
hereditary, as in the case of the Russian-speaking interpreters in Sweden or
the Dutch-speaking tsujis of Deshima, the island to which foreigners were
confined by the Japanese government from the early seventeenth century to
The record for the number of texts translated in this period is held by the
Frenchman Gabriel Chappuys, who translated some eighty texts from
Italian or Spanish. The Dutchman Jan Hendriksz Glazemaker translated
over sixty works from Latin, French, German and Italian. The German
Christian Weisse translated forty-eight works from English. The Swede
Eric Schroder translated over forty works, mainly from Latin, while the
Dutchman Vincentius Meusevoet translated over thirty-five, mainly from
All the same, it is more exact to call these people â€˜semi-professionalâ€™,
since it was common at this time to combine the career of translator with
teaching languages, interpreting, acting as a secretary, compiling diction-
aries or with writing for money (even today, only a minority of translators
work full-time).23 Thus Meusevoet was a Calvinist pastor, Chappuys a
royal secretary and interpreter. Weisse was active as an editor and a writer as
well as a translator. Schroder occupied the position of royal translator, but
he was also a proof-corrector at the royal press in Stockholm and at one
time ran his own press as well.
For some rare examples of full-time salaried translators, we need to turn
to eighteenth-century Russia, where they were employed by the Academy
of St Petersburg and held regular meetings to discuss their problems. As a
speech he made in 1735 shows, Vasilij Trediakovsky in particular had a
strong sense of the translatorâ€™s mission, in this case to transmit Western
European culture to Russia.24
The scarcity of resources available to assist translators in the early
modern period deserves to be emphasized.25 The lack of bilingual diction-
aries of European vernaculars is particularly striking. Take, for example,
the situation of the English translator. For a Frenchâ€“English dictionary
Dupont-Ferrier (1923); Lewis (1999). 22 Tarkiainen (1972); Goodman (1967).
Pym (1998), 162. 24 Marker (1985), 52â€“3. 25 Kelly (1979), 126â€“30.
it was necessary to wait until 1580, for Spanishâ€“English until 1591, for
Frenchâ€“German until 1596, for Italianâ€“English until 1598. In the case of
Sweden, it was necessary to wait till 1694 for a Frenchâ€“Swedish dictionary,
till 1734 for Englishâ€“Swedish, and till 1749 for Germanâ€“Swedish. Before
those dates translators who encountered problems with a particular lan-
guage had either to work via Latin or to turn for help to a native speaker.
Two semi-professional groups stand out from the rest. The first, pre-
dictably, is that of emigres, amphibians who were unusually well qualified
for their task and often made a career of mediating between their two
countries. These European amphibians, like the professional interpreters of
the time, have not been studied as intensively as their equivalents in the
Americas, the Portuguese Empire and elsewhere. In the Ottoman Empire,
for instance, interpreters were often â€˜renegadesâ€™, in other words converts
from Christianity to Islam, while the Portuguese interpreters in India were
often â€˜new Christiansâ€™, generally of Jewish origin.26
As for translators of texts, sixteenth-century examples include two
Londoners with Italian parents, John Florio â€“ a hybrid name expressing
what was probably a hybrid identity â€“ and Lodowick Bryskett, otherwise
known as Lodovico Bruschetto. Italian Protestant refugees were especially
prominent among translators into Latin (below, p. 70).
In the seventeenth century it was the turn of French Protestant refugees
to enter the field of translation, whether from English into French or the
other way round. Pierre Coste, the translator of Locke and Newton, was a
Huguenot in exile in Amsterdam and Essex.27 Jean Baptiste de Rosemond
became an Anglican clergyman and translated his new colleagues such as
Gilbert Burnet and Edward Stillingfleet. On the other hand, Pierre
Desmaizeaux, the translator of Bayle, Fenelon and Saint-Evremond, and
John Desaguliers â€“ another hybrid name â€“ translator of works on fortifi-
cation and natural philosophy, preferred to turn French texts into English.
Desmaizeaux also acted as a cultural translator in a broader sense by acting
as the English correspondent for the learned periodical Nouvelles de la
republique de lettres and sending information about new publications.28
In the case of the Netherlands, returned immigrants form a special
category, notably those who fled to England in the days of the Duke of
Albaâ€™s persecution of Protestants and later returned to their native country
to become Calvinist ministers. The prolific translator Vincentius Meusevoet,
for instance, lived for some years in Norwich. Michael Panneel lived in
Ipswich. Johannes Beverland lived in Yarmouth. Jan Lamoot went to school
26 27 28
Karttunen (1994); Acs (2000); Couto (2001). Rumbold (1991). Almagor (1984).
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 15
in London. Willem Teelinck studied in St Andrews, lived in Banbury and
married a woman from Derby. These personal experiences of Britain surely
helped the translators in their task of cultural negotiation.
A second group that deserves mention here, alongside the refugees, is
that of the cosmopolitan order of the Jesuits. Jesuits were of course special-
ists in cultural translation who had been instructed by their founder
Ignatius Loyola (in the words of St Paul) to be â€˜all things to all peopleâ€™
(omnia omnibus). In that sense Ricciâ€™s strategy of dressing as a Chinese
scholar was typical of his order.
