universale, describing all the world‚Ä™s occupations, was described on its title-
page as ‚Ä˜in part translated from the Tuscan and in part an original compo-
sition‚Ä™ (parte traduzida del toscano y parte compuesta).
The crucial point is that what were described at the time as ‚Ä˜translations‚Ä™
often differed from the originals in major respects, whether they shortened
the texts or amplified them. Changes of this kind were often made without
warning the reader, although the French critic Jean Chapelain, translator of
the Spanish romance Guzman de Alfarache, declared with some pride that
he had cut, added, moved, strengthened and weakened passages from the
original as well as changing metaphors and phrases, producing a text that
¬ī ¬ī ¬ī
was longer than the original (J‚Ä™ay transpose, restably, retranche, adjouste, uny,
separe, renforcy, affoibli le discours, change les metaphores et les phrases . . . et
plustost augmente que diminue). The poet Abraham Cowley was even more
frank in the preface to his version of the Greek poet Pindar: ‚Ä˜I have in these
two odes of Pindar left out and added what I pleased.‚Ä™
Contraction, the freedom to subtract, took different forms. Long texts
might be abridged in translation, reduced to as little as half of their original
length. Other omissions were a form of bowdlerization. It has been noted,
for instance, that the Italian humanists who translated Plato‚Ä™s Republic into
Latin avoided his reference to the community of women. Where Plato wrote
sunoikein, ‚Ä˜cohabit‚Ä™, the translators preferred vaguer terms such as habitare,
‚Ä˜inhabit‚Ä™, or adherere, ‚Ä˜join‚Ä™.97 Again, the Latin version of Machiavelli‚Ä™s
Principe by Silvestro Teglio ‚Ä˜omits key sentences, as in chapter 18 on how
princes are to keep faith‚Ä™.98 Passages might be omitted ‚Ä“ without warning to
readers ‚Ä“ for religious, moral or political reasons. Thus the Dominican friar
Francesco Pipino‚Ä™s translation of Marco Polo‚Ä™s travels deletes a passage in
praise of Buddha as well as eliminating some of the rhetoric of chivalry.99
Bowdlerization was equally common in translations into the vernacular.
Johann Fischart, better known for his amplifications, omitted some pas-
sages in Rabelais discussing religion. The German translation of Lazarillo
de Tormes omitted some anticlerical remarks.100 The Italian translation
of Bacon‚Ä™s Essays left out one essay altogether, dealing with religion and
superstition, while the French version ‚Ä“ made from the Italian ‚Ä“ suppressed
some of Bacon‚Ä™s references to recent French history.101 The Spanish
Hermans (1992); Toury (1995), 132. Hankins (1990), vol. II, 424‚Ä“6.
Larner (1999), 76, 104, 107, 113. 100 Brancaforte (1983), xv.
Anglo (2005), 441.
De Mas (1975), 160; Lawton (1926).
translation of the Wealth of Nations removed Adam Smith‚Ä™s approving
references to toleration.102
The liberty of Renaissance translations also included the freedom to add
material, or as the rhetoricians put it, to ‚Ä˜amplify‚Ä™. It was not uncommon
for translators to render one word in the original by two, perhaps out of
insecurity, though possibly because conjoint phrases pleased the ears of
readers of the period. A number of translators of the Cortegiano produced
doublets of this kind, rendering the key term sprezzatura (more or less
‚Ä˜negligence‚Ä™) as mespris et nonchalance or Verachtung oder Unachtsamkeit.
Again, Florio translated Montaigne‚Ä™s simptome as ‚Ä˜a Symthome or passion‚Ä™
and his siecle deborde as ‚Ä˜an irregular and licentious age‚Ä™.103
Amplifications might introduce new messages as well as reinforcing
existing ones. Pipino‚Ä™s translation of Marco Polo, for instance, inserted
condemnations of Islam. Jacques Gohorry‚Ä™s translation of Machiavelli‚Ä™s
Discorsi announces on the title-page that the discourses have been ‚Ä˜revised
and augmented‚Ä™ (reueuz et augmentez). The translation of Erasmus‚Ä™s
Enchiridion by Alonso Fernandez has become as notorious for its amplifi-
cation of the original text as for its omissions.104 It was not an aberration
but simply an extreme example of a general tendency to be found in the
Renaissance culture of translation.
The most famous example of amplification is probably Fischart‚Ä™s trans-
lation of Rabelais, the Geschichtsklitterung (1575). In this case the rivalry
between translator and author is particularly clear. For example, the already
long lists dear to the original author, like the 200-odd games played by the
young giant Gargantua, are expanded still further in the translation.
Fischart never used one word when two or three would serve his purpose,
out-rabelaising Rabelais and inventing a grotesque polysyllabic language of
his own. He was emulated in this respect in the following century by the
Scottish translator Sir Thomas Urquhart. The extra material was some-
times derived from other texts that the ‚Ä˜translator‚Ä™ assembled in a kind of
collage, a practice that the German translator Aegidius Albertinus already
described as Colligiren.
In some cases the action of dialogues, plays and stories was shifted from
one locale to another, a process that may be described in musical terms as
‚Ä˜transposition‚Ä™ or ‚Ä“ following the practice of current translators of software ‚Ä“
as ‚Ä˜localization‚Ä™.105 Translated plays, for instance, were placed in new
settings that were more familiar to the new audiences. Peter Bornemisza‚Ä™s
Lai (1999), xix. Toury (1995), 102‚Ä“12; on Castiglione, Burke (1995), chapter 4.
Russell (1985), 52. On transposition, Jakobson (1959), 234; on localization, Pym (2000), 117.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 33
Hungarian version of Electra set the play in Hungary, while a Polish
translation of Plautus‚Ä™s play Trinummus, Cieklinski‚Ä™s Protrojny (1597),
relocated the action to Lwow. Fischart moved the settings of chapters of
Rabelais from France to Strassburg or Basel. Abraham Fraunce went still
further in a translation of Tasso into which he inserted a new character,
‚Ä˜Pembrokiana‚Ä™, in honour of his patroness Mary Sidney.
A similar procedure was followed in the case of non-fiction. For exam-
ple, the Spanish humanist Juan de Lucena adapted a text by Bartolomeo
Fazio on the happy life, moving the dialogue from Ferrara to the court of
Castille. The translation of Machiavelli‚Ä™s Arte della guerra into Spanish
displaced the dialogue from Italy to Spain and turned the speakers into two
Spaniards, the Great Captain Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba and the
Duke of Najara, perhaps because Spanish readers of the period would not
have expected to learn anything about war from Italians. The Polish
version of Castiglione‚Ä™s Cortegiano made by ŇĀukasz Gornicki relocated
the dialogue from Urbino to a villa near Krakow.
Again, the translation into English by Ludovic Bryskett in 1608 of a
dialogue on civil life by the Italian Giambattista Cinthio Giraldi trans-
posed the setting of the conversation from Italy to Ireland and introduced
English participants such as the Archbishop of Armagh and the poet
Edmund Spenser. Actually, the book was not presented as a translation
either on its title-page or in its dedication. Only at the end does the reader
learn that Bryskett had ‚Ä˜Englished‚Ä™ the work, ‚Ä˜for my exercise in both
languages‚Ä™, and that he had omitted passages and added others because ‚Ä˜I
would not tie myself to the strict laws of an interpreter.‚Ä™
Even more shocking for modern readers, translators of works of history
or natural philosophy sometimes allowed themselves to express opinions
that the original author would have repudiated. When Thomas Dale
translated a dialogue on physics by the French Cartesian Noel Regnault,
for instance, he introduced the ideas of Newton into the notes. With
characteristic boldness, when Cardinal de Retz, who had been a rebel
himself, translated Agostino Mascardi‚Ä™s history of the conspiracy by
Count Fieschi, he contradicted his source text by turning the protagonist
from a villain into a hero.106
These translations were extremely creative. Indeed, they might be
described more exactly as ‚Ä˜tradaptations‚Ä™, as Michel Garneau puts it.107
Watts (1980), 134.
On the need to relate conceptions of translation to conceptions of intellectual property, Hermans
(1992), 133; Garneau quoted in Baker (1998), 8.
Conversely, as John Florio pointed out in his preface to his translation of
Montaigne‚Ä™s Essays, so-called original works might be described more
exactly as translations. ‚Ä˜If nothing can be now sayd, but hath beene saide
before . . . What doe the best then, but gleane after others harvest? borrow
their colours, inherite their possessions? What doe they but translate?‚Ä™
At this point it may be useful to step back from the examples for a
moment in order to consider their significance. The freedom of translators
may be compared with the freedom of scribes. It was not uncommon for
copyists of poems, for instance those of John Donne (which circulated in
manuscript at the beginning of the seventeenth century), to leave out
stanzas or even to insert new ones. Manuscript was what we might call
an ‚Ä˜interactive‚Ä™ medium.108 Like these scribes, early modern translators of
medieval or modern works seem to have viewed themselves as co-authors
with the right to modify the original text. In the early modern period it was
only very gradually that the idea of a text as both the work and the property
of a single individual imposed itself.
This free or open regime of translation continued into the eighteenth
century.109 Thus Rawlinson‚Ä™s version of Lenglet du Fresnoy, published in
1728, was described on the title-page as ‚Ä˜translated and improved‚Ä™, like the
late eighteenth-century version of Richardson‚Ä™s Pamela. The most that
could be said about a trend over time is that the seventeenth-century debate
reveals a sharper awareness of the dilemmas that face translators. Dryden‚Ä™s
distinction between ‚Ä˜metaphrase‚Ä™ (a literal translation), ‚Ä˜paraphrase‚Ä™
(defined as ‚Ä˜translation with latitude‚Ä™) and ‚Ä˜imitation‚Ä™ is a famous example
of such awareness.110 Domestication ruled.
