ńňđ. 3
(âńĺăî 8)



people outside frontier regions found foreign vernaculars difficult if not
impossible to read. Compared to what was available for the teaching of

In the course of this investigation, begun in 1991, I have received encouragement and assistance from
many people, but particular thanks are due to Rino Avesani, Dietrich Briesemeister, Zweeder von
Santen and Thomas Worcester.
Burke (2004), 43–60.
The rare general studies include Grant (1954) and Binns (1990). More specialized studies will be cited
below where appropriate.

Latin, facilities for the teaching of Italian, Spanish and French in schools,
colleges and universities were extremely limited, while they were virtually
non-existent for the teaching of other languages. English, for example, was
rarely taught before the eighteenth century.4


Most of the texts translated were what librarians today call ‘non-fiction’,
making a major contribution to the spread of information at this time.
Such a large number of translated texts suggests the value of asking the
following questions, on the model of chapter 1 above. What was translated
into Latin in this period? From what languages? By whom, for whom,
where and when? What were the main linguistic problems which the
translators confronted?
Given the lack of any bibliography of translations into Latin, or indeed
any complete catalogue of publications in any European country in this
period (apart from Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands), all general-
izations offered here must be taken as extremely provisional, and the figures
quoted as no more than indications of relative importance.5 Nevertheless,
the chronology and geography of the translations are extremely striking,
and suggest that the main conclusions of this chapter will survive the
discovery of more material.
The main criteria for inclusion in the list of 1,140 translations are as
1. The text must have a known author. That means omitting discussions of
translations of the Bible, from the version of Sebastien Castellion (criticized
at the time as too ornate) to that of Arias Montano (criticized as too literal). It is
a pity to exclude such works as the translations of Pathelin, Lazarillo de Tormes,
Reineke Fuchs and Till Eulenspiegel, or the Eikon basilike, or the first few years of
the Transactions of the Royal Society of London, or the decision of the Parlement
of Toulouse in the case of Martin Guerre (published in Latin by Suraeus in
1576), or the two anonymous accounts of the death of the Jesuit Edmund
Campion. However, consistency would require the inclusion of a mass of
occasional writings (descriptions of royal entries, coronations, missions and
trials, the texts of treaties, liturgies, instructions to officials and so on), and it

Burke (2004), 113–17.
The main sources used for this list are the catalogues of the British Library, London; the Bibliotheque
Nationale, Paris (now the Bibliotheque de France); the Bodleian, Oxford; and the University Library,
Cambridge. Wherever possible I have consulted the editions listed. For Spanish books I have also
used Palau y Dulcet (1948–77), and for Dutch and German books the new on-line catalogues, Short
Title Catalogue Netherlands and www.vd.17de.
Translations into Latin 67
is even more difficult to make a complete list of such texts than of works by
known authors.
The text must be a printed translation of a text previously published in the
vernacular. Therefore the five manuscript translations of Os Lus´adas produced in
this period are omitted. In similar fashion it excludes manuscript translations of
poems by Dante, Petrarch, Jorge Manrique, Spenser and Tasso, of the Koran (by
Widmanstetter), of a play by Scipione Maffei, of Mandeville’s Travels, and of
treatises such as Filarete on architecture or Rousseau’s Contrat social.6 Texts first
published in Latin which may have been translations from a manuscript in the
vernacular are also omitted (for example Huldreich Mutius’s De Germanorum
origine, Pietro Aron’s De institutione harmonica, Anthony Wood’s History of
Oxford and Johann Brucker’s Historia critica philosophiae).
On the other hand, the rare cases of books published in the same year in Latin
and the vernacular (such as Scalvo’s treatise on the rosary) are included, as well as
the unusual case of a Latin translation of a Dutch translation of an originally
Latin text (by Scribanius). Different translations of the same work (including the
four translations of the Semaine of Du Bartas, and the eight translations of
Pibrac’s moral quatrains) are counted separately.
Defining a ‘vernacular’ is not as easy as it might seem. The substantial number
of translations from ancient Greek into Latin have been omitted, but the much
rarer translations from Arabic, Byzantine Greek, Chinese, Hebrew and Persian
have been included (Jeronimo Xavier’s life of Christ in Persian, for instance, or
the history of the decline of Byzantium by Laonikos Chalkokondyles) although
these were made from ‘classical’ forms of written language.
It is difficult to be specific about length. Very short poems, and fragments like
Sainte-Marthe’s translation of part of Ronsard’s Franciade are not included.
On the other hand, the three Latin versions of Gray’s Elegy do figure in the list,
together with odes by Boileau and Dryden.
It is even more difficult to be specific about what exactly constitutes a ‘trans-
lation’ (as noted above, p. 30). The 1,140 items include selections (among them
the first books of Castiglione’s Cortegiano and Machiavelli’s Istorie Fiorentine,
and five stories from the Decamerone); abridgements (such as Sleidan’s version
of Froissart’s Chronique, the anonymous translation of Bossuet’s Variations and
the historical works of Maimbourg); and paraphrases or adaptations (including
free versions of Aretino, Della Porta and Milton).
It is not always clear when a work was first published; whether it was translated
from the vernacular into Latin, or vice versa; or even whether certain Latin texts
really exist or not. Among the ‘ghosts’ (in other words, works referred to in the
secondary literature, which I have so far been unable to trace in library
catalogues, though they may possibly exist somewhere) are Latin versions of
Aretino’s Letters, Mexia’s Historia Caesarea, Guarini’s Pastor fido, D’Urfe’s
pastoral romance L’Astree and Don Quixote (of which a translation into
macaronic Latin by Ignacio Calvo was published in 1905).

On Mandeville, Vogels (1885).


To analyse the chronology of the translations it is convenient to divide the
early modern period into fifty-year sections. The distribution of texts turns
out to have been extremely uneven. Only five texts were published in the
period before 1500. The number rises to 61 texts from the period 1500–49,
increasing to 220 texts 1550–99; continuing to rise to a peak of 387 texts
1600–49, in other words over seven a year on average; declines to 249 texts
1650–99, falling to 157 texts 1700–49 and 50 texts 1750–99 (total 1,127, the
remaining texts being impossible to date precisely). The absolute figures
should not be taken very seriously, in the sense that they are necessarily
incomplete, but the trend seems clear enough.
It should also be noted that a considerable difference to the figures for
1700–49 is made by a single enterprise undertaken in the Dutch Republic,
originally planned by the German scholar Johann Georg Graevius, pro-
fessor at Utrecht, and carried on by his former student Pieter Burmann the
Elder, professor at Leiden. Thanks to this initiative, over thirty antiquarian
studies were translated from Italian and published in Leiden in the 1720s as
part of a series called the ‘treasury of Italian antiquities’ (Thesaurus anti-
quitatum Italiae).
Translations from the vernacular into Latin did not of course disappear
after 1800. Hiawatha, Robinson Crusoe and works by Goethe and Schiller, not
to mention children’s books such as Max und Moritz, Pinocchio and Winnie
the Pooh, have been translated since that time. The tradition is not yet dead,
witness Peter Needham’s version of Harry Potter, Harrius Potterus et philos-
ophi lapis (1997). However, the crucial period was the one from 1550 to 1700.
One can only speculate about the reasons for this distribution over time.
Two explanations may be offered, and curiously enough they are almost
exactly the inverse of each other. In the first place, the lack of translations in
the early sixteenth century might be explained by the strength of the
prejudice of many scholars against the vernacular languages. On the
other hand, the slow decline of translations from the later seventeenth
century corresponds to the declining use of Latin.
The chronology of the original texts also deserves a mention. In a
number of cases they date from the Middle Ages, while a few sixteenth-
century texts were not translated into Latin for a hundred years or more. In
the majority of cases, however, the time-lag between the first publication of
the text and the publication of its Latin translation was relatively short, as
low as a year in the case of Paolo Sarpi’s Historia concilii tridentini for
example, or Blaise Pascal’s Litterae provinciales.
Translations into Latin 69
A third point concerns the vernaculars from which texts were translated
into Latin, in the order of their relative importance. Italian (with 321 texts)
and French (276) were ahead of all competitors, with Italian dominating the
earlier part of our period and French the later part (51 translations from
French were published between 1650 and 1699, as compared to 42 from
Italian). Next came English (159) and Spanish (133).7 Other languages lagged
a long way behind: German (77, dominated by Luther); Dutch; Portuguese;
Arabic; Persian; Chinese; Hebrew; Polish; Catalan; Swedish; Byzantine
Greek; Czech; Danish; Croat and Turkish (if translations of anonymous
works were added, the list would also include Ethiopian and Icelandic). It
should also be noted that – as was not infrequently the case in this period – a
number of translations were not made from the original language.