Translation between languages formed part of the Jesuit strategy of
conversion. More than 250 Jesuit translators were active between the
foundation of the order in 1540 and the end of the eighteenth century,
translating especially though not exclusively from the vernacular into Latin
and concentrating on texts by other Jesuits. The highest number of texts
translated by a single individual is thirty (in the case of the Fleming Frans
de Smidt), followed by twenty-three (the Pole Simon Wysocki), nineteen
(the German Conrad Vetter), eighteen (the northern Netherlander, Jan
Buys) and seventeen (both the Frenchman Jean Brignon and the Czech
Jiri Ferus). Jesuit translation was particularly important in East-Central
or Eastern Europe. Thus Jacob Szafarzynski translated his colleague
Rivadeneira into Polish, Balthasar Hostovinus translated letters from the
Jesuit missions into Czech and so on.29 Jesuit translators were also active in
China, as Hsia shows (below, p. 44).
Besides the translators themselves it is necessary to take into account the
patrons in the sense of â€˜the powers (persons, institutions) that can further or
hinder the reading, writing and rewriting of literatureâ€™.30 Some of them were
leading figures in the Church. The humanist pope Nicholas V commis-
sioned a number of translations of Greek classics into Latin. Cardinal
Jimenez de Cisneros was patron of a polyglot edition of the Bible, as well
as of a number of works of piety (below, p. 92), while the Cardinal of
Lorraine encouraged the translation of devotional works from Spanish into
Other important patrons were rulers. Already in the thirteenth century,
King Alfonso X of Castille, known as â€˜the wiseâ€™ or â€˜the learnedâ€™ (el sabio)
had commissioned a number of translations, mainly of Arabic texts on
astrology, while some thirty texts were turned into French at the command
of King Charles V.32 Circulating in manuscript, these texts reached a
limited audience. In the age of print, Gustav Adolf in Sweden and Peter
29 30 31 32
Burke (2006). Lefevere (1992), 11â€“25, at 15. Martin (1969), 12. Pym (2000), 56â€“79.
and Catherine the Great in Russia initiated similar campaigns of trans-
lation which reached far more people (below, p. 18).
The example of Catherine reminds us that women were prominent as
patrons, encouraging men to translate particular authors into particular
languages. The Spanish and English versions of Castiglioneâ€™s Cortegiano
were the result of suggestions by two noblewomen, Geronima Palova de
Almogaver and Elizabeth Marchioness of Northampton. John Florio
dedicated the three parts of his translation of Montaigneâ€™s Essays (1603)
to six noblewomen. The third French translation of Paolo Sarpiâ€™s History of
the Council of Trent was made at the command of the Queen of England
(below, p. 139).
There were also the entrepreneurs of translation, the printers â€“ some of
whom were particularly interested in this kind of book. For example,
Gabriel Giolito of Venice founded a series of translations of classical
historical works (below, p. 126), as well as employing the Spaniard Alfonso
de Ulloa to translate from Spanish. Theodor de Bry and his son Johann
Theodor commissioned German and Latin translations of travel books.
Printers who practised translation themselves included William Caxton in
London, Etienne Dolet in Lyon and Barezzo Barezzi in Venice. It was
largely thanks to printers that a few large cities became centres of trans-
lation, in particular Venice, Paris, London and Amsterdam.
With what intentions or strategies were translations undertaken?33 The
most obvious and perhaps the most important projects were religious ones.
The parallel as well as the connection between the work of translators and
missionaries is worth noting. Missionaries such as Ricci translated religious
texts as a means of conversion, but they sometimes found themselves
translating their religion as well, in the sense of adapting it to the local
culture, and even converting their language, in the sense of introducing
into it words and phrases from TupÂ´, Japanese and so on.
There was a good deal of missionary activity in Europe as well as in other
continents and here too translation played an important role. In the world
of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, there was what might be called
a â€˜translation policyâ€™, associated with attempts to make converts from
The importance of intention has been emphasized by the so-called â€˜skoposâ€™ theorists: Reiss and
Vermeer (1984), 95â€“104.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 17
Protestantism or Orthodoxy. The policy is particularly clear in the case of
the catechism written by Roberto Bellarmino, which was translated into
twenty European languages (or twenty-two if Piedmontese and Sicilian,
which are now treated as dialects, are included).34
In Rome, a number of translations, including an Arabic version of the
church history of Cardinal Baronius, were financed and published by the
Congregation â€˜for the Propagation of the Faithâ€™ (de propaganda fide) and
published by their special press from 1626 onwards.35 In the case of the
Jesuits in particular, it is tempting to speak of a conspiracy of translation, or
at any rate of a translation policy, of books produced not only Ad majorem
dei gloriam (â€˜to the greater glory of Godâ€™, the Jesuit motto) but also to the
greater glory of the order.
The many versions of the Bible made by Protestants, from Luther
onwards, offer another obvious case of a conscious strategy. So do the
production of Lutheran texts, especially catechisms, in many languages.
The first texts ever printed in Latvian (1525), Estonian (1535), Lithuanian
(1547) and Sami (1649), as well as an early Russian text, printed in
Stockholm in 1625, were all translations or paraphrases of works by Luther.36
Again, when we find that theological and devotional works by the
Puritan William Perkins were translated into Dutch and Hungarian at a
time when few books by Englishmen were translated into any foreign
language, the explanation that immediately springs to mind is that
Calvinists too must have had a policy or strategy of translation. The
speed with which Paolo Sarpiâ€™s anti-papal History of the Council of Trent
appeared in its English, French, German, Dutch and Latin translations (in
1620 and 1621, following the original Italian edition of 1619), once again
suggests co-ordinated action in the Protestant world.