It is true that a few examples of foreignization can be found, as was noted
earlier, in the religious domain, as in the case of texts concerned with the
Ottoman Empire (below, p. 79).111 Some translators of the Bible refused to
commit anachronisms such as translating the New Testament Greek term
presbyteros by ‚Ä˜priest‚Ä™. This refusal, generally motivated by a belief that the
Church of their own time was corrupt and that a return to the ‚Ä˜primitive
church‚Ä™ was necessary, also reveals a sense of distance between past and
present in contrast to the medieval assumption that past and present were
close to each other.112
All the same, it was only around the year 1816, the year of the publica-
tion of important statements on translation by Friedrich Schleiermacher
and Wilhelm Humboldt, that the self-conscious attempt to give readers a
Love (1993); Marotti (1995). 109 Stackelberg (1971). 110
G. Steiner (1975), 253‚Ä“6.
Burke (forthcoming). 112 Burke (1969).
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 35
sense of the alien quality of the original text became a major trend in
As Schleiermacher put it, the translator‚Ä™s choice was between taking the
reader to the writer or taking the writer to the reader (Entweder der Ubersetzer
lasst den Schriftsteller moglichst in Ruhe, und bewegt den Leser ihm entgegen;
oder er lasst den Leser moglichst in Ruhe und bewegt den Schriftsteller ihm
entgegen). In his opinion, the translator should prefer the first alternative.
The new ideal was to give the translation what Wilhelm von Humboldt
called ‚Ä˜a kind of foreign colour‚Ä™ (eine gewisse Farbe der Fremdheit), translating
Homer or Dante into medieval English or French or imitating ancient Greek
syntax in German.113 The hybridization of language condemned by Bruni
now became a virtue, at least for a minority of translators.
In other words, changes in translation practices fit the model proposed
by Michel Foucault in which 1800 marks a major break in what he calls the
European ‚Ä˜episteme‚Ä™.114 The rise of foreignization is part of the rise of
romanticism and historicism, including the idea that different languages
express different world-views and that the past is a foreign country. The
view expressed by Dryden, that Virgil should be presented in translation as
if he had been born ‚Ä˜in this present age‚Ä™, was now rejected.115
Germans played a prominent part in this trend, reacting against a
French cultural hegemony associated with the emphasis on universal values
such as clarity and reason.116 In this regard Herder‚Ä™s comment on trans-
lations of Homer is revealing. ‚Ä˜Homer must enter France a captive, clad in
the French fashion, lest he offend their eye . . . We poor Germans, on the
other hand . . . just want to see him as he is.‚Ä™117 In other words, at the end of
the eighteenth century the Germans viewed domestication as foreign!
A final question: what were the consequences of translation? Like other
forms of speech and writing, translating is a kind of action. As we have seen,
rulers and churches patronized translation in order to change the world, to
convert the heathen or to help Sweden or Russia catch up with Western
The contribution of translation to the spread of knowledge is obvious
enough, but something should also be said about misunderstanding, a
G. Steiner (1975); Berman (1984); Venuti (1995). 114 Foucault (1966).
Quoted in G. Steiner (1975), 256. 116 Mannheim (1927).
Herder quoted in Robinson (1997), 59.
topic that has not yet received from cultural historians the attention that it
deserves. A small but typical example is that of the sixteenth-century
French artist Bernard Palissy, whose belief that fossils were a result of the
Flood derived from a misunderstanding of a passage in a treatise by the
Italian natural philosopher Girolamo Cardano that Palissy read in French
translation.118 On a grander scale, the English translator of Philibert de
Vienne‚Ä™s satire Le philosophe de court took literally what the author had
meant to be taken ironically and so recommended precisely what the
original author condemned.119
In the case of the Bible, the translator‚Ä™s choice of key terms might have
far-reaching consequences, whether in the case of episkopos (above, p. 28),
or in that of the passage in Exodus often rendered ‚Ä˜Thou shalt not suffer a
witch to live‚Ä™ ‚Ä“ though Johan Weyer and Reginald Scot claimed that
‚Ä˜poisoner‚Ä™ was a better translation than ‚Ä˜witch‚Ä™ for the Hebrew chasaf. In
a still more radical fashion the Dutch freethinker Adriaan Koerbagh
claimed that the Hebrew word in the Old Testament generally translated
as ‚Ä˜devil‚Ä™ actually meant ‚Ä˜accuser‚Ä™ or ‚Ä˜libeller‚Ä™.120
The translation movement of the period had major consequences for the
languages of early modern Europe. The literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin
drew attention to ‚Ä˜the immense importance of translations‚Ä™ in the
Renaissance in what he variously called (in Russian) the interaction,
‚Ä˜interorientation‚Ä™ and ‚Ä˜interanimation‚Ä™ of languages.121 The translation of
the Bible and the classics into the vernaculars of Europe helped raise the
status of these languages. It also enriched them thanks to the neologisms
coined by translators who found no terms appropriate to render the
religious vocabulary of the Old Testament, for instance, or the philosoph-
ical vocabulary of Aristotle (including political terms such as oligarchia and
democratia). The period 1570‚Ä“1630, when the English vocabulary expanded
most rapidly, was also a great age of translation.
When Alberti‚Ä™s treatise on architecture was translated into French in 1553
the dedication to the king drew attention to the translator‚Ä™s enrichment of
the language. In order to translate Rabelais, Fischart invented many
German words. The poet George Chapman‚Ä™s version of Homer intro-
duced many new words into English. Many of these words did not take
root, so that modern editors of Chapman consider it necessary to provide a
glossary. On the other hand, a number of the neologisms coined by Florio
in his translation of Montaigne have become part of the language, among
them amusing, conscientious, efface, effort, emotion, endear, facilitate and
118 119 120 121
Rudwick (1972), 41. Javitch (1971). Israel (2001), 405. Bakhtin (1965), 470.
Cultures of translation in early modern Europe 37
regret. Again, John Shute‚Ä™s version of Andrea Cambini‚Ä™s history of the
Turks introduced into English such Ottoman terms as aga, cadi, seraglio,
spahi and vizier.
That the increased accessibility of texts from other cultures widened the
horizons of readers seems plausible enough, even if this widening cannot be
measured. At this point we may return to the reception of the Renaissance,
the Reformation and the Enlightenment and the way in which translation
made something happen, multiplying the effect of certain important texts
at the price of changing their meaning.
In the case of the Renaissance, the many translations of the classics into
vernacular languages have been mentioned already. The translation of
Italian treatises on the arts encouraged the adoption of the new classicizing
style, and both the plans and the details of a number of sixteenth-century
buildings in England, France and elsewhere have been traced back to
illustrations in the treatise on architecture by Sebastiano Serlio, which
had appeared by 1611 in Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Latin and
English as well as in the original Italian. Turning to political and social
thought, we find that More‚Ä™s Utopia, written in Latin, was available in six
printed translations before the end of the sixteenth century (one each in
German, Italian, English and Dutch and two in French).
In the case of the Reformation, translation was even more important.
Erasmus wrote in Latin in order to be read all over Europe, but to reach
ordinary people he needed the help of translators. His Enchiridion militis
christiani appeared in nine vernaculars in the sixteenth century ‚Ä“ in
chronological order they were Czech, German, English, Dutch, Spanish,
French, Italian, Portuguese and Polish.122 Works by Luther, notably his
catechisms, were translated into ten vernaculars between 1517 and 1546. In
order of importance these languages were Dutch, Danish, French, Czech,
English, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish and Finnish.123 As for Calvin,
eighteen translations of his work into Dutch had been published by
1600, nineteen into Italian, thirty-two into German and ninety-one into
During the Enlightenment, translation was once again essential to the
spread of ideas. In the eighteenth century, Montesquieu‚Ä™s Esprit des lois
circulated in English, Dutch and Italian as well as the original French.
Locke‚Ä™s Second Treatise on Government circulated in French, German and
Swedish, his Essay on Human Understanding in French, Latin and German
Haeghen (1897‚Ä“1907). Seidel Menchi (1977); Higman (1984); Moeller (1987).
and his Thoughts on Education in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Swedish
and Russian. Although it was published in 1776, Adam Smith‚Ä™s Wealth of
Nations was already circulating in German, French, Danish, Italian,
Spanish and Dutch by the end of the eighteenth century.
These translations had their price. Translators have their own agenda which
may differ from those of the original writer, a point exemplified below
(pp. 134ff.) by the reception abroad of the Italian historians Guicciardini
and Sarpi. Even when translators tried to be neutral, the language they
used was not. Take the case of Adam Ferguson‚Ä™s Essay on the History of Civil
Society. In German the key concept was rendered as burgerliche Gesellschaft,
assimilating it to the German legal tradition and eliminating the ‚Ä˜original
civic, activist meaning‚Ä™ of the term ‚Ä˜civil‚Ä™.125
Whether translators follow the strategy of domestication or that of
foreignizing, whether they understand or misunderstand the text they are
turning into another language, the activity of translation necessarily
involves both decontextualizing and recontextualizing. Something is
always ‚Ä˜lost in translation‚Ä™. However, the close examination of what is
lost is one of the most effective ways of identifying differences between
cultures. For this reason, the study of translation is or should be central to
the practice of cultural history.
Oz-Salzberger (1995), 142‚Ä“8.