By whom were the translations made? A few translations are anonymous or
pseudonymous – Pascal’s translator ‘Wendrock’, for example, or Bodin’s
translator ‘Philoponus’, or Huarte’s translator ‘Aeschacius Major’ – or they
are signed with mysterious initials, such as the T. G. who translated
Addison, the T. D. M. who translated Boileau, the J. W. who translated
Boyle, or the P. I. L. M. who translated Naude.
However, 557 translators have been identified. From the sociological
point of view we find a group dominated, unsurprisingly, by the clergy,
especially the Catholic clergy and above all the Jesuits, who contributed
over eighty translators. Then came Protestant pastors, teachers (in schools
and universities), writers and physicians. The few semi-professional trans-
lators (above, p. 13) included Aegidius Albertinus (a Dutchman who lived
in Munich), Caspar Barth, Caspar Ens, Andreas Schottius and Adam
Schirmbeck.8 Other prolific translators were the German Kerbekius, pro-
fessor of theology at Mainz, and the Netherlanders Anton Dulcken, Sigebert
Havercamp, Michael Isselt, Theodore Petreius and Mateo Martinez
Waucquier, who came (contrary to what his name might suggest) from
Middelburg. Havercamp translated no fewer than eighteen texts for the
Thesaurus antiquitatum project mentioned above, while Waucquier speci-
alized in works of piety.

On French, Briesemeister (1985); on Spanish, Briesemeister (1978).
On Albertinus, Gemert (1979); on Barth, Bataillon (1957) and Briesemeister (1990); on Ens,
Fitzmaurice-Kelly (1906).
A geographical analysis offers more surprises than a sociological one.
The German speakers contribute at least 164 known translators. The
French speakers (including inhabitants of the Netherlands, Luxembourg
and French Switzerland) contribute 100, while English speakers (including
Irish, Scots and Welsh) contribute 60. The Dutch and Flemish speakers,
not always easy to identify, contribute at least 48, a high figure given the
relatively small size of that population.
On the other hand, the Italians contribute only 46 translators, among
whom should be noted Protestants such as Celio Secundo Curione, Elio
Diodati, Scipione Gentile, Francesco Negri, Silvestro Teglio and Giovanni
Niccolo Stoppani, all exiles and mediators between their two cultures.
Gentile lived in Germany, while Curione, Negri, Stoppani and Teglio were
all refugees in Switzerland. Among the secular texts they translated were
works by Machiavelli, Guicciardini and Tasso.9
The Spanish and Portuguese together contribute only 17 or 18 trans-
lators (including the famous humanists Antonio Nebrija and Benito Arias
Montano), the Poles 7, the Czechs 4, the Hungarians 3, and the Slovenes,
Finns and Swedes 1 each. It should be added that the British, French and
Italians almost always translated works from their own languages, leaving
the Germans and the Netherlanders to translate the Spanish texts and
many of the Italian ones as well.


For whom were the translations made? Obviously for the minority of
Europeans who were able to read Latin. The use of Latin ensured a wide
geographical distribution at the price of appealing to a cultural minority.
This price was sometimes considered to be worth paying: the authorities of
the Catholic Church allowed Bodin’s book on demons to appear in Latin,
but vetoed a proposal for an Italian translation.10
However, translations into Latin seem to have been made for a mino-
rity within the minority of Latinophones. Once again, a geographical
analysis is revealing. One way to approach the problem of the audience is
by examining the place of first publication of translations, 121 cities
altogether, from Altdorf to Zurich, of which 120 were in Europe (a trans-
lation of a work by a Jesuit missionary was published in Macau).

9 10
On Negri, Zonta (1916); cf. Korner (1988). Tippelskirch (2003), 341.
Translations into Latin 71
There were 496 texts first printed in the German-speaking world (includ-
ing Basel, Danzig, Strassburg and Vienna); 171 in the Netherlands, north
and south; 112 in the French-speaking world (including Geneva); 74 in
Britain; only 56 in Italy, despite the importance of Venice as a printing
centre; and a mere 9 in Spain and Portugal. The role of particular cities may
be worth a mention. The five leaders are Cologne (115 texts), Leiden (68),
London (54), Amsterdam (52) and Antwerp (45). Four of these cities are
well-known centres of publication (Leiden’s score being augmented by 31
items from the Graevius enterprise mentioned above), while the special case
of Cologne will be discussed below.
In short, the evidence points to the main demand for translations into
Latin as coming from northern Europe (including Poland), and more
especially from the German-speaking world. Latin was perhaps most useful
in ‘popularizing’ – if such a word may be used in this context – books
originally written in romance languages, especially works of piety.11 Its
importance for the reception of English culture in Germany in the later
seventeenth century has also been pointed out.12


What kinds of book were translated? To answer this question it is tempting
to use the categories of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century librarians
(theology, canon law, civil law, moral philosophy, natural philosophy
etc.). However, it is probably more useful to employ modern categories.
The six major categories were religion, science, fiction, history, politics and
travel, in that order.
In the first place, by a very long way, came religion, with 422 titles,
including works of theology, works of controversy, works of devotion,
prophecies and sermons (at least 24 items, the authors including Andrewes,
Bullinger, Calvin, Camus, Coton, Gerson, Lu´s de Granada, Panigarola,
Richeome, Savonarola, Segneri, Skarga and Vieira). The total of religious
works would be even larger (470) if ecclesiastical history (15 texts, including
works by Bartoli, Bossuet, Burnet, Florimond de Raemond, Maimbourg,
Sarpi and Sforza Pallavicino), and the lives of saints and other religious
leaders (33 texts, including lives of Christ, Luther, Calvin, Ignatius Loyola,
Francis Xavier and Teresa of Avila) were included here. These texts will be
considered below as history.

11 12
Briesemeister (1983). Fabian (1992), 181.
Of the 422 religious texts, 6 are Jewish, 1 (Feofan) is Orthodox and 101,
or less than a quarter, are Protestant, including 8 works by Martin Luther,
4 by Jean Calvin and 6 by the English puritan William Perkins. The
translation of Anglican theologians by Germans is worth noting as evi-
dence of contact and sympathy between different Protestant Churches. All
the same, the fragmentation of the Protestants into Lutherans, Calvinists,
Zwinglians and so on together with their stress on the vernacular should be
sufficient to explain why they fell so far behind the Catholics. On the
Catholic side, the 314 texts include no fewer than 5 works devoted to the
controversial issue of frequent communion. However, works of devotion
rather than works of controversy account for the bulk of the translations.
They include Lorenzo Scupoli’s Combattimento spirituale, which was
` ´
translated twice, and the Introduction a la vie devote by St Francois de
Sales (cf. Eire’s chapter below).
Spanish devotional writers in particular were current in Latin, including
Pedro de Alcantara, Alfonso Rodriguez, St Teresa of Avila, San Juan de la
Cruz (John of the Cross), Juan de Jesus, Luis de la Puente and above all
Lu´s de Granada (with 11 different texts). The Latin translation of these
devotional texts is one sign among others of the cultural hegemony that
Spain exercised over much of Europe around the year 1600. It coincides
with what has been called the ‘mystical invasion’ of France by Spain in the
seventeenth century, in other words the translation of Spanish devotional
writers into French.13
These authors were read outside Spain in Latin translations which were
for the most part produced and published in the German-speaking world,
in Mainz, for instance (22 texts), Munich (24) and especially in Cologne
(104), where certain publishers, such as Kinck, Mylius and Crithius seem to
have specialized in works of devotion. They were doubtless intended for
readers in Central and East-Central Europe in particular (the 1626–7
version of the Opera of St Teresa was dedicated by the publisher to a
Polish nobleman, Stanislas Lubomirski, while Bellarmino was translated
by Prince WĹ‚adislaw, or Ladislaus). Cologne was a notorious false place of
publication in this period, but only one of the Latin translations using this
name looks like a fake, Jouvancy’s translation of Daniel’s Cleandre et
Eudoxus ‘typis Petri Marteau’.
Interesting exceptions to the rule of Catholics translating Catholics are
the translation of Francis Xavier by the Dutch professor Louis de Dieu and