Secular strategies or policies of a similar kind can also be found in this
period. For example, Luis de Avilaâ€™s official history of the emperor Charles
Vâ€™s war against the Protestant princes in 1546â€“7 was published not long
after the events not only in the original Spanish but also â€“ in the same year â€“
in Italian, French, Flemish, Latin and English. This co-ordination suggests
that the initiative for translation came from the emperorâ€™s circle.
In England in the age of Henry VIII, William Marshall translated
Lorenzo Valla, Marsilio of Padua, Martin Luther and Martin Bucer in
order to support the Reformation and was himself supported by the
Sommervogel (1890â€“1900). On â€˜translation policyâ€™, Toury (1995), 58; Henkel (1972).
Burke (2004), 78.
kingâ€™s minister Thomas Cromwell, though it seems that the initiative for
translation came from Marshall himself and not from the government.37 In
similar fashion, in the reign of Elizabeth, Richard Hakluyt seems to have
encouraged translations of travel books, for instance by his assistant John
Pory (who translated the description of Africa by Leo Africanus) and also
by William Phillip.
In the case of seventeenth-century Sweden, on the other hand, although
the initiative came from a private individual, Schroder, who set out his plan
in a book dedicated to Karl IX in 1606, it would not be far from the mark to
speak of an official â€˜translation campaignâ€™ in the age of Gustav Adolf,
undertaken with the aim of helping the Swedes to catch up with cultural
developments elsewhere in Europe. In the eighteenth century, too, it was
the state (more exactly, the Chancery College) that commissioned the
Swedish translation of Lockeâ€™s Second Treatise on Government.38
In the case of eighteenth-century Russia it is even more appropriate to
speak of a translation campaign. Translators worked for the College of
Foreign Affairs, as they had already done earlier (below, p. 132). In 1698,
Ilya Kopievich was commissioned to translate no fewer than twenty-one
titles.39 Translations in Peter the Greatâ€™s time were mainly military, scien-
tific and technical, reflecting the tsarâ€™s interests and policies. They included
works of anatomy (Vesalius), cosmology (Huyghens), geography (Varenius)
and architecture (Vignola, supposedly translated by Peter himself). History
was represented by Curtiusâ€™s life of Alexander the Great, who was doubtless
a role model for Peter, and by Pufendorfâ€™s survey of European states, a
textbook in courses at the Naval Academy.40
This campaign increased in scale after Peterâ€™s death, but technical
books were replaced by works of literature, reflecting a â€˜self-conscious
attemptâ€™ by Catherine to create a lay vernacular culture in Russia via foreign
models, whether classical (Horace, Virgil) or French (Boileau, Fenelon).
Eighteenth-century Russia offers a vivid early modern example of the
importance of translation in cases where a given literature is â€˜youngâ€™,
weak and peripheral.41 Translators now worked for the Russian Academy.
In 1768, the Society for the Translation of Foreign Books began its activities,
and 154 translations were published in the following twelve years. In the
Alec Ryrie (2004), â€˜William Marshall (d. 1540?)â€™ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Hansson (1982), 70; Hallberg (2003), 57n. 39 Hughes (1998), 317.
Marker (1985), 29, 248. 41 Even-Zohar (1979).
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 19
period 1756â€“75, 765 translations were published. French books accounted
for 402 of these, German books for 175, Latin and Italian for 54 apiece and
English for 36, though texts were not always translated from their original
In short, Sweden and Russia exemplify the importance of cultural
contributions from the periphery. Sweden effectively entered the
European Republic of Letters in the seventeenth century and Russia in
the eighteenth. The elites felt that they needed to catch up with Western
Europe, and translation was the means. Hence translation was more highly
organized and had a higher status, and the state was more closely involved
with the enterprise than it was elsewhere.
Elsewhere the term â€˜campaignâ€™ seems less appropriate in this period,
although the ideal of spreading enlightenment by means of translation was
widespread. On one side, translations into Latin were made to give the
scholarly community access to works written in vernaculars they did not
know, as in the case of the translations of antiquarian works from Italian
made in the Dutch Republic on the initiative of Johan Georg Graevius
(below, p. 68). Conversely, translations were made into different vernaculars
from Greek and Latin in order to allow groups excluded from a classical
education to have access to the wisdom of the ancients. Didactic and
economic motives were intertwined in the projects of Giovanni Battista
Ramusio, Richard Eden, Richard Hakluyt, Theodore de Bry and others to
give Europeans a better knowledge of other continents.
Another important motive for translations into vernaculars was what has
been described as â€˜cultural nationalismâ€™. Translators often used the lan-
guage of rivalry. Sir Thomas Hoby, for example, was aware that
Castiglioneâ€™s Courtier had been translated into Spanish and French before
he began his English version.43 Gavin Douglas translated Virgilâ€™s Aeneid
into what he called â€˜the langage of Scottis natiounâ€™, contrasting it with
Caxtonâ€™s translation of the poem into English.44
The translations of vernacular classics, including the epic poems of
Ariosto and Tasso, into dialects such as Bergamask, Bolognese and
Neapolitan may have been made for similar reasons to Douglasâ€™s, out of
local pride. They may also represent a form of learned playfulness, the early
modern equivalent of the twentieth-century Latin version of Winnie the
Pooh, which was produced by a Hungarian living in Brazil.
42 43 44
Marker (1985), 50â€“8, 88, 91. Ebel (1969). Corbett (1999), 42.