The Catholic mission and translations
in China, 1583‚Ä“1700
R. Po-chia Hsia
Between the establishment of the Catholic mission in China by the two
Italian Jesuits Michele Ruggieri and Matteo Ricci in 1583 and the apex of its
success around the year 1700, European missionaries composed and pub-
lished c. 450 works in Chinese.1 Of this total, some 120 texts deal with
European science, technology and geography; another 330 are religious
texts. This chapter will investigate the role of translations in this Sino-
European cultural exchange: What texts were translated? Who were the
translators? What were the different processes of translation? And what
impact did translations exert in the cultural reception of Europe in early
Our first task, to determine the exact number of translations, involves
some explanation. It can be established that of the 450 texts, at least 50 are
translations in the modern sense, i.e. the adaptation of a text in whole or in
parts from one language into another. There is, for example, the 1607
translation of Euclid‚Ä™s Elementa, undertaken jointly by Matteo Ricci and
Paul Xu Guangqi, or the partial translation of Thomas Aquinas‚Ä™s Summa
theologica by Ludovico Buglio SJ, completed between 1654 and 1678.
There were other methods of rendering European texts into Chinese
that did not follow exact translations. European missionaries presented
titles that paraphrased, compiled and summarized the original texts, taking
account of which would substantially expand the body of translated works.
In other words, in addition to translation in the strict sense, there were two
further methods of textual transmission. The second method consisted in
A complete bibliography of Christian works in Chinese for the Ming and Qing dynasties is being
compiled under the direction of Nicolas Standaert at the University of Leuven. Until the completion
of this work, the most reliable and convenient reference work is Xu (1949). Xu arranges the Jesuit
Collection at Zikawei (Shanghai) in the year 1940 according to subject matter. All prefaces of each
title are published in addition to brief biographies of Jesuit authors. In addition to the selection of the
most significant titles at Zikawei Library, Xu Zongze also included partial bibliographies of the
Chinese Christian collections at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris (now the Bibliotheque
de France) and at the Vatican Library, Rome.
R . P O -CHIA H S I A
the compilation of translated or paraphrased passages from European texts
into a single Chinese work, an example being Ricci‚Ä™s highly successful Jiren
shipian (1608) or Ten Essays from a Remarkable Man, with translated
passages from Aesop and Epictetus.
The third method was represented by synopsis. The Italian Jesuit Giulio
Aleni published in 1635 a text Tianzhu jiangsheng yanxing jilue or The Birth,
Life and Sayings of the Lord of Heaven, which, as its title indicates, repre-
sented a synoptic presentation of the Gospels.2 More ambiguous are
Chinese texts authored by European missionaries that are based essentially
on one or more European texts, making a precise conceptualization of
‚Ä˜translation‚Ä™ problematic when we consider the corpus of European cul-
tural production in early modern China. One may assume that all scientific
works produced in Chinese represented paraphrases or adaptations from
existing European texts, if not outright translations.
Translated books can be divided into three large subject categories: reli-
gion, science and humanism. The first two categories are by far the more
important and can be subdivided into more detailed genres. Translations
on religion, for example, included prayers, liturgical texts (missal, brevi-
ary), works of theology, hagiographies, catechisms, rules of confraternities
and devotional texts. Scientific translations covered astronomy, geometry,
arithmetic, hydraulics, weaponry, anatomy, optics, falconry and musicol-
ogy. Finally, there are a handful of texts that introduced fragments of
Graeco-Roman works to Chinese readers of the seventeenth century.
Religious texts included translations from the Roman liturgy for the use
of the Chinese Church (a special Chinese language liturgy was authorized
in 1615 by the papacy but rescinded in the late seventeenth century). Works
translated included the Missale romanum (1670), Breviarium romanum
(1674) and the Manuale ad sacramenta ministranda juxta ritum S. Romae
Ecclesiae (1675), all translated by Ludovico Buglio. Prayer translations and
accompanying commentaries included the Lord‚Ä™s Prayer, the Rosary and
the Credo. A compilation of Christian prayers, the Tianzhu shengjiao
nianjing zongdu published by the Jesuits in 1628, contained the usual
daily prayers in addition to many texts by the Spanish devotional writer
Lu¬īs de Granada.3 The most important theological work to be translated
Bibliotheque de France (BF), Chinois 6756. Standaert (2002), 616. Text in BF Chinois 7345.
The Catholic mission and translations in China 41
were parts of Aquinas‚Ä™s Summa theologica, which we will discuss in detail in
a later section.
In addition to works introducing the lives of the Virgin Mary and Joseph
(the patron saint of China), Jesuits also published a Saints‚Ä™ Life and separate
lives of St Josephat, St Jan Nepomuk, St Francis Borgia, St Francis Xavier,
St Stanislas Kostka and St Aloysius Gonzaga. These texts were based on
European originals, although the precise texts still need to be established.
Devotional texts included the Imitatio Christi, translated by the Portuguese
Jesuit Emmanuel Diaz in 1640, and aphorisms by St Teresa of Avila and
Like Tridentine Catholicism in Europe, the China mission did not
emphasize the transmission of the Bible. A full translation of the New
Testament and portions of the Old Testament were published only in the
late eighteenth century by the ex-Jesuit Louis de Poirot, who based his
translation into colloquial Mandarin (as opposed to the classical written
style) on the Vulgate. Before this text, the only partial biblical translation
was the 1730 Chinese text of Tobit, entitled Xunwei shenbian, completed by
the French Jesuit Francois-Xavier Dentrecolles.4
In the absence of a full Bible translation, the story of the Passion was
transmitted by other methods. The most successful introduction of the
Passio Christi was represented by a pictorial translation: Giuglio Aleni‚Ä™s
Tianzhu jiangsheng chuxiang jingjie (1637), based on fifty-five illustrations
from Jeronimo Nadal‚Ä™s Evangelicae historiae imagines, first published in
Antwerp in 1595.5 The copper engravings of Nadal were copied by Chinese
artisans, who reproduced them in cheaper woodcuts. This is the best
example of pictorial translation, involving a technical reproduction (from
engraving to woodcut) and a stylistic interpretation (from European to
In the translations of scientific texts, the most important works were
in the fields of astronomy and mathematics, all completed before 1640,
during the early decades of the Jesuit mission. A list of the European texts
and their Chinese translations is presented below:6
Christophorus Clavius, Euclidis elementorum libri XV, 1574. Chinese translation
by Matteo Ricci and Xu Guangqi: Jihe yuanben, 1607.
Christophorus Clavius, Geometria practica, 1604. Chinese translation by
Matteo Ricci and Xu Guangqi: Celiang fayi, 1608.
4 5 6
BF Chinois 6782. BF Chinois 6750. Standaert (2002), 739‚Ä“40.
R . P O -CHIA H S I A
Christophorus Clavius, Epitome arithmeticae practicae, 1583. Chinese translation
by Matteo Ricci and Li Zhizao: Tongwen suanzhi, 1614.
Christophorus Clavius, In sphaeram Ioannis de Sacro Bosco commentarius, 1570.
Chinese translation by Matteo Ricci and Li Zhizao: Yuanrong jiaoyi, 1614.
John Napier (1550‚Ä“1617), Rabdologiae, seu numerationis per virgula libri duo,
1617. Chinese translation by Giacomo Rho and Adam Schall: Chousuan,
Galileo Galilei, Le operazioni del compasso geometrico e militare, 1606. Chinese
translation by Giacomo Rho and Adam Schall: Biligui jie, 1630.
Bartholomaeus Pitiscus (1561‚Ä“1613), Trigonometriae, 1612. Chinese translation
by Johann Terenz Schreck: Da ce, 1631.
Christophorus Clavius, Geometria practica, 1604. Chinese translation by
Giaocomo Rho: Celiang quanyi, 1631.
Under the Qing emperor Kangxi (reigned 1662‚Ä“1722), several Jesuits
served as imperial tutors. Although several European mathematical texts
were translated for the instruction of the emperor, they were never pub-
lished. The second period of the Jesuit mission saw few scientific trans-
lations. One exception was in the theory of painting: the Jesuit painter
Giuseppe Castiglione collaborated with Nian Xiyao to translate the
Perspectiva pictorum (1706) of the Jesuit artist Andrea Pozzo; the Chinese
work, Shixue, appeared in 1729 and contributed to the reception of paint-
ing in perspective in eighteenth-century China.
Only a very small fragment of the Graeco-Roman textual corpus was
translated into Chinese. These texts, based on the humanistic curriculum
of the Ratio studiorum, familiar to all Jesuit missionaries, could further be
divided into the genres of rhetoric and philosophy. Ricci‚Ä™s highly successful
Jiaoyou lun (1595) or De amicitia was based on Andreas Eborensis‚Ä™s
Sententiae et exempla, an aphoristic collection from the writings of
Cicero, Seneca and other classical authors.7 Another of Ricci‚Ä™s texts, the
Ershiwu yan (1605), or The Twenty-Five Sayings, represented a translation
of a Latin version of the Encheiridion of Epictetus.8
If Chinese readers were offered snippets of Epicurean and Stoic texts,
they were treated to a much larger serving of Aristotle. The Portuguese
Jesuit Francisco Furtado and the Italians Alfonso Vagnone, Aleni and
Francesco Sambiasi translated several Aristotelian texts and commentaries.
The commentaries on Aristotle used at the Jesuit College at Coimbra were
translated: De coelo, Universa dialectica Aristotelis, Isagoge Porphrii,
Categoriae, Analytica priora. The three Italian Jesuits translated parts of
For full classical references in Ricci‚Ä™s text, see the critical edition by Mignini (2005).
Standaert (2002), 605.