Bremond (1916–33).
Translations into Latin 73
that of Miguel de Molinos by the leading Pietist August Hermann Francke,
published in Protestant Halle.
In the second place, a long way behind religion, we find works of history:
152 works altogether, including 21 works of ecclesiastical history, 33
biographies of religious leaders, 5 biographies of political and military
leaders (2 of Philip II, together with Castruccio Castracani, Wallenstein
and the Duke of Newcastle) and 56 antiquarian treatises (31 of them from
the Graevius project), including Guillaume Du Choul’s study of the
Roman army and Charles Patin’s study of coins.
The works translated also include the most famous Italian vernacular
histories of the period – Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Sarpi and Davila
(even though Davila had to wait for more than a century to find a trans-
lator). Works by relatively minor Italians such as Pietro Bizzarri, Pandolfo
Collenuccio, Gianpietro Contarini, Pompeo Giustinian, Galeazzo Gualdo
Priorato and Giovanni Tommaso Minadoi were also translated, a sign of
the prestige of the Italian model of historical writing from the Renaissance
to the Baroque.
Far fewer texts were translated from French, notably Froissart’s
Chroniques and the memoirs of Philippe de Commynes, both of them
translated on the initiative of the Protestant humanist Johann Sleidan,
himself no mean historian.14 Commynes was actually the work which sold
best in Latin (with two translations and at least fifteen editions) as he did in
other languages (below, p. 129). Iberian texts are also few – Correa, Herrera,
Mendoza, Pulgar, Sandoval – and English texts still fewer: there is only
Francis Bacon’s Henry VII and the history of the Reformation in England
by the Scottish divine Gilbert Burnet, translated into Latin by a German at
a time when the knowledge of English was just beginning to spread, and
published in Geneva in order to reach an international Protestant public.
In the third place, natural philosophy (from mathematics to medicine
and including magic) with 135 items (cf. Pantin, below, p. 163). The Scientific
Revolution was an international movement which came at a time when
scholars were beginning to abandon the traditional language of the
Republic of Letters. The number of translations increased during the
early modern period as increasing numbers of natural philosophers decided
to write in the vernacular.
Paracelsus, who insisted on writing and even delivering university lec-
tures in German, was a pioneer in this respect, and – since German was not
a language many foreigners knew – he owed a good part of his international
On Sleidan, Vekene (1996).
reputation to the various translations of his work into Latin. Galileo began
by writing in Latin, the Sidereus nuncius (Starry Messenger) for example,
but switched to Italian in order to widen his domestic audience, provoking
a protest from one of his German friends, Mark Welser. It was necessary for
Bernegger and Diodati to translate him into Latin before his ideas could
continue to circulate outside Italy. At the end of the century, Newton –
who himself read Galileo in Latin – made a similar decision, shifting from
his Latin Principia to his English Optics, translated by his disciple Samuel
The most translated European scientist was Robert Boyle, with twenty-
six separate works, thanks not only to his reputation as a natural philoso-
pher but also to his reluctance to write in Latin coupled with the general
ignorance of English in the learned world.16 The problem of English
surfaces in the correspondence of the secretary of the Royal Society,
Henry Oldenburg, who received letters from Venice and the Dutch
Republic hoping for a Latin translation of Thomas Sprat’s history of the
Society. Although Louis de Moulin agreed to make the translation, it never
materialized, and readers without English had to turn to a French version.17
Other well-known figures in the world of natural philosophy whose
works were translated include Francesco Redi, Simon Stevin and Jan
Swammerdam. The number of medical and pharmacological books trans-
lated, even those by lesser-known authors, also deserves emphasis:
Bauderon, for example, Cheyne, Fizes, Freind, Gerin, Havers, Joubert,
Du Laurens, Monardes. The existence of these translations suggests that
there was an international demand for guides to practice as well as for
theoretical works.
To meet this kind of demand, works on technology were also translated
on occasion; treatises on architecture (discussed below under ‘art’);
Biringuccio’s Pyrotechnica on fireworks, Boeckler’s Theatrum machinarum
on machines, Wagenaer’s Speculum nauticum on navigation or Neri’s De arte
vitraria on glassmaking. All the same, the relative rarity of this type of book
suggests a lack of overlap between the members of the public who were able
to read Latin and those who wanted (say) to learn how to make glass.
In the fourth place, eighty-four books concerned with geography or
‘travel’, a subject which it is not always easy to distinguish from history, as
in the case of Benzoni’s and Herrera’s accounts of the New World, which
are therefore included – like accounts of missions outside Europe – in both

What Newton owned, at least, was Galileo in Latin: Harrison (1978).
Fulton (1961). 17 Oldenburg (1965–77), vol. IV, 69, 255n, 281, 326.
Translations into Latin 75
sections. General works included Botero’s Relazioni, Sebastian Munster’s
cosmography and the atlases of John Speed and Joan Blaeu.
Most of the best-known accounts of explorations and discoveries in the
Americas circulated in Latin, beginning with those of Columbus, Vespucci
and Cortes. The Englishmen Francis Drake, Thomas Hariot and Walter
Raleigh also appeared in Latin dress, alongside the Frenchmen Lery and
Laudonniere, the Spaniard Las Casas and the German Heinrich von Staden,
who claimed to have narrowly escaped being eaten by cannibals in Brazil.
A number of translations of these accounts of exotic lands appear to have
been commissioned by a single publisher, the engraver Theodore De Bry,
at the end of the sixteenth century, in order to form part of a series on
Asia too received a good deal of attention. The Turks in particular were an
object of concern, but there were also the accounts of India by Balbi,
Peruschi, Pimenta, Pinner and Varthema, of Japan by Carvalho, Frois and
Kaempfer, and of China by Marco Polo (translated twice), Mendoza and
Pantoja, together with the account of the Dutch embassy to China in 1655–7
published by the steward to the ambassadors, Jan Nieuhof. Africa, on the
other hand, was scarcely represented, with the exception of Leo Africanus on
the whole continent, Cadamosto on West Africa and Lopes on the Congo.
In the fifth place, fiction, seventy-two works in different genres. There
were plays, such as Ariosto’s Suppositi and Negromante, the Celestina of
Fernando de Rojas, Birk’s Susanna, Tasso’s Aminta and Giambattista Della
Porta’s Astrologo. There were epics, such as Orlando furioso, Gerusalemme
liberata, Os Lus´adas, Paradise Lost, the Semaine of Du Bartas, Voltaire’s
Henriade and Klopstock’s Messiah. There were other long poems, from
Dante’s Divina commedia and Brant’s Narrenschiff to Spenser’s Shepherd’s
Calendar, Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel and Pope’s Essay on Man.18
Shorter poems included the lyrics of the Persian poet Saadi and the Catalan
Ausias March, works by Ronsard, Pibrac’s moralizing verses, Boileau’s ode
on the taking of Namur, Corneille’s on the victories of Louis XIV,
Montgomerie’s The Cherry and the Plum, La Fontaine’s Fables (three
translations) and Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard (which was also
translated three times).19
In prose there were stories taken from Boccaccio and Cervantes (‘Homo
vitreus’, in other words El licenciado vidriero), as well as Gil Polo’s pastoral