What was translated? From the point of view of a cultural anthropologist or
a cultural historian, translation reveals with unusual clarity what one
culture finds of interest in another, or more exactly what groups from
one culture (or individuals such as Peter the Great) find of interest in
another. One might say that the choice of items for translation reflects the
priorities of the recipient culture, though â€˜refractionâ€™ might make a more
appropriate metaphor.45 The point is that works seem to be selected for
translation on two opposite principles. In the first place, unsurprisingly, to
fill gaps in the host culture.46 For example, in 1700 Russia lacked books on
mathematics, science and technology and so Peter the Great set out to
remedy this deficiency.
The second principle, however, is the opposite of the first. It might be
called the principle of confirmation, according to which people in a given
culture translate works that support ideas or assumptions or prejudices
already present in the culture. If they do not support ideas of this kind, the
translations are modified, directly or indirectly (via â€˜paratextsâ€™ such as
prefaces or letters to the reader) in order to give the impression that they
do, as in the case of what might be called the â€˜Protestantizationâ€™ of the Italian
historians Francesco Guicciardini and Paolo Sarpi (below, pp. 134ff.).
In early modern Europe the most translated text was, unsurprisingly, the
Bible. Translations of Scripture were published in fifty-one languages
between 1456 and 1699, including classic versions such as Lutherâ€™s
German Bible, the Czech Kralicy Bible, the English Authorized Version
and the Dutch â€˜Statesâ€™ Bibleâ€™.47 As might have been expected during the
Renaissance, the Greek and Latin classics were frequently translated.
Between 1450 and 1600, around a thousand translations of the Greek and
Latin classics were published in five vernaculars alone.48 After the Bible, the
Imitatio Christi (often attributed to Thomas Kempis) was well ahead of the
field, with at least fifty-two translations into twelve languages, including
Breton, Catalan, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Swedish, all published
before 1700. Among modern authors, Luther and Erasmus were among
those most often translated (below, p. 83).
Works of modern literature were often turned into other languages.
They are passed over rapidly in this volume not because they were unim-
portant in the period but because they have been studied much more
intensively than works of non-fiction. Tassoâ€™s Gerusalemme liberata, for
45 46 47 48
Lefevere (1992). Toury (1995), 27. Nida (1939). Bolgar (1954), appendix 2.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 21
instance, was translated into Latin, Spanish, English, French, German and
Polish. Don Quixote had already appeared in French, Italian, English and
German by 1648. Guariniâ€™s Pastor fido appeared in nine foreign languages
by the end of the seventeenth century: French, Spanish, English, Dutch,
Croat, Greek, German, Polish and Swedish. The translations from English
into Latin made in this period included versions of the Shepherdâ€™s Calendar,
Paradise Lost, the Essay on Man and the Elegy in a Country Churchyard
(below, p. 75).
The translation of works of history, politics, piety and especially science
will be discussed in later chapters of this volume. Travel and geography
were also popular in translation. For example, the travels of Ludovico de
Varthema, first published in Italian in 1510, had been translated into five
languages by 1600. Giovanni Boteroâ€™s Relazioni, or descriptions of the
different parts of the world, were translated wholly or partially into
German, Latin, English, Spanish and Polish. Contemporary interest in
China is revealed by the many translations of Marco Polo, of the descrip-
tion of China by the Augustinian friar Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza and of
the history of the fall of the Ming dynasty written by the Italian Jesuit
Martino Martini (below, p. 129).49
For whom were translations made? Translations were clearly made for
different publics with different levels of education, as may be seen from the
coexistence of two trends in this period. The first is that of translations
from Greek and Latin into the vernaculars. The second, little studied
despite the importance of the phenomenon, is the reverse, translations
into Latin, not only from Greek but from the vernaculars as well. Over
1,100 translations from the vernaculars into Latin were made between the
invention of printing and 1799, with a peak of more than 350 texts in the
fifty years 1600â€“49 (below, p. 68).
Translations in manuscript should not be forgotten, like the general
circulation of manuscripts in early modern Europe, emphasized in some
important recent studies.50 These manuscript translations include Spanish
versions of Moreâ€™s Utopia, Sidneyâ€™s Defence of Poetry, Montaigneâ€™s Essays,
Cambiniâ€™s history of the Turks, Spanduginoâ€™s account of the Turks, the
two Guicciardinis, Francesco and Ludovico (both translated by King
Of all these authors, Machiavelli has been studied with most care: Gerber (1911â€“13).
Love (1993); Bouza (2001).
Philip IV), and Maffeiâ€™s history of the Indies.51 Again, a German trans-
lation of the Italian historian Sabellico (by Thomas Murner, more famous
as a critic of Luther), like an English translation of the history of England
by the Italian humanist Polydore Vergil, remained unpublished in the early
modern period. In Russia and the Ottoman Empire, where there were few
printed books until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries respectively,
translations generally circulated in manuscript (below, pp. 192ff., 212ff.).
The question, for whom? requires a geographical as well as a social
answer. Translations into Latin were made primarily so that educated
men whose first language was Germanic or Slav could have access to
works written in Italian, French or Spanish (below, p. 71). As for trans-
lations from one European vernacular into another, they may be analysed
according to both their original language (a sign of its prestige or cultural
hegemony) and their target language (a sign that that culture was open to
ideas from outside). In other words the â€˜political economy of translationâ€™,
both the imports and the exports, makes a revealing cultural indicator.52
Few attempts have been made to compile complete lists of translations
from one vernacular into another, so the conclusions that follow are
necessarily impressionistic and provisional.53 Translations were made into
many languages in this period, whether European (Basque, Breton, Croat
and so on) or non-European (Armenian, Aymara, Chinese etc.), but only a
few languages were the vehicle for many translations.