The Catholic mission and translations in China 43
De coelo et mundo, Meteorologica, De anima, Parva naturalia and the Ethica
All translations were effected within a relatively short period between
1623 and 1639. Chinese literati converts collaborated closely on these texts
as co-translators or stylistic editors: Xu Guangqi, Li Zhizao (1565‚Ä“1630), his
son Li Cibin, Han Lin (1601‚Ä“44) and Duan Gun (d. 1641); two others, Wei
Douxu and Zhu Sihan, were not known as converts.
Many of these texts were not translated in full, but offered as para-
phrased synopses or partial translations. The translation of Aristotle
accompanied the transmission of European scientific texts, which provided
the motivation for someone like Li Zhizao, who was first attracted to
Catholicism through his interest in European science. In his preface to
Mingli tan (1631), the Chinese title of the first part of Aristotle‚Ä™s Dialectica,
Li stressed that true knowledge of the material world depended on proper
classification and concepts. Hence, terms such as genus, species, differentia,
proprium, accidens and categoria aided the Confucian literati in pursuing
natural philosophy (literally, gewu qiongli zi dayuanbin, meaning the
‚Ä˜origins of measuring things and exhausting principles‚Ä™).9
In turn, knowing the natural world leads to a higher form of knowledge,
that of metaphysics and of God. In the preface to Huanyou quan (1628), the
Chinese translation of De coelo, Li Zhizao elaborated that a true knowledge
of nature and metaphysics was essential in combating the Buddhist fab-
rication of a myriad cosmos.10 On this important task, Li continued in his
preface, he and Furtado laboured for five years on account of the con-
ceptual and linguistic difficulties. The presentation of the initial results in
1628 offered a first taste of much more to come; and the Chinese texts also
served the function of an introduction to the language for European
Li Zhizao died two years later, leaving the translation a fragment. A
complete translation of the Dialectica was not effected until 1684, when
Ferdinand Verbiest presented a manuscript copy to Emperor Kangxi, who
denied Verbiest‚Ä™s request for publication, citing the uselessness of the text.
Thus ended the reception of Aristotle in seventeenth-century China.
No texts by Plato or Neoplatonic works were translated into Chinese.
Unlike the Aristotelian corpus, Plato was not essential reading in the
humanistic curriculum of early modern Europe. Moreover, Plato‚Ä™s idea
of the transmigration of souls was reminiscent of the Buddhist doctrines of
Preface printed in Xu (1949), 194. Preface printed in Xu (1949), 199.
R . P O -CHIA H S I A
karma and reincarnation, against which the first Jesuit missionaries and
their converts fought an intense polemical battle.
With a handful of exceptions, the Jesuit mission was responsible for the
production of translations into Chinese in late Ming and early Qing
China. For this reason, I shall use the term ‚Ä˜Jesuits‚Ä™ to designate
European missionaries in this discussion. For the period up to 1720, the
Society of Jesus furnished more than two-thirds of all the European
missionaries sent to China. Between 1583 and 1723, a total of 563 Jesuits
left Europe for China: a few perished en route and some eventually worked
in India, South-East Asia or Japan, leaving a final minimum figure of 288
European Jesuits active in the China mission in this period.11
Not all Jesuits participated in the production of books. The impressive
Jesuit Chinese corpus was in fact produced by only fifty-nine European
fathers, with eighteen engaged in translation. According to their nation-
ality, the breakdown of Jesuit authors is as follows: Italians eighteen,
Portuguese seventeen, French fourteen, Belgian four, German three, and
one each from Spain, Poland and Austria. Among the eighteen Jesuit
translators, eight were Italians, five Portuguese, three French and two
At first glance, the national representation of Jesuit authors/translators
seems to match the overall national strength in the China mission: the three
major nationalities ‚Ä“ Portuguese, French and Italian ‚Ä“ are prominently
present. But when we actually compare these figures with the precise
number of Jesuit missionaries working in China (the overall figures by
Dehergne as revised by Girard, see note 11) we come up with a more
In the period 1583 to 1723, a total of 129 Portuguese Jesuits, by far the
strongest national representation, worked in China and Macao. Of this
total only 17 fathers published texts, of whom 5 engaged in translations.
The French Jesuits, who were relative latecomers in the China Mission,
would dominate the foreign missionary presence in the course of the
eighteenth century; overall they came in second numerically. During this
Figures from Dehergne (1973) as revised by Girard (1999), 171‚Ä“3. Girard includes only the major
nationalities in her revised calculation; a handful of Polish and Swiss Jesuits are not included in her
list. The actual number of Jesuits working in China would be slightly higher when they and the
Macaist Jesuits are included.
Calculated from Xu (1949).
The Catholic mission and translations in China 45
earlier period, there were fifty-eight French Jesuits of whom fourteen were
authors (four translators among them). Italian Jesuits occupied the third
position, with fifty-six in the mission but with the highest number of
authors ‚Ä“ eighteen authors altogether with eight translators among them.
Noteworthy was the textual production of Jesuits from the two Belgian
provinces: five out of fourteen in this period wrote and/or translated
texts into Chinese. As we shall see later, they also played a key role in the
translation of Chinese texts into Latin. Another way to look at these figures
is through the percentages of Jesuits in China of any particular nationa-
lity who also engaged in textual production; the top five ranks are as
follows: Belgians (35.7%), Germans (33%), Italians (32%), French (24%),
A further set of statistics is of interest. In the number of Chinese texts the
Jesuit missionaries produced, the Germans averaged 12.3 works, the Italians
9.26, the Belgians 7, the Portuguese 3 and the French 3. Two Jesuit
directors of the Imperial Observatory and the Tribunal of Mathematics
were among the most prolific authors: the German Johann Adam Schall
von Bell and his successor, the Belgian Ferdinand Verbiest, authored
twenty-five and twenty works respectively, most of which were scientific
texts (calendars, astronomical observations, mathematical tables etc.).
Among individuals, Italian Jesuits were the most prolific: Giuglio Aleni
authored twenty-six texts, Ludovico Buglio and Giacomo Rho twenty-one
texts each, Ricci accounted for nineteen works and Alfonso Vagnoni fifteen
texts. They out-produced the most prolific Portuguese Jesuit, Emmanuel
Diaz, who had thirteen works to his credit.
The French Jesuits made a modest but respectable contribution to the
output of Jesuitica sinensis; they also played the leading role in the
introduction of Chinese texts and culture to an eighteenth-century
European public, which explains the focus of their literary work and the
relatively modest Chinese output.
The relationship between the production of Chinese books (from writ-
ing, translating or paraphrasing) and the production of Sinica (translations
from Chinese texts into European languages and writings about China
published in Europe) is in fact a highly interesting question. In general, the
first period of the Jesuit mission from the 1580s to c. 1680 saw the greatest
production of Jesuit Chinese writings. Almost all important texts and
translations were completed in this period; they ranged from scientific
works and moral philosophy to standard liturgical texts, such as the Roman
Missale and Breviarum, as well as the translations of the works by Aquinas
R . P O -CHIA H S I A
The second period, from the 1680s to the dissolution of the Society of
Jesus, was characterized by a significant drop in the production of Chinese
titles, the narrowing of subject matter (focusing on catechistic and devo-
tional works), more publications in the colloquial language and the trans-
lation of a small body of Christian texts into Manchu, the language of the
Qing conquest dynasty.
Also significant in this second period was the transmission of Chinese
texts and culture to Europe. Beginning with the translation of the
Confucian Four Books (Great Learning, Golden Mean, Analects, Mencius)
under the editorship of the Belgian Philippe Couplet,13 French, German
and Austrian Jesuits continued to add to the corpus of Sinica through the
eighteenth century. If 1580‚Ä“1680 was the European century for China, the
following hundred years represented the Chinese century for Europe.
PROCESS AND RECEPTION
Some preliminary conclusions can be drawn from the above presentations.
Although the Jesuit mission in China was under the Portuguese padroado,
and taking into consideration the numerical predominance of Portuguese
Jesuits and the Portuguese enclave of Macao on the south China coast,
Portugal failed to play the crucial role one would have expected in Sino-
European cultural exchange. Instead, Italian and Belgian Jesuits represented
the driving force in the transmission of European texts to China up to 1723.
Thereafter, French Jesuits played an increasingly dominant role.
This is not to say, however, that the Jesuits could claim all the glory.
Chinese collaborators, both converts and sympathizers, often played a
crucial role, in both Jesuit compositions and translations, as indicated in
prefaces to many of the texts. For translations, there were three possible
scenarios. First, the Jesuits themselves undertook to translate the European
texts into Chinese. Second, the Jesuit translator explained the European
texts orally to his Chinese collaborator, who set down the Chinese version
in writing; the text was subsequently examined jointly, until a final trans-
lated text was agreed upon. Third, a Jesuit translator composed a draft
translation, which was then revised for style by a Chinese collaborator.