On Os Lus´adas, Fonda (1979), Briesemeister (1984); on Paradise Lost, Feder (1955); on Klopstock,
Wallner (1982).
On Ronsard, McFarlane (1978), Smith (1988); on La Fontaine, Desmed (1964).
romance Diana, Mateo Aleman’s picaresque novel Guzman de Alfarache
´ 20
and Fenelon’s novel Telemaque (translated three times). It is likely that
Fenelon’s romance was read as a political work, just as the epic of Du Bartas
was read as a scientific work; classification systems are rarely watertight.
In the sixth place, sixty-four books on politics, again dominated by the
Italians (cf. Baldwin, below). No one will be surprised to find famous
Renaissance texts such as Machiavelli’s Principe and Discorsi, for example,
Giannotti’s dialogues on Venice, Botero’s Ragione di stato and other works,
Campanella’s Citta del sole, or even Ammirato’s Discorsi sopra Cornelio
Tacito. Guicciardini owes his place here to the political maxims extracted
from his history, since his political writings were not yet in print. The
presence of the seventeenth-century political writers Traiano Boccalini and
Virgilio Malvezzi (no less than four of whose works appeared in Latin) is
worth emphasis, like that of Raimondo de Montecuccoli on war.22
French texts include Seyssel’s French Commonwealth, Bodin’s Republic,
Gentillet’s attack on Machiavelli, La Noue’s political and military dis-
courses and Rohan’s pioneering study of international relations. From
Spanish comes the much reprinted Reloj de pr´ncipes by the Spanish court
preacher Antonio Guevara, together with Furio Ceriol on councillors,
Rivadeneira’s Christian Prince, Quevedo’s commentary on Plutarch’s
Brutus and Saavedra’s Idea of a Prince (which went through at least eleven
Latin editions in the seventeenth century). Once again, the importance of
Spain deserves to be noted. As for English, Hobbes’s Leviathan was
translated soon after its publication, but Locke’s equally famous Treatise
on Government was not.23
Most of these books might be described as ‘political philosophy’, but a
few were more topical. Some were works of propaganda, like the pamphlets
by La Chapelle, who defended Louis XIV during the War of the Spanish
Succession in his Helvetii epistolae, or Caramuel’s attack on the legitimacy
of King Joao IV of Portugal. On the margin between politics and travel
(and so counted in both sections) are some analyses of the Ottoman
Empire and its military forces, five in particular – by Giovio, Geuffroy,
Lucinge, Soranzo and Tarducci.
A few smaller categories deserve a brief comment. Conduct books, for
example, ranging from moral philosophy to advice on table manners,
include not only the three famous Italian treatises by Castiglione, Della

On Boccaccio, Tournay (1981); on Cervantes, Fitzmaurice-Kelly (1897).
On Machiavelli, Gerber (1911–13), 60–92; Anglo (2005). 22 On Boccalini, Firpo (1965), 59–66.
On Hobbes, Tricaud (1969); Lofstedt (1989).
Translations into Latin 77
Casa and Guazzo, but also the discussions of the court by Guevara, Faret
´ ´
and Du Refuge, two treatises by Gracian, Courtin’s manual of civility, and
the essays of Francis Bacon, translated under the title ‘Sermones fideles’. In
this domain we find more Protestant translators of texts by Catholics:
Chytraeus, for example, who translated Della Casa, Salmuth, who trans-
lated Guazzo, or Wanckel, who translated Guevara. Ideals of good conduct
seem to have been independent from theology.
Philosophy in its relatively narrow modern sense has only a small place
in this list: eighteen items. Given the importance of Latin as a language in
which to write on philosophy, it is perhaps surprising to find that Latin
translations were needed at all. All the same, Descartes on method, Kant on
reason, Leibniz on theodicy, Malebranche on truth, Pascal’s Pensees and
Locke on human understanding were all turned into Latin in this period
(Hume is represented only by his autobiography). The so-called ‘Logic of
Port-Royal’, by Arnauld and others, Cudworth’s True Intellectual System of
the Universe and Wolff’s Cogitationes rationales should also be included
here, together with three works by Bouhours, the Neoplatonists Leone
Ebreo and Francesco Patrizzi, and of course Confucius, whose Latinized
name still testifies to the language in which his ideas reached the West.
Only a handful of books are to be found in other categories. Art, for
example (Durer, Sandrart, Serlio, Menestrier); literary criticism (Bartoli,
Huet, Sforza Pallavicino, Tesauro); emblems (Borja, Coornhert, Montenay);
a Spanish grammar (Oudin); and a study of prices (Bodin). Even law is poorly
represented, despite Azpilcueta, Hotman, Sarpi and Selden; in this period –
outside England, which had a common law system of little interest on the
Continent – it was still rare to write on law in the vernacular. In a class by itself
is Naude’s advice on forming a library (appropriately enough, a text concerned
with the problem of classification).
In short, the great intellectual movements of the period – until the
Enlightenment – are well represented in Latin translation. The Renaissance
is represented in the form of Italian historians and political writers if not
artists. The great discoveries, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation
and the Scientific Revolution are also obviously present in this list. On the
other hand, the list as a whole is not a simple mirror of the taste of the time.
It was influenced by a few individuals in a position to turn their personal
interests into publications. Without Theodore de Bry, fewer translations of
accounts of the New World would have appeared. Without Samuel de
Tournes, Geneva’s place in the history of scientific publications would
have been much smaller. Without Graevius and Burmann, a number of
Italian antiquarians would not have been known abroad.


Translating modern works into Latin posed the problem of writing in a
Latin that humanists would regard as classical about phenomena unknown
to the ancient Romans. The humanists themselves were divided on this
issue, the ‘Ciceronians’ being opposed to neologisms while Alberti, Valla,
Erasmus and others considered some new Latin words to be necessary.24
On one side, some translators of Machiavelli tried to classicize the text.
Silvestro Teglio’s version of Il principe, for example, refers not to cardinals
but ‘the college of priests’ (sacerdotum collegium). In similar fashion, the
anonymous translator of the Arte della guerra called the Swiss pikemen
‘legio Helvetica’ or ‘hastatorum ordines’.
Guicciardini’s fate in Latin was a similar one to Machiavelli’s.25 In
his preface the translator, Celio Secundo Curione, explains the need for
using modern words for modern places, offices and equipment (locorum,
officiorum, armorum et machinarum nova vocabula), the reason being
‘the great contrast between the ancient and modern worlds’ (tanta . . .
veterum a novis dissimilitudo), making it necessary to write about Ammiralii,
Cardinales and so on.
In practice, however, Curione did try quite hard to find classical equiv-
alents for many modern objects or organizations. Thus antiguardia, ‘van-
guard’, becomes primum agmen; artiglierie, ‘artillery’, lacking in antiquity,
becomes tormenta, a term originally referring to Roman catapults; bastione,
‘bastion’ (a new Italian invention) becomes vallum, ‘fortification’, losing its
specificity; ducati similarly become aureorum numum, ‘gold coins’; lancie,
‘lancers’, turn into classical cataphracti; and trombetta, ‘trumpet’, into an
ancient term for herald, praeco. Even the stradiotti, a distinctive form of
Greek or Albanian cavalry in Venetian service, are given the vaguer name of
‘Illyrian horsemen’, illyrici equites. In the case of archers and crossbowmen
(arcieri, balestieri), Curione produces a compromise, ‘those whom they call
arcieri and the Romans sagittarii’.
On the other side, we might take the case of Paolo Sarpi’s History of the
Council of Trent, turned from Italian into Latin by Adam Newton in 1620.
Newton occasionally classicized, referring to the Council as conventus and
to universities as academiae. Generally speaking, however, he preferred to
keep technical terms in their original medieval or later Latin: bulla, for
instance, cardinales, curia romana, episcopi, jesuitae, indulgentiae, nuncii,
scholastici and so on. In similar fashion the translators of Sarpi’s treatises on