Looking at the â€˜balance of tradeâ€™ between vernaculars it is no surprise to
find a high level of Italian exports, especially in the Renaissance. Less
predictably, Italian imports were also high, especially in the sixteenth
century and from Spanish, a sign of Spanish cultural hegemony at that time.
In France, imports from Italian and Spanish were high in the late
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.54 In the later seventeenth century,
French culture gradually opened to translations from English, a generation
or so before the notorious â€˜Anglomaniaâ€™ of the eighteenth century. Hobbes,
Locke, Richard Baxter, Thomas Browne, Thomas Gage, Richard Allestree,
William Temple and Gilbert Burnet were among the authors translated
into French between 1650 and 1700. The growing prestige of French is
revealed by its use as an intermediary, for English books to be translated into
German, for instance, and sometimes into Spanish, Italian or Russian.55
On More, Bouza (2001), 48; on Sidney, Buesa Gomez (1989); on Montaigne, Marichal (1971); on the
Turks, Lawrance (2001), 18â€“19.
Jacquemond (1992), 139.
Existing studies include Scott (1916); Balsamo (1992); Hausmann (1992).
Balsamo (1998). 55 Blassneck (1934).
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 23
In the case of Spain, both imports and exports seem to have been lower
than in Italy or France, although they were higher than traditional stereo-
types of a â€˜closed countryâ€™ might suggest. Erasmus was translated into
Spanish relatively early, along with Renaissance Italians such as Ariosto,
Castiglione, and even Aretino and Machiavelli (though not the Prince). It
was only after 1550 that the culture began to close.
As for Renaissance England, imports from Italian, Spanish and French
were quite high (from the period 1550â€“1660, about 450 published trans-
lations from Italian have been identified).56 On the other hand, exports
were extremely low before the 1660s. The few cases include the travels of
Francis Drake, Martin Frobisher and Walter Raleigh, as well as texts by
Francis Bacon, Philip Sidney, James I, William Perkins and Joseph Hall.
These translations were often made by Englishmen, since most continental
Europeans did not know English.57 From the later seventeenth century
onwards, on the other hand, translations from English became increasingly
common, from the Pilgrimâ€™s Progress and Paradise Lost to works by Locke,
Addison, Fielding and Richardson (on The Spectator, see pp. 142ff. below).58
In the sixteenth century, imports into German were lower than into
English, though they did include the Spanish play Celestina (1534),
Castiglioneâ€™s Cortegiano (translated twice, in 1565 and 1593), Guicciardini
(1574) and Rabelais (1575). German exports were helped by interest in
Luther, but hampered by the fact that few foreigners outside the
Netherlands and Central Europe knew the language.
Dutch imports were much higher than their exports, as one might have
expected from a small nation that was also a trading nation with a culture
that was relatively open to foreign influences. The Dutch translated a good
deal from French, German, Italian, Spanish and even English. A study of
this topic notes no fewer than 641 translations from English into Dutch
(mainly of works of piety) made between 1600 and 1700, and it is possible
to add a few items to the list.59
In Eastern or East-Central Europe, imports were higher than exports â€“
as one would expect in a situation of power imbalance â€“ but both were
relatively low. Translations tended to be made from modern Latin texts (by
Erasmus, for example, Calvin and Lipsius) rather than vernacular ones.
Translation into Czech was important in the sixteenth century, including
works by Petrarch, Erasmus and Luther and reflecting the high prestige of
that language among its Slav neighbours. On the other hand, it declined
Scott (1916). 57 Burke (2004), 115â€“17.
Price and Price (1934); Graeber and Roche (1988); Fabian (1992). Schoneveld (1983).
rapidly in the seventeenth century, following the Germanization of
Bohemia after the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620.
The place of Czech was taken by Polish, which was on the rise as a
literary language in the later sixteenth century. Castiglioneâ€™s Cortegiano was
turned into Polish, together with Ariosto, Tasso and the political writers
Botero and Fadrique Furio Ceriol (below, p. 113). In the seventeenth century,
translations from Latin into Russian were made via Polish, indicating the
importance of Poland for Russians at that time as a cultural intermediary
with the West.
In Scandinavia, exports were virtually non-existent and imports were
low until the seventeenth-century campaign described above. Of the 335
translations into Swedish printed in the course of that century, 203 (or 61
per cent) were from German, 14 from French and 11 from English (trans-
lation from Latin accounting for most of the rest).60
â€˜Uneven flowsâ€™ of this kind demand explanation and have been
explained in terms of the place of different countries in the centre or on
the periphery or semi-periphery of a world system.61 What was translated
from one language into another at a given time offers a valuable clue to the
dominant cultural model, whether it was Italian, Spanish, French or came
from another culture. In the case of Sweden, for instance, translations
suggest that the model was Germany.
The history of what was not translated, like other absences, also offers
valuable clues to differences between different parts of early modern
Europe. For example, translations of the Bible into Spanish were published
in this period but only outside Spain (in Antwerp in 1543, in Ferrara in 1553
and in Basel in 1569). Montaigneâ€™s Essays were not publicly available in
Spanish in this period (although two manuscript translations have sur-
vived), and they did not appear in print in German until 1797. For trans-
lations of Shakespeare, readers and listeners had to wait until the middle of
the eighteenth century, the one exception to this rule being a seventeenth-
century Dutch version of The Taming of the Shrew.