Of these three scenarios, the second ‚Ä“ Jesuit oral translation and Chinese
written composition ‚Ä“ was by far the most significant. This represented the
ordinary method of translation during the first fifty years of the Jesuit
mission in China for very good reasons. For one, it was the most efficient
The Catholic mission and translations in China 47
way of translation, allowing the relatively few Jesuit missionaries to pro-
duce a large body of Chinese texts. For another, close collaboration with
Chinese literati offered an opportunity for proselytizing or for strengthen-
ing the bonds between missionary and convert. A third reason was that this
method of collaboration allowed for the greatest accuracy and elegance in
translation, maximizing the Jesuit understanding of European texts and the
Chinese mastery of stylistic elegance. Ricci‚Ä™s preface to the translation of
Euclid is instructive:
Since my arrival in China, I have seen that there are many scholars and works on
geometry, but I have not seen any fundamental theoretical works . . . I had then
entertained the wish to translate this book for the use of the gentlemen of our
times, in order to thank them for their trust in a traveller. Nevertheless, I am of
little talent. Moreover, the logic and rhetoric of East and West are so supremely
different. In searching for synonyms, there are still many missing words. Even if
I can explain things orally with an effort, to put it down in writing is extremely
difficult. Ever since then, I have met colleagues who assisted my progress left and
right, but whenever there is a difficulty I would stop, advancing and stopping
The difficulty was only overcome after a meeting with Xu Guangqi,
sometime leading minister at the Ming court, who became one of Ricci‚Ä™s
most valuable converts and a leader in early Chinese Catholicism. In
discussing Christianity and Western science, Xu urged Ricci to complete
the translation, ‚Ä˜commanding him to transmit (the text) orally, and receive
(the text) in writing, turning the text over and over in order to reflect on its
meaning, resulting in its publication only after three versions‚Ä™.15
An example of a text entirely undertaken by Jesuits is the partial trans-
lation of the Summa theologica by St Thomas Aquinas. By far the most
ambitious project in the Jesuit mission, this translation occupied the Italian
Ludovico Buglio more than twenty years between 1654 and 1678. Even so,
only a small portion of the Summa was translated. Buglio concentrated on
the Pars prima. The first ten juan16 appeared in 1654: they deal with the
nature of God, the Trinity and the Creation. In 1676, another six juan
on angels and the Creation were finished. The third instalment appeared
in 1677/8 and consisted of a further ten juan on Man, the soul, the body
and human lordship over all things. All were drawn from the Pars prima.
While the Pars secunda remained untranslated, a small portion of the Pars
tertia ‚Ä“ six juan on the Birth of Christ and the Resurrection (the latter
Xu (1949), 261‚Ä“2. 15 Xu (1949), 262.
Juan was the basic unit of a Chinese book, ranging from twenty to thirty leaves.
R . P O -CHIA H S I A
translated by the Portuguese Jesuit Gabriel de Magalhaes) ‚Ä“ was completed
Aside from the sheer volume of the text, the Summa presented a
particular difficulty because of its technical theological language, an
obstacle lightly touched upon in Buglio‚Ä™s preface to the 1654 edition.
After commenting on the significance of Aquinas to Christian learning
and offering the obligatory and polite self-deprecation, Buglio described
the difficulty of rendering the Summa into Chinese: ‚Ä˜languages differ from
land to land, and words are limited; after repeated endeavours, new words
are added, and the Pars prima is accomplished with great effort. Yet I dare
not say that I have exhausted the meaning of the original text.‚Ä™17
This passage reflects a common problem in all translation projects:
whether to render equivalent concepts by neologisms. Whether one opts
for creating new words in the host language while risking unintelligibility,
or rendering the original concept in terms familiar to the host culture and
thereby losing perhaps the original signification, it is a daunting task.
The latter option was the one adopted by Ricci. In translating the Latin
word Deus into Chinese, Ricci avoided a pitfall by creating a new term,
Tianzhu, the Lord of Heaven, by combining two terms from the ancient
Confucian canon familiar to the Chinese literati.18 A graceful stylist, Ricci
adopted Chinese syntax and idioms, trying to persuade by means of a
Christian discourse decorated by Chinese rhetorical flourishes. Successful
while this might have been with the Chinese literati, this accommodation-
ist translation was sharply contested by Niccolo Longobardo and other
Jesuits in China and Japan.
Suppressed in favour of the Riccian method for the sake of internal
unity, this controversy would resurface later and land the Jesuits in trouble,
as rival Dominican missionaries accused the Society of mixing idolatry
with true religion by linguistic and cultural accommodation. The famous
Chinese Rites Controversy was essentially about translation: whether
Chinese terms used by the Jesuits (Tian meaning Heaven and Shangdi
meaning God on High) could adequately represent the notion of Christian
divinity, and whether Chinese ancestral rituals were to be read as civic or
religious, hence, idolatrous, liturgy.
Buglio‚Ä™s translation of Aquinas ran into the opposite problem: unin-
telligibility. Titled in Chinese Chaoxing xueyao, or Summary of Nature-
Surpassing Learning, Buglio chose to render Latin terms into equivalent
Xu (1949), 190. A copy of Buglio‚Ä™s long translation is available at BF Chinois 6907‚Ä“9.
For the most recent work, see Kim (2004).
The Catholic mission and translations in China 49
Chinese sounds. Thus ‚Ä˜Spiritus Sanctus‚Ä™ became si-pi-le-do-san-du, ‚Ä˜theo-
logia‚Ä™, dou-lu-ri-jia, ‚Ä˜philosophia‚Ä™, fei-lu-suo-fei-ya and so forth. In trans-
lating religious texts, preserving the aura of authenticity by sacrificing
intelligibility was not necessarily flawed.
On the other hand, sound-approximation translations of Sanskrit chants
and prayers hardly impeded the widespread expansion of Buddhism in
medieval China. Moreover, many key Buddhist concepts such as Buddha,
bodhisattva, asura were rendered by sound-approximation and became
accepted terms in Chinese Buddhist sutras. Unintelligibility, in fact,
might well have added to the aura of sutra recitation.
Buglio‚Ä™s translation suffered from something more serious: poor syntax
and style. Translating the scholastic Latin of Aquinas into classical Chinese
was something like rendering Aquinas intelligible to Cicero. The abun-
dance of neologisms, subordinate clauses and dialectical demonstrations
made the Chaoxing xueyao a very difficult if not unintelligible text to
Chinese readers of the late seventeenth century. There is no evidence of
its reception and it was not reprinted until 1932.19
Did translations of European texts exert any cultural influence in early
modern China? If so, what subjects or books were preferred? The answer to
these questions depends on the definition of the reading public. Within a
narrow definition of the sphere of reception, one can speak of a high degree
of success when focusing on the use of translated texts within the Chinese
Catholic Church. Hence prayer books, devotional works, catechisms,
European visual images copied in China and theological works served
the convert population that grew to a peak of 200,000 in 1700 before
entering into a period of slow decline. The existence of reprints and
multiple extant copies of these works in major Chinese and European
libraries testifies to their function and success.
Outside Chinese Catholic circles, the question of reception is more
difficult to investigate. There are two indices of the general reception of
European texts (both composed and translated) that provide some answers:
private collections and the Imperial Encyclopedia, the Siku quanshu,
compiled between 1772 and 1784.
In the case of private collections, Nicolas Standaert has searched ten
published catalogues of large collections of the seventeenth and early
For extant editions and the history of editions see Chan (2002), 284‚Ä“7.
R . P O -CHIA H S I A
eighteenth centuries. A total of ninety-six Jesuit works showed up in these
catalogues, of which c. 70 per cent represented scientific texts. Religious
and moral texts were not unknown, but essentially limited to the writings/
translations of Matteo Ricci.20
This result is collaborated by surveying the Table of Contents of the
Imperial Encyclopedia. Approximately 13,000 titles were collected in this
official project under the Qianlong emperor.21 A selection was made to
represent ‚Ä˜proper learning‚Ä™: 3,488 books altogether were collected in full,
6,783 titles were recorded and commented on; other texts deemed politi-
cally or intellectually subversive were either destroyed or left out. Thirty-six
Catholic texts were included in the Comprehensive Table of Contents of
the Siku Quanshu; again, scientific texts comprised the majority and texts
by Ricci represented the large majority of philosophical and religious texts.
Taken together, the evidence from private collections and from the Siku
Quanshu indicates that the reception of European writings was largely
represented by scientific texts, that works published in the early seven-
teenth century were best represented and that no fewer than seven texts by
Matteo Ricci received a commentary by the imperial editors or were
reproduced in full.
When we reflect on this conclusion in the larger context of this chapter,
several points become apparent. The translation of European texts into
Chinese involved a sustained and continuous effort on the part of
European Jesuits and their Chinese collaborators. The success of this
translation project was very much in evidence for the internal textual
consumption of the China mission.
Outside convert communities, European texts made a considerable
impact in the early decades of the seventeenth century, especially on
calendar reform, astronomy, mathematics and other sciences. In addition,
several texts by Matteo Ricci on both Graeco-Roman and Christian topics
enjoyed a wide circulation among the literati circles of urban areas owing to
his reputation. However, in the course of the later seventeenth century and
the eighteenth century, the ‚Ä˜market‚Ä™ for European texts became increas-
ingly restricted to Christian circles.
In selecting texts for translation, Jesuit missionaries fell back on those
titles most familiar to them through their education and milieu: Aristotle
in the general philosophical curriculum, and Jesuit writers on more speci-
alized subjects (Clavius on mathematics and Pozzo on perspective). The
most systematic effort was in the translation of religious works for the
Standaert (1985). On the Imperial Encyclopedia Project see Guy (1987).
The Catholic mission and translations in China 51
liturgical and devotional life of the China mission. Chinese converts had
access to a long list of prayer books and liturgical texts, although the Bible
was not translated (in stark contrast to Protestant efforts in the nineteenth
Interest in scientific and philosophical works was concentrated in the
first half of the seventeenth century, both inside and outside the convert
community. The decline in the interest in European texts went in parallel
with two other processes: the disenchantment of the Confucian literati
elites in the late seventeenth century, a process accentuated by the Chinese
Rites prohibition by the papacy in 1704; and the declining social status of
Christianity after the imperial prohibition of conversions in 1724.
Compared to the focused translation of Chinese texts into Latin, which
inspired a sustained ‚Ä˜China-wave‚Ä™ in Europe between Leibnitz and
Voltaire, the much greater effort at translations into Chinese reaped a
relatively meagre cultural harvest for the Jesuit mission. The extant titles
and collections remained, nonetheless, a monument to cultural exchange
sustained by many generations of cultural pioneers.