24 25
On Alberti, Grafton (2001), 283ff. Luciani (1936), 27ff., 35ff.
Translations into Latin 79
the Inquisition and the Interdict used the non-classical terms inquisitio and
In the case of translations of Castiglione’s Cortegiano into Latin, of which
there were three in the period (by Bartholomew Clerke, Johannes Ricius
and Johannes Turler), problems arose more rarely, but they were even more
serious. The translators generally tried to write classical Latin. On the other
hand, Castiglione was discussing behaviour in a milieu unknown to Cicero,
the court. Linguistic problems inevitably arose, notably in the case of the
renderings of the keywords cortegian´a and sprezzatura.26
The first term, cortegian´a, which the translator of Castiglione into
English had rendered as ‘courtiership’, gave Clerke so much trouble that
he discussed it in his preface to the reader. ‘What shall I call what the
English describe as courtiership and the Italians as cortegian´a? Aulicalitas
does not sound well . . . I am forced to use the term curialitas, which is
closer to the original even if it is less pure Latin.’ (Quid enim appellem id
quod Angli Courtiership, Itali Cortegianiam nominant? Aulicalitatem dicere
non placet . . . Curialitatem cogor appellare, quod verbum etsi minus pure
Latinum sit, latinitati tamen propius accedit.) Ricius avoided the problem by
omitting altogether the phrase including cortegian´a. ı
Sprezzatura also gave trouble. Clerke’s solution to the problem was to
paraphrase Castiglione, referring to the need to behave ‘negligently and (as
is commonly said) in a careless manner’ (negligenter et (ut vulgo dicitur)
dissolute), the latter term being his attempt to render Castiglione’s neo-
logism. He also used the term incuria. As for Ricius, he rendered the
famous phrase usare in ogni cosa una certa sprezzatura as ‘use in everything
a certain kind of something like contempt’ (inque omni re usurpetur certa
quaedam veluti contemptio). That certa quaedam veluti surely betrays a
certain hesitation or discomfort with the translator’s neologism contemptio.
A still more dramatic illustration of the problem of choice between
‘foreignizing’ (above, p. 26) and classicizing is the case of books about the
Ottoman Empire, which was unknown to the ancients as well as organized
in a different manner from the contemporary West.27 How should terms
for culturally specific items be rendered?
On one side, the history of Venice written by the Ciceronian humanist
Pietro Bembo classicized the Turks, giving up specificity in order to be
elegant. Bembo called the galleys biremes, the spahis equites, the admiral of
the Turkish fleet prefectus classis Thraciae and the sultan ‘the King of Thrace’,
Regem Thracium. Again, in his history of his own time, Paolo Giovio,
26 27
Burke (1995). This was also a problem for vernacular writers and translators (Burke, 2007).
another humanist, called Sultan Selim ‘Selymus Turcarum imperator’, while
the janissaries, at least on occasion, become ‘praetoriani milites’.
On the other hand, when the German humanist Johannes Leunclavius
translated the Ottoman annals into Latin, he decided to be useful rather
than elegant, and so to take over Turkish terms like Bassa, Genizari,
Sangiacus or Vezir (pasha, janissaries, sanjak, vizier). A similar solution
was adopted by Jacob Geuder when he translated Minadoi’s history of the
war between the Turks and the Persians. After hesitating over place names
such as ‘Babilonia (quae hodie Bagadat dicitur)’, he opted for keeping
technical terms like Caddi, Calif, Deftadar and so on. Translating
Geuffroy’s account of the Turkish court, Geuder followed a similar prin-
ciple, although he did give some Turkish words such as odabashi or
timariot Latin inflections – Odabasii, Tymariolzi, etc.
We are accustomed to think that the well-known dilemma between two
styles of translation, ‘domestication’ – in other words, cultural translation –
versus ‘foreignizing’, goes back to the nineteenth century or at the earliest
to the eighteenth.28 These examples from the Renaissance reveal an
earlier awareness of the problem, complicated by the existence of a
third possible solution, classicizing.
The classicizing option might be described as a kind of cultural trans-
lation in reverse. We are accustomed to the translation of the language of
the past into that of the present. After all, that is one of the major functions
of historians. Here, however, we find the opposite phenomenon, the
translation of the language of the present into that of the past, justified
by the Renaissance project of reviving antiquity.
The practice of classicizing, precisely because it is alien to our own
culture, offers a vivid reminder of the fact that language is neither neutral
nor free-floating. It is always encumbered by cultural baggage. Here as
elsewhere in this volume, the choices made by early modern translators
reveal a good deal about their culture.

Venuti (1995).

Translation and culture

Early modern Catholic piety in translation
Carlos M. N. Eire

Translations matter so much in the history of early modern Catholicism
that one might easily argue ‘no translations, no spiritual renewal, no
Catholic Reformation’ – at least not the kind of Reformation that histor-
ians now seem to take for granted. One counterfactual exercise alone
should suffice to prove this point. Imagine a different St Ignatius Loyola:
a wounded Basque nobleman named Inigo who remained untouched by
religious fervour after his encounter with a cannonball at the Battle of
Pamplona in 1521. What if this crippled Inigo had dedicated his life to
co-ordinating the local fiesta of San Ferm´n every July? What if he had
looked forward more to the running of the bulls than to prayer and the
service of God and the Catholic Church? How would Catholicism have
evolved in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries without St Ignatius and
the Society of Jesus?
Everyone knows that history would have taken a very different turn if the
convalescing Inigo had not been confined to a room with nothing else to
read but two devotional texts in translation: the Legenda aurea of Jacob
Voragine and the Life of Christ of Ludolph of Saxony. Later in life, as
Ignatius and others around him reconstructed the sequence of events that
led to his religious conversion, these two translations would be given the
credit – along with God Himself – for having changed the wounded soldier
into a saint. Those texts, and many others like them (some written or
translated by Jesuits), would also be given credit for animating a wholesale
renewal of the Catholic faith. Is such an assessment of the power of
translated texts an exaggeration? Can one ascribe too much influence to a
pair of translated texts?
Yes, undoubtedly, one might argue: Inigo could have still turned into
St Ignatius without those two translations, but it is hard to imagine how,
exactly. Yes, undoubtedly, one might argue too: Catholicism would have
been renewed without Ignatius and his Jesuits, but it is difficult to imagine
the contours of that renewal without them. In the same way, it is difficult to
imagine the landscape of Catholic piety in this period without translated
devotional texts.
Translations often assume a central place in many a survey of Catholic
spiritual life because the history of devotion or piety or spirituality – or
whatever one decides to call the living out of religion – is inseparably linked
to texts, especially after the invention of the printing press.1 Texts played a
key role in the transmission of ideas, attitudes and patterns of behaviour
among early modern Catholics on two interdependent levels: among the
clergy who gave shape to the faith and among the laity they shepherded.
Those who wrote devotional texts in Catholic culture were most often the
professional ‘experts’ on piety and on the supernatural: men and women
who devoted their lives to the pursuit of holiness.
This class of religious elites not only authored the vast majority of
devotional texts, but also constituted a well-informed critical audience
that controlled the flow of information and gave shape to the devotional
life of the Church as a whole. This audience consumed texts in Latin and
also in the vernacular. It was this class, especially the priests and friars
involved in public ministry, that distilled and passed on to the literate and
illiterate laity the piety that the texts embodied. The laity, while not
entirely passive, tended to be consumers rather than producers, and also
tended to read vernacular rather than Latin texts, even though a fair
number of those who were literate could read Latin.
Translations were essential for both audiences. Texts written in Latin by
the ‘experts’ – if deemed significant enough – needed to be translated into
vernaculars for a broader lay audience. Significant texts written in the
vernacular, in turn, needed to be translated into Latin for international
distribution, since Latin was the common tongue of the elite throughout
Europe, especially among the ‘experts’ in religion. Naturally, significant
texts written in one vernacular also needed to be translated into other
vernaculars. Clergy and laity alike, then, shared in the need for translations.
In all of this, at nearly every level save that of the manual labour in the print
shops and the actual promotion and sale of books, the clerical elites
assumed control of the process, both in the writing and translating of
texts, and in the judging of what was significant. The fact that some of the
authors of key devotional texts also turn out to be translators of other
significant titles is no coincidence: it is due to the leading role played by
clerics in the whole process.