In what manner were translations made? What theories, explicit or implicit,
did translators follow in this period? We have reached what might be called
the â€˜tacticsâ€™ of translation, as opposed to the â€˜strategyâ€™ discussed above.62
Hansson (1982). 61 Heilbron (1999); cf. Milo (1984).
On â€˜translation tacticsâ€™, Lefevere (1992), 97â€“108.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 25
These tactics should be understood not in the sense of rules to be followed
mechanically but rather as what the French social theorist Pierre Bourdieu
called a â€˜habitusâ€™, in other words a principle underlying and controlling
spontaneity and improvisation.63
Translation theory is not new, even though it is currently enjoying a
massive revival. In the 1420s, for instance, the Italian humanist Leonardo
Bruni produced what has been called â€˜the first substantial theoretical
statement on translation since St Jeromeâ€™s letter to Pammachiusâ€™, a short
treatise entitled De interpretatione recta, â€˜On correct translationâ€™.64 After
1500, such statements multiplied, among them Martin Lutherâ€™s Sendbrief
vom Dolmetschen (1530); Etienne Doletâ€™s La maniere de bien traduire (1540);
and Gaspard de Tendeâ€™s Regles de la traduction (1660), as well as general
prefaces to particular translations such as Nicolas dâ€™Ablancourtâ€™s Tacitus
(1640) or John Drydenâ€™s Ovid (1680).65
Debates revolved around the distinction between translating word for
word â€“ often denounced as â€˜slaveryâ€™, â€˜servilityâ€™ or â€˜superstitionâ€™ â€“ and
translating the sense of a given text. A phrase from Horace about the
â€˜faithful translatorâ€™, fidus interpres, the equivalent for translation theory
of his phrase ut pictura poesis in Renaissance art criticism, was discussed
over and over again.66
The idea of untranslatability, a result of the specific genius of each
language, was also discussed at this time, long before the well-known
statements of Benedetto Croce and Jose Ortega y Gasset.67 In Poland,
for instance, Jan Seklucjan argued that â€˜There are many properties in a
given language which it is difficult to express in another language with an
equally important word.â€™68 In France, the scholar-printer Etienne Dolet
and the poets Joachim Du Bellay and Jacques Peletier du Mans made
similar points: â€˜chacune langue a ses proprietesâ€™ (Dolet); â€˜chaque langue a je
ne scay quoy propre seulement a elleâ€™ (Du Bellay); â€˜les mots et manieres de
parler sont particuliers aux nationsâ€™ (Peletier). In England, Florioâ€™s
preface to his Montaigne lamented that â€˜The Tuscan altiloquence . . . the
sharpe state of the Spanish, the strong significancy of the Dutch [probably
meaning German] cannot from here be drawn to life.â€™
The variety of terms employed in different languages in the early modern
period to describe the practice that we know as translation is worth noting
Bourdieu (1972). 64 Viti (2004); Copenhaver (1988), 82.
Larwill (1934); on Luther, Stolt (1983); on Dolet, Worth (1988); on Tende and Dâ€™Ablancourt, Zuber
(1968); on Dryden, T. Steiner (1975), and Kitagaki (1981).
Norton (1984). 67 Stankiewicz (1981); Trabant (2000). 68 Quoted in Mayenowa (1984), 345.
Dolet (1540), 15; Du Bellay (1549), Book 1, chapter 5; Peletier (1555), 110.
here because it provides clues to how the practice was viewed at the time. The
terms â€˜translateâ€™, traduire, tradurre, traducir, transferre (an irregular Latin
verb with a past participle translatus), ubersetzen and so on were coming into
use (the Italian tradurre is recorded in 1420, for instance, and the French
traduire from 1480).70
However, these terms coexisted with words which were vaguer and so
seem to license a free or domesticating approach. In German, for instance,
there was verdeutschen, â€˜to make Germanâ€™, gedolmetschen, â€˜to interpretâ€™,
versetzen and umgesetzen, as well as circumlocutions such as â€˜ins Teutsche
gebrachtâ€™. In Latin, there was versio, â€˜a turnâ€™, convertere, â€˜to convertâ€™ and
interpretare (reminding us of the links between interpreters and interpreta-
tions). In English, there was â€˜done into Englishâ€™, â€˜reduced into Englishâ€™
(Geoffrey Fentonâ€™s phrase for his translation of Guicciardini) or simply
â€˜englishedâ€™. In Italian there was volgarizzare, to turn into the vernacular (il
volgare); in Spanish, vulgarizar or romanzar, â€˜turn into a Romance languageâ€™.
Turning from theory to practice, it seems possible â€“ at least as a first
approximation â€“ to distinguish a medieval regime or culture of translation
from a post-medieval one. Although specialists have rightly noted â€˜the
heterogeneity and complexity of the medieval traditionâ€™, it may still be
suggested that the medieval regime was dominated by â€˜word-for-wordâ€™
translation (verbum pro verbo, in Ciceroâ€™s famous phrase), though it did
allow the incorporation of glosses to the text without signalling that these
were additions by the translator.71 As Theo Hermans puts it, literalism was
the â€˜hard coreâ€™ of the medieval regime.72
One result of this literalism, whether or not this was intended, was what
translation theorists such as Lawrence Venuti call â€˜foreignizingâ€™. The term,
itself a translation of the German verb verfremden, refers to the introduc-
tion of words from the donor culture into the receiver culture, producing
in the reader a sense of distanciation or estrangement.