Language as a means of transfer
of cultural values
As was suggested in chapter 1, from the point of view of a cultural historian
what is not translated into a given language may be as significant and as
revealing as what is translated. In the case of the Slovaks in the early
modern period, the significant absences include the most translated text
of all, the Bible. Why this was the case will be explained in the course of the
The use of the vernacular in the liturgy and especially its use as a means
of access to divine revelation ‚Ä“ the Bible ‚Ä“ was a basic characteristic of
Protestantism from the time of the Reformation onwards. However, a
vivid discussion about the accessibility of the Bible as a source of true faith
has already taken place in the Middle Ages, in which English and German
authors were the first to take part.1 There was serious anxiety about the laity
or ignorant priests reading the Scripture, while it was feared that vernacular
translations could change the meaning of the text, by using inappropriate
metaphors, for instance.2
The English and the German translations of the Bible were not the only
ones to be widely discussed. Bohemia was another important centre of
these discussions, from Jan Hus onwards.3 Despite this, the neighbouring
region of Hungary, including modern Slovakia, accepted the Devotio
moderna movement rather than the teaching of Hus himself.4 In the
Kingdom of Hungary, the social consequences of the activities of Hus
were mainly negative. The population experienced destructive Hussite
raids rather than the message of faith and the word of God in the language
of the people.5 After the Reformation, the Slovak population was in the
same position as the other ethnic groups in the kingdom.
The basic starting point of the Reformation was access to the Scriptures
as the source of true faith. However, it was not easy to meet this challenge.
1 2 3
Mackenzie (2002); Long (2001), at 120‚Ä“32, 204‚Ä“11. Marsden (1996). Kyas (1997).
Sopko (1997). 5 Bartl (1996).
Language as a means of transfer of cultural values 53
The language of Slovak Lutheranism was affected by the Latin education of
the elite as well as by theological problems. The first confessions of faith,
dating from the middle of the sixteenth century, were compiled in Latin,
and it was another three decades before religious texts of various types
appeared in a language accessible to the people.6
For ethnic Slovaks, the Reformation did not encourage the vernacular in
an immediate and unambiguous manner, as it did in the case of the
Germans and Hungarians, and it did not lead to the identification of the
ethnic group with its spoken language.7 These facts are interesting not only
from the point of view of the history of religion, but also from that of the
functioning of language, the transmission of cultural values and the for-
mation of modern nations, a process that began at this time.
Anyone concerned with the beginnings of the formation and develop-
ment of subordinate ethnic groups in Central Europe in the early modern
period encounters an interesting phenomenon in the case of the Slovaks. In
spite of the absence of a lively historical tradition, of an institutional basis
for the development of cultural or political activities and even of a single
form of written language, the Slovaks had a relatively strong ethnic identity
and were later able to develop into a modern nation.
It might be supposed that the impulses for this process started from the
Church as an institution and symbol of ethnic unity. However, religious
allegiance could not become a unifying factor. The Lutheran Church was
dominant after the Reformation, but in the course of the seventeenth century
it retreated under pressure from the movement of re-Catholicization, which
led to a change in the confessional composition of the population. At the
beginning of the seventeenth century, non-Catholics, mostly Lutherans, still
formed about 90 per cent of the population of Upper Hungary, but the
situation was reversed in the course of the eighteenth century, and non-
Catholics became (in Slovakia as in the Kingdom of Hungary in general) a
marginalized minority of about 20 per cent. Members of this minority were
not allowed to hold public office (royal or municipal) and their civic rights
At the same time, the widening, strengthening or defence of confessional
identity represented a basic value and indeed a mission for members of a
given community. Identification with a confession was extremely important,
Bodnarova (1998). However, the first original texts, the hymns written by Johannes Silvanus, were
published only in 1571 in Prague. The first books printed in Czech used by Slovaks were the
translations of Luther‚Ä™s Catechism published in Bardejov in 1581 and probably in 1583 in Hlohovec:
Durovic (1940), 38‚Ä“43.
especially when it was threatened, for example when membership could not
be supported by religious institutions, but only through informal signs of
identification. Thus, the distinction between the two confessional camps was
not expressed at the level of doctrine alone. The two confessions also began
to distinguish themselves by using different forms of written language. They
began to prefer different historical traditions and develop opposing ideas
about the character of their own ethnic group. This led to a sharp differ-
entiation between the two camps ‚Ä“ Lutheran and Catholic ‚Ä“ in the frame-
work of one ethnic unit, each of them showing a strong collective identity.
The acceptance of Czech ‚Ä“ a comprehensible language, but still that of
another ethnic group ‚Ä“ as the liturgical language of the Slovaks may be
regarded as an important factor of differentiation within the ethnic group.
This was both a result of the development of the Lutheran confession
among the Slovaks and a stimulus to their specific development. Czech was
not only the language of the Bible, catechisms and religious services, it also
gradually became the symbol of the connection and relationship of its
Slovak users with the ethnic group from which they appropriated historical
traditions. These traditions did not derive from direct experience over the
generations or from popular traditions mentioned in medieval chronicles.
They were an artificial construction by the intellectuals.8
An example of this process is the claim that Hussitism was the direct
forerunner of Lutheranism, which found a response in Slovakia in spite
of the fact that no direct continuity between the Hussites and the
Reformation existed there. Language also allowed the idea of a direct
relationship between the Slovaks and Czechs to enter the collective con-
sciousness. The concept of a united Czechoslovak tribe within the frame-
work of the Slavonic group, which later played an important role in the
process of the formation of the modern nation, already appeared in the
early modern period as part of the idea of Baroque Slavism.9
The acceptance of a foreign language as a means of cultivated commu-
nication is not at all unusual. It is enough to mention Latin as the lingua
franca of the whole of Europe in the medieval and early modern periods.
However, the identification of an ethnic group or an important part of it
with the living language of another ethnic group and the declaration that
this form of speech is the mother tongue represents a different pheno-
menon. This process had several causes, derived from specific developments
in the whole Kingdom of Hungary after the Reformation.
On the construction of history in early modern Europe, Bahlcke and Strohmeyer (2002).
Language as a means of transfer of cultural values 55
In the case of the Slovaks, it is especially necessary to emphasize that the
Reformation did not mean an automatic impulse for the production or
translation of liturgical and other literary texts into their own spoken lan-
guage. The bearers of the ideas of the Reformation among the Slovaks were
the burghers and gentry, that is, the social groups whose education oriented
them towards humanist Latin culture. Teaching in urban schools took place
entirely in Latin.10 In addition, most cities still had close and direct con-
nections with German regions and German was one of the languages of the
town councils.11 Thanks to this the ideas of the Reformation spread in their
original form and the magistrates corresponded on matters of religion with
the centre of the Lutheran Reformation in Wittenberg and its leaders,
especially Philipp Melanchthon.12
The teachings of the Reformation were therefore initially received in
German and Latin. For example, the confessions of individual urban
associations used to gain legal recognition of the new church synods and
their organizations, together with their rules, were written in these lan-
guages. As a result appeals to the unchanged character of texts became an
important political factor at the time of forcible re-Catholicization and the
cancellation of guarantees for the functioning of the non-Catholic con-
fessions. Thus articles of faith that were not distorted by translation formed
the basis on which the Lutherans were accepted by the state.13
In the case of ethnic Slovak Lutherans, emphasis on the absence
of change meant renouncing the translation of their basic texts (the
Augsburg Confession, the Formula or Book of Concord) into their own
language until the end of the eighteenth century. Translation of the basic
‚Ä˜identifying‚Ä™ texts of the confession into the spoken, but still basically
uncodified, language, which lacked a precise religious and political termin-
ology, might have been a source of significant changes and so a threat to
the vulnerable political status of the Church. Inaccuracies in translation
would have allowed political opponents to cast doubt on the legality of
the confessional community and deny it the right to exist. In the case of the
Kingdom of Hungary, this meant the possibility that laws decreeing the
The result was that Latin continued to be spoken and remained one of the official languages in
Hungary until the late eighteenth century: Toth (1996), 130‚Ä“45.
The towns in Upper Hungary/Slovakia were language islands where German developed independ-
ently from the core German regions.
Suda (1996); Bodnarova (1999).
Daniel (1980). On the discourse concerning the use of different languages within the Catholic
environment, Smolinsky (1998); Koster (1995).
physical liquidation of adherents of the Reformation might be applied
The later acceptance by the Slovaks of Czech as the language of the
liturgy, Bible and written communication brought no change in this
perception of the importance of preserving the basic confessional texts in
the language in which they were conceived and accepted by the state
authorities. On the contrary, this version of the Bible became obligatory,
especially if it was used as the ultimate and exclusive argument support-
ing the identity of the Lutherans at the beginnings of the massive
re-Catholicization in Hungary (the 1670s and 1680s).15 However, it was
not only politics that influenced the possibility or impossibility of translation
in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Religious orthodoxy
and traditionalism also played a part in maintaining the existing situation.
In any case, the use of the printed word was not a main feature of the
spread of the Reformation in the Kingdom of Hungary. The absence of
printing presses there until the second half of the sixteenth century was
compensated by extensive imports of books.16 These imports included not
only scholarly works in Latin, but also books in German and Czech, which
were easily intelligible in the urban environment: in the first case thanks to
the coexistence of Slovaks and Germans in the majority of towns, in the
second thanks to the related character and comprehensibility of Czech. The
use of Czech among the Slovaks was already established in the Middle
Ages, thanks to the use of legal texts, for example. However, some legal
terms changed meaning compared to the German original, the result of
differences in attitudes or simply to the linguistic incompetence of some
translators or users of these texts. An example is the inaccurate translation
from German into Slovakized Czech of some parts and terms of
Magdeburg law, which was a model for the free royal cities in Hungary.