Rennhofer (1961), v.
Early modern Catholic piety in translation 85
Clerical domination of the process is undeniable. For instance: take the
case of one of the most significant texts of all, the Imitation of Christ
attributed to Thomas Kempis, an Augustinian canon, and let us limit our
scope to Spain alone. The first Spanish edition is in Catalan, Imitacio de Jesu
Crist, published in Barcelona in 1482. The translator, a cleric named Miguel
Perez, attributes the book to Jean Gerson, a very prominent cleric and
theologian, also chancellor of the University of Paris. This causes subsequent
editions to name Gerson as the author and to give the book the name el
Gerconzito (‘small Gerson’). We do not know who made the first Castilian
translation (Zaragoza, 1490), but chances are that the work was done by a
cleric. This translation, which also assumed Gerson’s authorship, was pub-
lished seven times between 1493 and 1526. Then, in 1536, the Imitation was
translated into Castilian once again by none other than Lu´s de Granada, one
of the leading spiritual authors of the day, a Dominican friar whose own
works would be translated numerous times into Latin and other European
vernaculars. After going through at least thirty editions, under the title
Contemptus mundi o menosprecio del mundo y imitacion de Cristo, attributed
to Thomas Kempis, this devotional classic was again translated in the
seventeenth century by Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, a Jesuit priest whose
own devotional works enjoy great popularity and are themselves translated
into other European vernaculars by other clerics.
Dealing with the history of devotional texts entails dealing with a closely
controlled process of cultural transmission and a social structure in which
monks, nuns and priests play a very prominent role. Consequently, much
of the scholarship on devotional texts focuses on this elite class, and much
of it is devoted to tracing the lives of these clerical authors and the routes by
means of which texts made their way from one person to another. Much of
the scholarship also tends to be highly genealogical and obsessed with
tracing lineages through texts and therefore also through translations.
This means that most of the scholarship on this subject, up to the present,
tends to fall under the category of the history of spirituality or mysticism
and that it is overwhelmingly focused on a relatively narrow range of texts
and authors – the ‘classics’, as it were – those texts that the elite spiritual
‘experts’ themselves have deemed most significant.
This naturally brings us to the question: ‘what is a devotional text?’ In
this essay, I shall consider a very broad range of literature as ‘devotional’. In
essence, any text that could be viewed or used as a means of stirring
religious fervour or of shaping the faith of its readers will be considered
‘devotional’. This means that many different kinds of text can be included:
prayer books, instruction manuals, printed sermons, mystical treatises,
hagiographies, catechisms, polemical tracts, some theological tomes and,
ultimately, the Bible itself.
Nonetheless, while it is absolutely necessary to keep in mind that the
range of texts that can be called ‘devotional’ is broad indeed and that
many formerly significant devotional texts have slipped into obscurity –
hagiographies such as Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda aurea (Golden
Legend), once the most popular collection of lives of the saints, with over
a dozen editions and many translations in the early age of printing, or
Gracian’s Summary of the Virtues of St Joseph and manuals such as Achille
Gagliardi’s Brief Summary of Christian Perfection – it is just as necessary to
admit the limitations of a very brief survey on the subject, such as this one.
At best, it can aim to provide only an overview of the most significant texts
and translations, and its main focus will have to be more narrative than
analytical. Its structure will follow the pattern set in most of the secondary
literature, tracing the circulation of texts and translations in three centres of
origin from the late fifteenth to the late seventeenth century – centres that
had an undeniable dominance in Catholic culture during this period, in
chronological order: first Germany and the Low Countries, then Spain and
finally France, with some inevitable sidelong glances at Italy along the way.
Identifying lacunae, critiquing the scholarship and suggesting new avenues
for research will have to be reserved for a brief conclusion.


Nearly every survey of early modern devotional literature begins its narra-
tive in one relatively small corner of northern Europe, along the lower
Rhine. Two major spiritual traditions merged there in the late Middle
Ages, giving birth to devotional currents that would dominate the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries: the so-called Rheno-Flemish mystical tradition,
which went back to the fourteenth century, with its roots in Meister
Eckhart and his disciples, and the Devotio moderna, flowing from it, but
also rooted in the Brethren of the Common Life and the Canons Regular of
Windesheim.2 This merging produced a number of texts, but none more
important than the Imitation of Christ, now attributed to Thomas Kempis
(1380–1471), but for quite some time ascribed to Jean Gerson (1363–1429).
Its focus is the development of a rich inner life of the spirit, detachment
from the world, a keen awareness of one’s states of mind and wholesale

Fuller (1995); Hyma (1965); Cognet (1968); Lucker (1950).
Early modern Catholic piety in translation 87
immersion of one’s self in Christ. This text would eventually become one
of the most-published and translated devotional classics.3
The Imitation of Christ was only one of many influential texts that
flowed from the newly devised printing presses of Germany and the Low
Countries. Another one of these was the Life of Christ by Ludolph of
Saxony, better known as Ludolph the Carthusian (d. 1378). Ignatius
Loyola was but one of the readers of this text (in translation) who were
deeply affected by what it had to say. Ludolph’s Meditationis vita Christi
was first printed in 1474 at Strassburg and Cologne, in Latin. It was not a
narrative of the Life of Jesus, as found in the Gospels, but rather an
extended meditation on it, heavily laced with patristic citations, moral
and doctrinal lessons, and many prayers.4
Texts by the disciples of Meister Eckhart (1260–1327) also figured prom-
inently in the first few decades of printing: Johannes Tauler (1300–61),
Heinrich Suso (1295–1366) and Jan van Ruysbroeck (1293–1381). All of
their texts were linked by a common bond: the belief that at the very core
of the human person, a divine spark dwells – a point of ontological oneness
with God that can only be discerned and experienced through detachment
from the world. The teachings of these three disciples of Eckhart were further
popularized by a talented synthesizer, Hendrik Herp, or Harphius (d. 1477),
whose works became immensely popular in various European vernaculars, as
well as in Latin. Much credit is also given to Denis Rijckel (1394–1471), better
known as Denis the Carthusian, for distilling and passing on this tradition.
Denis was a prolific and popular author of devotional texts, with no fewer
than seven major treatises to his credit, including one entitled The Four Last
Things,5 which had considerable influence in the popular genre of the art of
dying well, commonly known as the ars moriendi.
But the roots of late medieval devotional literature went much deeper
than the fourteenth century, and were much broader in their reach than the
lower Rhine. The taproot itself, deepest of all, led to the Bible. Around the
time that Harphius and Denis the Carthusian died, biblical studies began
to undergo a rebirth. Not surprisingly, a student of the Brethren of the
Common Life who was deeply influenced by the Devotio moderna would
emerge as the leading biblical scholar of his day: Erasmus of Rotterdam