By contrast to medieval practice, translators from Leonardo Bruni
onwards emphasized the need to translate sense for sense (sensum de
sensu).73 Despite frequent references to the â€˜lawsâ€™ of translation, the early
modern culture of translation was one of relative freedom. Translators
generally followed what Venuti calls the â€˜fluent strategyâ€™, the one that
â€˜domesticates the foreign textâ€™, offering the reader â€˜the narcissistic experi-
ence of recognizing his or her culture in a cultural otherâ€™.74 If they still used
Folena (1991); some criticisms on the basis of Spanish material in Pym (2000), 109â€“31.
Copeland (1991), 222; Pym (2000), 46â€“51, 72. 72 Hermans (1992), 99.
Viti (2004); Folena (1991), 60â€“6. 74 Venuti (1992), 5.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 27
that once fashionable term, anthropologists might describe what these
translators were doing as a form of â€˜acculturationâ€™.
Translations were often made indirectly, at second hand. The
unashamed references to this process on title-pages indicate a different
culture of translation from the one which became dominant in the nine-
teenth century.75 In England, for instance, Greek, Italian and Spanish texts
were often translated via French. Baconâ€™s Essays were rendered into French
from Italian and his Considerations Touching a War with Spain (like Lockeâ€™s
Concerning Human Understanding) into Italian from French. Dutch was
the medium through which some translations of devotional works by
William Perkins and others travelled on their way from English into
German. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many translations
of English texts into German (among them Hallâ€™s Characters, Baylyâ€™s
Praxis of Piety and Lockeâ€™s second Treatise on Government) were made via
There were even translations at third or more hands. A version of the
Koran in German published in 1688 announced that it had been translated
from the Dutch translation of the French translation from the Arabic.
However, this was closer to the original than the Dutch Koran of 1641,
made from the German translation of an Italian translation of the Latin
translation.77 A still more extreme example is that of the fables of Bidpai. In
this case Sir Thomas North produced what has been described as â€˜the
English version of an Italian adaptation of a Spanish translation of a Latin
version of a Hebrew translation of an Arabic adaptation of the Pahlevi
version of the Indian originalâ€™.78
All the same, practices of translation in the early modern period varied
considerably more than general theories suggest. As often happens, differ-
ent norms coexisted and competed, so that we may speak of cultures or
sub-cultures of translation.79 Individual translators were not forced to be
free. The variety of sixteenth-century practice may be illustrated from
different versions of a passage from the famous Italian conduct book Il
galateo, where the subject is language itself. The text argued that Lombards,
for example, should speak their own dialect because they speak it better
than Tuscan. The English and French translations retained the Italian
example, while the German translator replaced it with a roughly equivalent
reference to High German and Saxon.
Stackelberg (1984). 76 Blassneck (1934); Stackelberg (1984); Graeber and Roche (1988).
The last example is quoted by Pym (2000), 13. 78 Matthiessen (1931), 63n.
Toury (1995), 53â€“69; Schaffner (1999).
A number of writers distinguished between approaches to different kinds
of text â€“ religious and secular, verse and prose â€“ just as Jerome himself had
done when he recommended the literal translation of the Bible but a freer
translation of other texts. The higher the status of the text, the greater was
the pressure on the translator to follow the original wording closely.
The admiration for Cicero during the Renaissance encouraged some
humanists to translate texts â€“ including the Bible â€“ into a prose that
was closer to Cicero than the original had been. However, Sebastien
Castellionâ€™s translation of Scripture into Ciceronian periods was generally
condemned. Following a foreignizing strategy, some translations of the
Old Testament into English and Dutch (the Authorized Version and the
Statesâ€™ Bible, for instance), took pains to imitate Hebrew formulae and
syntax, making great use of the conjunction â€˜andâ€™ as well as repetitions such
as â€˜to thee this day, even to theeâ€™.80
Differences in styles of translation expressed diverse views of the
Church. Translations of the New Testament were criticized by radical
Protestants for not being literal enough, for example for translating epis-
kopos as â€˜bishopâ€™ rather than â€˜overseerâ€™ or ekklesia by â€˜churchâ€™ rather than by
â€˜congregationâ€™. In the case of the Old Testament, Szymon Budny coined
the word ofiarnik, â€˜sacrificerâ€™, to replace the traditional rendering, kaplan,
â€˜chaplainâ€™, â€˜becauseâ€™, as he put it, â€˜some simple uneducated people may
understand that such saintly men as Samuel and Zacharias . . . were equal
to our contemporary Roman priests, yet the two kinds are different as day
differs from nightâ€™.81
Placing Calvin on the same level as Scripture, the English translator
Thomas Norton claimed that he would â€˜follow the words so near as the
phrase of the English tongue would suffer meâ€™.82 As Hermans has noted,
the strategy of literalism often expresses a sense of inferiority to a given text,
author or language.83
All the same, some Bible translators, from Luther to Castellion, chose
the fluent strategy. Luther, for instance, rejected the literal translation of
biblical phrases such as â€˜the abundance of the heartâ€™ or â€˜full of graceâ€™. One
reformer, Matthias Flacius, in his â€˜Key to the Bibleâ€™ (Clavis scripturae, 1567)
described a close adherence to words at the expense of the meaning as a
kind of â€˜superstitionâ€™. The foreword to the Authorized Version criticized
the â€˜scrupulosity of the Puritansâ€™ who â€˜put washing for Baptismâ€™.
80 81 82
Hammond (1982), 210. Quoted in Borowski (1999), 29. Quoted in Kelly (1979), 208.