Its terminology was not very clear to lay users.17
On the other hand, the Czech language had already been codified (it was
one of the first European languages to be standardized in this way) and
so it could be used as the medium of translations.18 Its position in the
Reformation period is revealed by the reception of the translation of the
Wittenberg Agenda and the use of Czech hymnbooks, whether produced
Daniel Klesch (1679) told the laity how to use the Bible in disputes with Catholic missionaries. Lay
Protestants should stress that Lutherans do not argue from tradition like Catholics, or from reason
like Calvinists. Although Klesch‚Ä™s recommendations concerned German-speaking Lutherans they
were generally accepted.
Daniel (1998). 17 Rysanek (1954), 15‚Ä“25. 18 Vesely (2002).
Language as a means of transfer of cultural values 57
by the Utraquists (1522, 1531) or by the Czech Brethren (1541), which
allowed the identification of the confessional position of individual church
The transformation of church services was the first visible manifestation
of the Reformation, with clear definitions of belief coming only later. The
Bible was already accessible in Czech before the Reformation, for example
the so-called Venice Bible of 1506. So the oldest texts concerned with
religious belief produced in the Kingdom of Hungary in the ‚Ä˜vernacular‚Ä™
(actually the Czech language) appeared only in the second half of the
sixteenth century. They arose from the need for the clear definition of
orthodox Lutheran positions in the controversies with crypto-Calvinism.
Czech was used as a medium of communication because it was easy for
Slovaks to understand, while it had already developed a precise religious
This fact is extraordinarily important, since only by the use of unam-
biguous terms was it possible to avoid being suspected of the ‚Ä˜Calvinist
heresy‚Ä™ or actually falling into it. This hypothesis is confirmed by the fact
that the dispute about the theological orientation of the urban commun-
ities of eastern Slovakia, expressed in polemical works written in Latin,
accompanied the publication of the Martin Luther‚Ä™s Little Catechism, the
first book published in Slovakized Czech in this region (Bardejov, 1581).
Through this book the ‚Ä˜codified‚Ä™ pure teaching of Martin Luther became
the doctrinal standard for the ethnic Slovak Lutherans of the period.
General acceptance of the Formula and the Book of Concord as the basic
doctrine of Lutheranism followed only three decades later at the Synod of
Zilina (1610) after many years of debate.19
Through the catechism, the faithful who did not otherwise come into
contact with the printed word first became acquainted with basic theolog-
ical expressions in an easily comprehensible language.20 However, the
publication of the catechism was only a first step towards the strengthening
of the confessional identity of believers.21 The text of the Bible as a starting
point for teaching was an important medium for the formation of the life
and identity of the confessional community.
Various translations were used to make the Bible accessible to the
Protestant communities of the different ethnic groups in the Kingdom
of Hungary. The translation of the Bible into German was available to
German Lutherans immediately after its publication. This was reflected,
Daniel (1979). On the synod in Zilina (Silein) see Kvacala (1935), 293‚Ä“303.
Zach (2002). Crň˜ciun et al. (2002), 1‚Ä“30.
for example, in the increased frequency of Bibles in town libraries in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.22 In the case of the Hungarians
(Magyars), who were the dominant ethnic group, a situation favourable
to the rapid translation of the Bible into their own language developed.
The cultural needs of the Hungarian social elite had already stimulated the
development of fine literature, so a highly cultivated language already
existed and could be used for translation of the Bible into Hungarian.23
In towns with an ethnically heterogeneous population, mastery of
several languages was natural, and so it is not surprising that for many
years the theological leaders of the Slovak Lutherans carried on disputes
about crypto-Calvinism and the problem of images in Latin and
German.24 Considering the urgency of solving these theological problems
for the character of the whole confession, it is only natural that Latin
remained the medium of communication for intellectuals of Slovak origin.
However, where it was necessary to use the spoken language, they did
not choose the ‚Ä˜Hungarian route‚Ä™ of the cultivation of the local spoken
language, which was demanding in time and expertise. The cultivated
language of the nearest ethnic group, the Czechs, was available. It fulfilled
the role of communication perfectly, and even in the fifteenth century
there was already a tradition of using Czech in some town offices and at the
courts of some noblemen.25
Since ethnic Slovak scholars formed only a very small group and one
fully engaged in solving religious disputes, no appropriate personalities
emerged among them to carry out a translation project that would have
been extremely demanding. It was more convenient to use the already
available Kralice Bible, published in Bohemia in 1579‚Ä“94, for the needs of
the Slovak Lutheran community in the Kingdom of Hungary. For a long
time it was simply imported into the territory of today‚Ä™s Slovakia as a
finished product. Although it was prepared by theologians of the Union of
Brothers (Unitas fratrum), who inclined to Calvinism, this was not a
problem in the period when the Lutherans in Hungary were still seeking
a doctrinal standard. What was considered important was to make a
comprehensible text of the Scriptures available to the general public.
The highest theological authority, the Synod of Zilina of 1610, con-
firmed the validity of the Kralice Bible for the Slovak Lutherans, and so it
also confirmed the use as the liturgical language of the form of Czech found
in it. At the time of the synod, the Church was mainly concerned with the
stabilization of doctrine on the basis of the possibilities provided by the first
ňáňá ¬ī ¬ī
22 23 24 25
Cicaj (1996). Kosa (1999), 249‚Ä“56. Daniel (1995). Skladana (2002).
Language as a means of transfer of cultural values 59
law on the equality of confessions in Hungary (1608).26 For this reason, as
well as accepting the Kralice Bible, the synod also adopted a resolution that
the Formula and the Book of Concord were binding.
In the following period, the political situation developed in an ever more
unfavourable way for the Lutherans. The material possibilities of the
Lutheran Church, which declined with the gradual re-Catholicization of
the rich noble and formerly Lutheran families, did not enable the prepa-
ration of a Bible in the local spoken language or in a theologically revised
form. The position of Czech was also strengthened by the great wave of
emigration of Protestants from Bohemia and Moravia to Upper Hungary
after the Battle of the White Mountain and the introduction of
re-Catholicization laws in the Austrian and Czech part of the Habsburg
Monarchy.27 Czech preachers produced popular editions of religious texts,
for example the hymnbook Cithara sanctorum of Juraj Tranovsky from
1636. They were quickly integrated into the community and became
patriots for the country which had given them new homes.28
These socio-political circumstances were more important than the
actual development of the spoken language of the Slovak Lutherans,
which occurred independently. In spite of the tendency to include ele-
ments of their spoken, Slovak language in ‚Ä˜non-biblical‚Ä™ texts such as
Passion plays and the formulations of agendas, this tendency did not
become dominant and it was not applied to the publication of biblical
texts. On the contrary, the language of the Bible, the so-called Biblictina,
began to penetrate all printed texts and acquired the status of a literary
language. Hymns were the most important category of literature. In the
Cithara sanctorum collection, they formed a summary of theological ideas
intended for the general public and more accessible in price for them than
This medium also preserved the confessional and cultural identity of the
people, who were deprived of direct contact with preachers because of re-
Catholicization. In many counties they had few opportunities to attend
their own church. Non-Catholic publications were drastically limited and
more or less came to an end in the 1730s. In this way, the hymnbook and
the catechism became the exclusive sources of knowledge of the teachings
of the Lutheran Church. Their symbolic value increased because they were
the only resources approved for the so-called private practice of religion.
Wherever the Lutheran faithful had limited access to churches and schools,
26 27 28
On this important law see Peter (1991). Mrva (1999). Frankova (1993).
communal hymn singing, usually without printed aids, replaced the other
For these reasons it was not only the Bible that symbolized the unity and
integrity of the Lutherans. The language in which it was printed acquired
the same ‚Ä˜canonical‚Ä™ value. However, it is also necessary to note that by the
seventeenth century, this form of language was no longer the living, spoken
language in the Czech ethnic environment.29 A development was occurring
which confirmed the existence of two different ethnic groups ‚Ä“ the Czechs
and the Slovaks.
By means of the Czech language, the Slovak Protestants of the sixteenth‚Ä“
seventeenth centuries appropriated not only a consciousness of commu-
nity with the Czech ethnic group, but also a theological and confessional
connection with Hussitism or the ‚Ä˜Czech Reformation‚Ä™. Its supporters, in
reality only the remnants of armed forces serving as mercenaries for local
magnates, found refuge in Slovakia in the course of the fifteenth century
and allegedly spread the ideas of Hussitism. The direct line of development
of the Reformation from Jan Hus to Martin Luther was emphasized. In
the course of the eighteenth century in particular, this idea of development
was used as a theological argument confirming the ‚Ä˜exceptional‚Ä™ character
of Slovak Lutheranism.
Identification with this inauthentic, but theologically impressive tradi-
tion brought its bearers, who had a subordinate position in the structure of
the population of the Kingdom of Hungary, the possibility of achieving
acceptance and recognition within the framework of the multi-ethnic
church community. On the other hand, this tradition and the self-stereotype
built on it, of the Slovak Lutherans as preservers of the tradition of the
Czech Reformation, was an apologetic instrument and a source of pride
in the maturity of the whole ‚Ä˜Slavonic nation‚Ä™, which had participated in
shaping the spiritual life of Europe. This fiction was created precisely in
this period among various Slavonic ethnic groups.
The confessional element, which still played a substantial part in culture,
contributed to the emphasizing of other historical traditions. Slovak
Protestants were clearly not attracted to the combination of the traditions
of Great Moravia and St Stephen on which the presentation of Hungary as
the Kingdom of Mary (Regnum Marianum) was built. The invented
tradition of Hussite influence on Slovakia, connecting the Slovaks with a
spiritual movement to which Martin Luther himself appealed, was natu-
rally more acceptable to them.