Iserloh (1971).
Garc´a Mateo (2002); Shore (1998); Bodenstedt (1955); Baier (1977); Conway (1976).
Wassermann (1996).
Erasmus blazed new trails, contributing substantially to the return
ad fontes, to the original sources of the Christian faith. By far his most
impressive achievement was his 1516 edition of the New Testament, based
on the study of various ancient manuscripts, which also contained copious
annotations and a new Latin translation that sought to improve upon
Jerome’s Vulgate. Erasmus’s new translation provided alternate readings
of some key texts, casting doubt on the validity of medieval interpretations
of these passages, some of which had long served as proof texts for
important doctrines.
A good example is the text of Matthew 4:17, which in the Vulgate reads
‘Do penance, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ (Poenitentiam agite).
This passage had been interpreted for centuries as proof of the fact that the
sacrament of penance was clearly instituted by Christ himself. In 1516,
Erasmus insisted that the correct translation from the Greek was not ‘Do
penance’, but rather ‘Repent’ (poeniteat vos); in 1519, he insisted instead on
‘change your mind’ (resipiscite) – two very subtle, yet significant differ-
ences. Whereas Poenitentiam agite bolstered the legitimacy of the outward
act of confessing one’s sins to a priest, poeniteat and resipiscite pointed to an
interior act, perhaps even to an inner disposition.
This questioning of the Vulgate text, along with his constant criticism of
the late medieval Church and its piety, led many to say later that Erasmus
had laid the egg hatched by Luther. Erasmus rejected such charges, but
there is no denying that he had a lasting impact on Protestant piety
through his translation of biblical texts. A few years after the publication
of his New Testament, Protestant theologians would be centring some key
aspects of their theology and piety on Erasmus’s alternative translations.
Additionally, the second edition of Erasmus’s New Testament (1519) would
end up serving as the basis for the first translations into German, French
and English – the translations used to establish Protestant Christianity in
northern Europe.
Erasmus and many of his fellow humanists also sought out the writings
of the early Christian Fathers, with an eye on the renewal of Christendom.
Many of the greatest scholars of the age, and some of the lesser ones too,
devoted great time and effort to collating Greek manuscripts and trans-
lating them into Latin. Sometimes, the spirit of collaboration transcended
the personal quest for fame. Erasmus, for instance, published the German
humanist Wilibald Pirckheimer’s translation of the Orationes of Gregory
Nazianzus in 1531, with a preface that praised Pirckheimer’s Latin render-
ing, arguing that it was so wonderful that no one would ever have to
turn to the Greek original ever again. Strange praise from a humanist who
Early modern Catholic piety in translation 89
dedicated his life to returning ad fontes, but nonetheless very revealing, for
capturing the essence of a text and disseminating its translation could be as
important a task for a humanist as arriving at a definitive rendering of the
original text.6
Erasmus poured much of his energy into editing and publishing patristic
texts, and to translating the Greek Fathers into Latin. At bottom, what
mattered most to Erasmus and many other humanist editors and trans-
lators was the recovery of the devotional life of the early Church, not the
search for theological precision. Above all, the return to the Fathers was a
search for the best possible devotional literature.7
Chief among those who received attention were Origen, Jerome and
Augustine. Along with these came the sixth-century pseudonymous Father,
Dionysius the Areopagite. The fact that Lorenzo Valla (1406–57) had con-
vincingly cast doubt on Dionysius’s identity – turning ‘the Areopagite’ into
‘the Pseudo-Areopagite’ – did little to lessen the ancient author’s influence.
The deeply Platonic texts of Dionysius and his apophatic spirituality,
championed by Marsilio Ficino (1433–99) and the Florentine Platonic
Academy, found a great promoter in the French humanist Jacques Lefevre
´ taples (1455–1536), who in 1502 began to edit and publish Dionysius’s
texts, along with other early Christian documents. Making Dionysius avail-
able to a wider reading public was a crucial step in the forging of early
modern spirituality and imbuing it with Neoplatonic tendencies in its
metaphysics and epistemology.
Lefevre was also keenly interested in the Bible. His biblical scholarship
had as its main aim the search for ‘true’ texts and the development of
faithful translations so that the Scriptures could become more accessible to
everyone. In 1509 Lefevre published a pioneering book, the Psalterium
quintuplex, in which he laid out for comparison five different Latin versions
of the Psalms, side by side. For centuries, all that had been available was the
Vulgate Latin translation of St Jerome. In 1512 Lefevre broke new ground
once again by publishing a French translation of Paul’s Letter to the Romans
based on the Greek original, with a commentary, and also with the Latin
Vulgate text alongside for comparison. In the commentary, Lefevre ques-
tioned the Vulgate text and other venerable authorities in various ways,
arguing, among other things, that the Bible was the ultimate authority in
the Christian religion – a position he never tired of defending, and which
was further elaborated upon in 1522, when he published a commentary on
the four Gospels.
6 7
Spitz (1963). Walter (1991); Backus (1995); Peters (1967).
Though he drew fire for his opinions, and had some writings con-
demned by the theologians at the Sorbonne, Lefevre pushed ahead with
his biblical scholarship and his translating, undaunted. In part, his con-
fidence stemmed from the support that he received from King Francis I
and his sister Marguerite of Navarre, who were so pleased by his work that
they asked him to translate the entire Bible into French. Lefevre’s trans-
lation would appear in instalments: the New Testament in 1523, the Psalms
in 1525 and the entire Bible in 1530. Lefevre would earn a reputation as a
crypto-Protestant and even as a Protestant ideologue, but he also had a
deep interest in more recent authors and texts that Protestants shunned.
The very same Lefevre, the reputed godfather of French Protestantism,
lauded by Theodore Beze in his Icones (a book containing portraits and
capsule biographies of all of the men who had led the Protestant
Reformation), also took it upon himself to translate into Latin and to
publish Ruysbroeck’s Spiritual Espousals in 1512 – a text that all of the
magisterial Protestant reformers would reject or even despise.
When it came to some medieval mystics, Lefevre was no crypto-
Protestant, but rather very much in step with some of his devoutly
Catholic brethren, and especially with some monks. The dissemination
of Rhineland mystical texts throughout Europe was chiefly the work of one
German monastic community: the Carthusians of Cologne, better known
in English as the Charterhouse of Cologne.8 It was there that many of the
great texts of the Rhineland mystics were translated into Latin, the lingua
franca of the intellectual and spiritual elites. And it was not just
Ruysbroeck, Tauler and Suso who were made available to all of learned
Europe by the Cologne Carthusians. They also translated and helped
publish a wide array of devotional texts, ranging from the relatively recent
Mirror of Perfection by Harphius (1474) to the letters of Catherine of Siena
Though Carthusians shied away from revealing their identities, we know
that one of the most important translators at the Cologne community was
Laurence Surius (1522–78), who translated Tauler, Ruysbroeck and Suso
into Latin.9 One of his most important Latin translations was that of an
anonymous Dutch text, The Pearl of the Gospel (1545). The Pearl was a great
summation of Rhineland mysticism and also an anthology. Whole sections
from the works of other authors, especially from Ruysbroeck and from the
more contemporary Harphius were inserted into it. Surius himself

8 9
Chaix (1981); Marks (1974); Schafke (1991). Hebenstreit-Wilfert (1975).
Early modern Catholic piety in translation 91
acquired a reputation for spiritual wisdom and came to be revered in
learned Catholic circles throughout Europe.
The Cologne Carthusians did more than translate: some wrote their
own treatises, which were also later translated. Among them, one of the
most significant is Johannes Justus Lansperger (1489–1539), better known as
Lanspergius, whose writings were wholly conscious of the threat posed by
Protestantism. His Discourse of Jesus Christ to the Faithful and his Manual of
the Christian Army (a title that is an all too obvious allusion to Erasmus’s
most famous book), much published and translated, self-consciously
sought to defend the freedom of the will, the necessity of self-denial and
the possibility of union with God, in opposition to Protestant teachings.
Another devotional writer whose work was promoted by the Cologne
Carthusians was even more popular than Lanspergius. This was Louis
de Blois (1506–66), abbot of Lessies, better known as Blosius, a great
Renaissance synthesizer who not only assimilated the writings of the
Rhineland mystics, but also incorporated texts from great spiritual masters
such as Augustine, Gregory the Great, Mechtilde of Magdeburg, Tauler,
Suso and Ruysbroeck into his own works.10 Blosius wrote initially for the
monks at Lessies, but his texts eventually found their way outside the
cloister walls to a very wide reading public, thanks largely to translations,
and thanks largely to the Cologne Carthusians who published and pro-
moted them. His Book of Spiritual Instruction, in particular, sold for several
generations in many languages.11 His complete works, first published at
Louvain in 1568, were reprinted and translated many times, and for long he
had few rivals in popularity. His influence should not be underestimated.
In 1598, King Philip II – arguably the most powerful monarch in the world,
and the most ardently devoted to defending the Catholic faith – would ask
for Blosius to be read to him continually as he lay dying at the Escorial.
Though King Philip could have understood Blosius in Latin, it is quite
likely that he heard the Castilian translation of the Spiritual Instruction by
Juan Vazquez del Marmol.