Hermans (1992), 108.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 29
Faced with the problem of translating Christianity beyond Europe, differ-
ent missionaries chose different options. In Japan, some of them treated the
word Deus as untranslatable, leaving it in Latin.84 In the Philippines, they
used the Spanish words â€˜Diosâ€™, â€˜EspÂ´ritu Santoâ€™ and â€˜Jesu-Cristoâ€™, whether to
avoid the risk of misunderstanding or because they believed in the superi-
ority of Spanish. In Mexico too the Franciscans used the term â€˜Diosâ€™.85 In
Brazil, the Jesuit Jose de Anchieta, who wrote hymns in TupÂ´, introduced
into that language Portuguese words for concepts that the Indians apparently
lacked, notably â€˜graceâ€™ (graca), â€˜virginâ€™ (virgem) and â€˜sinâ€™ (pecado).86
Only a few bold missionaries, generally Jesuits, rendered keywords of
Christianity by apparent equivalents from the culture of their audience,
such as â€˜heavenly wayâ€™ (tento) in Japanese and â€˜heavenâ€™ (tian) in Chinese.87
It may well be significant that these exceptions come from fields in which
the missionaries lacked the support of a colonizing power such as Spain or
Portugal and were dependent on the good will of their hosts.
The majority of examples support the generalization that colonizing
states forced the colonized to view their own culture through the lens of the
dominant power.88 All the same, the force of the arguments in favour of
these tactics should not be forgotten. Like other translators, the mission-
aries were forced to make the always difficult choice between foreignizing
and domestication â€“ their situation being the reverse of the usual one for
translators, since the donor culture in this case was their own and the
recipient culture that of the â€˜otherâ€™.
Next on the scale of respect after religious texts came the Greek and Latin
classics. For example, the relatively free translations of Aristotle produced
in the Renaissance by Leonardo Bruni and Johannes Argyropulos were
criticized by other humanists such as Alonso de Cartagena (Bishop of
Burgos and translator of Cicero). Bruni was a purist who objected to
Latin terms such as democratia because they were hybrid, or as he put it,
â€˜half Greekâ€™, while Cartagena preferred the borrowing of such technical
terms to paraphrasing.89 In similar fashion William Caxtonâ€™s translation of
the Aeneid was criticized for its freedom by the early sixteenth-century
Scottish translator Gavin Douglas.90
In seventeenth-century France, a famous debate centred on the new
translations of the classics by Nicolas dâ€™Ablancourt. These free and fluent
Elison (1988). 85 Rafael (1993), 20; Pym (2000), 148. 86 Anchieta (1984), 157, 171, 178.
Elison (1988); Higashibaba (2001), 39. On China, see Hsiaâ€™s essay in this volume.
Rafael (1993); Cheyfitz (1991); Niranjana (1992). 89 Pym (2000), 122â€“6.
Burrow (1997), 22â€“3.
versions provoked the critic Gilles Menage to refer to the belles infideles,
comparing translations to women and claiming that the beautiful ones are
not faithful, while the faithful ones are not beautiful.91 Replying to his
critics and secularizing a traditional phrase of religious reformers like
Flacius (above, p. 28), Dâ€™Ablancourt attacked what he called the â€˜Judaic
superstitionâ€™ of following the original text word by word. â€˜I do not always
stick to the authorâ€™s words or even to his thoughts,â€™ he declared. â€˜I keep the
effect he wanted to produce in mind.â€™ What he advocated was what we
might call cultural translation, giving the old metaphor of a language as a
form of clothing a new twist and arguing that â€˜Different times do not just
require different words but also different thoughts, and ambassadors
usually dress in the fashion of the country to which they are sent.â€™92
The freedom claimed by Dâ€™Ablancourt was criticized by other writers
such as Gaspar de Tende, who stressed fidelite.93 Menage raised the issue of
anachronism, condemning â€˜translations that outrageously modernized their
textâ€™.94 However, even Dâ€™Ablancourt argued for the retention of some
technical terms such as â€˜cohortâ€™ or â€˜centurionâ€™ when translating ancient
writers, since their armies were very different from â€˜oursâ€™. The reason for
this temporary shift into foreignization, which led Dâ€™Ablancourt to provide
his translation of Appian with a glossary, was probably that he was writing
for noblemen who took considerable interest in the details of military
So far as relatively modern texts were concerned, the early modern
regime of translation was characterized by even greater freedom than has
been described so far, allowing plenty of scope for reworking. Modern texts
were not infrequently considered capable of improvement by their trans-
lators. Thus Jean Martin, the translator into French of the Italian romance
Polifilo, boasted â€“ with some justification, it is true â€“ that â€˜from a more
than Asiatic prolixity he has reduced it to a French brevityâ€™ (dâ€™une prolixite
plus que Asiatique il lâ€™a reduict a une brievete francoise), while Pierre
Boiastuau called Matteo Bandelloâ€™s stories mieux poly (â€˜better polishedâ€™
or â€˜more politeâ€™) in his French version than in the original Italian.
The borderline between translation and imitation was drawn less sharply
than it would be in the nineteenth century, though it was drawn in differ-
ent places by different individuals. What the sixteenth-century French
poet Joachim Du Bellay called â€˜imitationâ€™ was described as translation a
Mounin (1955); Zuber (1968); Guillerm (1996). 92 Zuber (1968).
Mounin (1955); Zuber (1968), 165â€“279; Guillerm (1996). On Tende, Ballard (1992), 186â€“97.
Quoted in Zuber (1968), 195. 95 Zuber (1968), 122â€“3, 139, 175, 211.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 31
hundred years later by Nicolas dâ€™Ablancourt and his English contempo-