On the special development of the Czech used by Slovaks see Durovic (1998, 2004).
Language as a means of transfer of cultural values 61
The fact that Great Moravia was not directly connected with the destiny
of the Czech nation, in which Slovak Protestants saw a natural ally and
support in their cultural and national development, thanks to linguistic
and cultural links, undoubtedly played a significant role in this acceptance.
The activity of Cyril and Methodius as Christian missionaries among the
Slavs received attention only with the acceptance of the concept of Baroque
Slavism, which emphasized the important contributions of individual
Slavonic ethnic groups to the development of culture and civilization.
Their ‚Ä˜adoption‚Ä™ in the non-Catholic environment came only at the
beginning of the eighteenth century, when respect for the two saints
could already be justified in an ‚Ä˜academic‚Ä™ manner. The publication of
documents from the Vatican Archives concerning the earliest history of the
Central European region started at the end of the seventeenth century.
By appropriating and further cultivating Czech in its biblical form as
their vernacular with its grammar fixed and printed (by Tobias Masn¬īk orń±
Masnicius, for example, in 1696), the Slovak Lutherans symbolically took
over the mission of preserving the confessional consciousness of the Czech
Protestants, which survived only in exile or in the form of small commun-
ities of secret and persecuted Protestants.
However, the intellectual elites of Slovak Lutheranism (pastors and
teachers) were forced to leave their homeland in 1674. They found their
first refuge in Czech church communities in various parts of Germany.
Even though only a few of them could obtain the position of pastor, many
exiles from Hungary were active as guest preachers or they published
sermons and religious literature.30 These texts appeared in traditional
biblical Czech and, thanks to this, religious literature from the pens of
numerous Slovak Lutheran authors was also acceptable in the environment
of Utraquist and even Czech Brother exiles and helped to maintain their
The consistent use of biblical Czech in non-biblical theological texts,
often combined with some elements of spoken Slovak, was strengthened
after the establishment of the Biblical Institute at Halle. The Institute
systematically published works intended for a wider community than
the Slovak Lutherans alone.31 The Bible published for the Slovaks in 1722
was produced in harmony with grammatically codified biblical Czech.
Thus a sense of community with their Czech fellow believers and of
responsibility for their destiny was created in the consciousness of the
An overview in Durovic (1940), 80‚Ä“6. Rosel (1961).
Slovak Lutherans. Later, after the issuing of the Toleration Patent (1781),
this sense of community was expressed in extensive missionary activity.32
The perception of language as a symbol of belief was also strengthened in
the course of re-Catholicization. The university press in Trnava (Tyrnau,
Nagyszombat), which was in the hands of the Jesuits, was especially con-
cerned with cultivation of native, spoken Slovak. The texts of books and of
surviving manuscript sermons by Franciscans or other preachers show a
conscious use of language as a sign distinguishing the Catholics from the
However, the ethnic consciousness of Catholic Slovaks was not con-
nected to an unambiguous means of declaring their confessional allegiance ‚Ä“
a Slovak translation of the Bible. The educated, who had the right (in
accordance with the decrees of the Council of Trent), to ask for permission
to read the Bible, were satisfied with the Latin text of the Vulgate and did
not need a translation. There was therefore no attempt to translate the
whole Bible into Slovak until the first half of the eighteenth century, and
even then it remained unpublished.33
Religious literature was printed in large editions.34 All the same, the
absence of the books which tended to create norms, that is, of a widely
accepted hymnbook and especially of a Catholic translation of the Bible
into the spoken language, undoubtedly influenced the formation of the
type of language used in the environment of Catholic intellectuals. Their
language usage was more variable than that of the Protestant intellectuals,
and only gradually became more fixed.
However, by becoming more distant from Czech, the language strength-
ened the consciousness of the linguistic and ethnic distinctiveness of the
Slovaks and facilitated their separation from the broad framework of
Slavism. The stabilization of Slovak was supported by the publishing of
various legal or political texts which were issued by more and more active
government institutions. The textbooks introduced into the schools during
the first period of school reforms in Hungary (1777‚Ä“90) also helped to fix
the form of language.35
Kowalska (2001), 145‚Ä“7.
It is not clear why the first translation of the Bible into cultivated spoken Slovak (the so-called Bible
of the Camaldul monks, prepared for the press in 1758) was forbidden to be published. The church
archives in Slovakia are still not well organized and opened and this question has not yet been
answered by specialists on church history. The Bible was first published by Rothe, Scholz and
On the products of the university press in Trnava (Tyrnau, Nagyszombat) see Caplovic (1972‚Ä“84);
Language as a means of transfer of cultural values 63
However, the interconnection between the type of language used by an
individual and his or her confession can be observed even in the 1790s, in
the context of the textbooks published by and used in the state elementary
schools, especially the Reading-Book (Lesebuch) which included the prin-
ciples of Christian ethics and religion as well as instruction about the
behaviour of children and especially altar boys in church during religious
ceremonies. One of the reviewers of these textbooks recommended the use
of a form of language that would not encourage doubts about the Catholic
religion by using curious (Czech) terms. On the other hand, accurate
expressions in the vernacular might bring the ‚Ä˜heretics‚Ä™ back into the
The shaping of historical consciousness among the Catholics was more
complicated. It did not rely on any inherited or adopted tradition. The
legends and chronicles that first passed on historical knowledge in the
Kingdom of Hungary did not provide sufficient stimuli. They were written
by medieval scholars from the circle of the kings of the House of Arpad,
and emphasized the tradition of the taking of land by means of war. The
most important medieval chronicle spoke directly of the dishonour of the
original native Slavonic inhabitants ‚Ä“ the ancestors of the Slovaks.
Until the beginning of the eighteenth century, members of the
Hungarian political Estate did not feel themselves committed to an ethnic
identity. Linguistic identification did not play a very important role. In
the eighteenth century, those who accepted the importance of ethnic
adherence as well as the concept of a political nation or Estate discovered
the importance of the Great Moravian Empire. They even combined the
concept of the statehood of Great Moravia with that of Hungary. The
ultimate localization of the ‚Ä˜first state of the Slovaks‚Ä™ in the territory of
Pannonia and Upper Hungary as well as the stressing of the contribution of
Slovaks to the civilizing process in the early stages of the Hungarian
Kingdom provided the basis for arguments for the equality of the whole
ethnic group within Hungary.37
The Lutherans also agreed with this idea. They accepted the Great
Moravian state as the point of departure for the history of the Slovaks.
However, they also emphasized the connection with the Czech lands
Comment by canon Johann Ludwig Schwartz from Nitra (Nyitra), in the Hungarian State Archives
in Budapest, C 69, 1780, Scholae Nationales, Miscellanea, fons 3, pos. 54, fol. 97.
This concept was formulated as a scientific hypothesis only in the eighteenth century by Juraj
¬ī ¬ī ¬ī
Papanek in Historia gentis Slavae: de regno, regibusque Slavorum (Pecs, 1780). See Tibensky (1992).
(especially with Moravia) and the preservation of the Slavonic (or Great
Moravian) culture in Bohemia.
Since the Lutherans were deprived of the possibility of declaring their
confessional allegiance by active participation in church services at most
places in Hungary, the symbols of their identity acquired more impor-
tance. The identification of Slovak Lutherans with a language which was
actually foreign or at least common with a different ethnic group, and
functioned on various levels of communication in parallel with the local
spoken language, was so strong that massive assimilation of Slovak migrants
into the surrounding environment did not occur in ethnically and confes-
sionally mixed regions such as the Lowlands in the south of the Kingdom of
On the other hand, Catholics did not have to present themselves as
anything but members of the dominant Church. This act in itself secured
them full participation in public life, for example the rights of a town
burgher, guild membership or the right to hold a public office. Manifesting
their identity in a programme or in texts did not have great importance for
them, and the form of the language of such texts was even less important.
Interconfessional relations were therefore a determining factor in the
process of the integration of the Slovak ethnic group and its development
into the form of a modern nation. It is certainly no accident that the
codification of a common written language came only after a period of
stabilization of interconfessional relations in the course of the first half of
the nineteenth century. However, the translation of the Bible into archaic
Czech did not cease to have symbolic value: it continued to be used in the
Slovak Lutheran community until the middle of the twentieth century.
Translations into Latin in early modern Europe
It is well known that both spoken and written Latin were regularly
employed in early modern Europe not only in the Catholic Church but
also in the world of scholarship, diplomacy, the law and elsewhere.2 The
importance of early modern translations from Latin into the vernacular
languages of Europe has also been recognized. So has the importance of
translations from ancient Greek into Latin.
On the other hand, translations from the vernacular into Latin have
been relatively neglected.3 The reason for this neglect may be that the
phenomenon seems to be counter-intuitive. After all, why should anyone
want to make translations in the ‚Ä˜wrong‚Ä™ direction, from a modern lan-
guage into an ancient one? Insofar as they have been studied at all, these
texts, in particular the translations of literary classics such as Dante,
Ariosto, Tasso, Cervantes, Camoes or Milton, have been treated as curi-
osities, simple exercises of ingenuity.
However, I have discovered no fewer than 1,140 published translations of
substantial texts by known authors between the invention of printing and
the year 1799, and there may well be many more, especially of books
published in Central Europe and not available in libraries further west.
One day, when an on-line catalogue of all early modern European pub-
lications becomes available, these omissions will come to light.
The number of these translations testifies not only to the widespread
knowledge of Latin at this time, but also to the fact that many educated