In the sixteenth century, Spain gradually assumed an ever larger role in the
publication and dissemination of devotional literature. Much of the credit
is given to Cardinal Francisco Jimenez (Ximenes) de Cisneros (1436–1510),
who, as Archbishop of Toledo and Confessor to Queen Isabella sponsored
10 11
Blois (1875). Vos (1992), esp. 191–201.
the translation of numerous devotional texts into Castilian, especially John
Climacus (570–649), Angela of Foligno (1248–1309), Catherine of Siena,
Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98) and Ludolph the Carthusian. Jimenez also
sponsored the publication of some Latin devotional texts – most notably
from Raymond Lull (1232–1316) – and the translation of some Greek texts
into Latin, including once again John Climacus’s Scala spiritualis (Toledo,
1505) and the Erotemata (Alcala, 1514) of Emanuel Chrysoloras (1350–1415).
From these mystical ‘plantings’, some experts argue, Jimenez de Cisneros
helped to produce an abundant harvest a generation later.12
At roughly the same time, other Spanish translators and publishers
brought out texts from the Rhineland tradition, and their translations are
directly linked to the relatively sudden outpouring of mystical fervour and
mystical texts in Spain. Among the first in Spain to publish an influential
treatise was Garc´a de Cisneros (1455–1510), abbot of the Benedictine
monastery of Montserrat and a cousin of Cardinal Jimenez. Experts
agree that his Book of Exercises for the Spiritual Life, which was deeply
influenced by the Devotio moderna, marks the beginning of a century of
Spanish predominance in the field of devotional literature.
By the 1520s, a good number of devotional texts began to appear in
Spain, all of them influenced by the northern spiritual traditions: Alonso
de Madrid’s Art of Serving God (1521); Francisco de Osuna’s Third Spiritual
Alphabet (1527); Bernardino de Laredo’s Ascent of Mount Sion (1535); Lu´s ı
de Granada’s The Sinner’s Guide (1542) and Book of Prayer and Meditation
(1554); and Juan de Avila’s Audi filia (1556). These authors were followed in
turn by the two towering giants of the golden age of Spanish mysticism, the
Carmelites Teresa of Avila (1515–82) and John of the Cross (1542–91).13
Almost a century ago, scholars recognized that St Teresa and St John were
direct heirs of the northern traditions.14 Most specialists nowadays would
probably also agree with this proposition: no translations, no Teresa, no
John of the Cross – at least not the Teresa and John who scaled the mystical
heights with such grace and authority.15
But some of the harvest from this northern seed proved heterodox, or
close to it. Alongside the well-accepted spiritual masters there also sprang
up a host of men and women who ran afoul of church authorities. The
passivity or detachment that was so central to the northern mystics took on
a different meaning in Spain, giving rise to a movement that was deemed

Sainz Rodriguez (1979). 13 Groult (1927); Alventosa Sanchis (1963).
Hoornaert (1922); Etchegoyen (1923). 15 Orcibal (1966).
Early modern Catholic piety in translation 93
heretical: the Alumbrados, or ‘Illumined’, who began to be persecuted in
1525. In part, the misfortune of the so-called Alumbrados can be blamed on
the translation of a single word from the Rhineland mystics, inwerken,
which referred to the way in which the divine worked inwardly within the
human self. Latin translations awkwardly rendered inwerken into inactio,
giving the concept an even more heightened passivity. The translation of
this word also had an impact on French spirituality.16
But that was not all. This so-called Illuminism also joined hands with
another strong current flowing from the north, that of Erasmian spiritu-
ality.17 An heir himself to the Rhineland traditions and to the Devotio
moderna, Erasmus became immensely popular in some circles in Spain
before he was ever translated into Castilian. Erasmus wrote many treatises
that could be called ‘devotional’ and he gained a following throughout all
of Europe thanks to these works rather than to his biblical scholarship. By
far the most significant of these devotional texts was the Enchiridion, or
Manual of the Christian Soldier (1503), a manifesto of the inward piety
favoured by the Devotio moderna and the Neoplatonism of Ficino.
The Enchiridion was one of the most widely translated texts of the
sixteenth century, appearing in English (1518), Czech (1519), German
(1520), Spanish (1524), French (1529), Dutch (1542), Italian (1542) and
Polish (1585).18 The translation of the Enchiridion into Castilian in 1524,
1528, 1541 and 1555 enlarged his popularity further, beyond Spanish learned
circles, but ‘Erasmianism’ eventually proved as unacceptable to church
authorities as Illuminism. In the same way that the Alumbrados were
crushed, so were the Erasmians. After 1559, when Erasmus’s works began
to be listed in the Church’s Index of Forbidden Books, many of his texts
would be difficult to find in Spain, even though some had been recently
translated and published.19 Some Erasmians, such as the brothers Juan and
Alfonso de Valdes, would eventually be linked with Protestantism outside
the Iberian peninsula. Juan de Valdes’s Dialogue of Christian Doctrine
(1529), deeply influenced by Erasmian ideas and Rheno-Flemish spiritu-
ality, would wind up on the Catholic Church’s infamous Index librorum

Van Schoote (1963), esp. 334–5.
Garc´a Gutierrez (1999); Hamilton (1992); Andres Mart´n (1975).
´ ´
ı ı
Haeghen (1897–1907). Van der Haeghen does not include every edition, however. Simply by
checking the Eureka online database (eureka.rlg.org), I found twelve English editions and four
Dutch editions not listed in this bibliography.
Bataillon (1937); cf. Homza (2000). 20 Nieto (1970); Bakhuizen (1969).
This was not the sole extent of controversy engendered by the mystical
‘invasion’ from the north. Among those who remained orthodox, the
passive tendencies of the Rheno-Flemish tradition never vanished com-
pletely, and never ceased to invite criticism or charges of heresy. Even
Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross had their critics, who linked them
with the Illuminists. In the seventeenth century, within Spain itself and
also in France – where translations of the texts of the great Spanish mystics
had a profound impact – the very same passive traits would give rise to an
even more intense controversy and another heresy, Quietism.
Sixteenth-century Spain was also the birthplace of another towering
giant in the history of spirituality, Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556), founder
of the Jesuits. Loyola was himself deeply affected by translated devotional
literature, and by the publishing efforts of Cardinal Jimenez. As has already
been mentioned, he attributed his conversion to the religious life in the
early 1520s to two medieval texts, recently published in Castilian trans-
lations, Ludolph of Saxony’s Life of Christ and Jacobus de Voragine’s
Legenda aurea.21 Ignatius also learned much from the devotional manual
penned by Cardinal Jimenez’s cousin, Garc´a de Cisneros’s Exercitorio de la
´ ı
vida espiritual (1500), which greatly influenced his own immensely signifi-
cant Spiritual Exercises, the cornerstone of all Jesuit spirituality – the
devotional manual par excellence, which is not meant so much to be read
as to be experienced over a period of several weeks under the guidance of
a skilled director. Ignatius’s Exercises are still employed, re-examined and
constantly retranslated in Catholic circles.22
Within Spain’s orbit, but certainly independent of it – no matter how
much of their land was ruled de jure from Madrid – some Italian spiritual
writers also made their mark in the sixteenth century. Three Italians in
particular were enormously popular and influential. In keeping with the
Spanish predilection for recogimiento, or interior prayer, the Capuchin
father Mattia Bellintani da Salo (1535–1611) published his Practice of
Mental Prayer in 1588. Also popular and influential was the Jesuit priest
Achille Gagliardi (1537–1607), whose Brief Summary of Christian Perfection
ended up being translated into English, French, Dutch, German and Latin.
The Theatine priest Lorenzo Scupoli (1530–1610) was even more popular
and influential. His Spiritual Combat not only enjoyed numerous editions
in Italian, but also many translations, including English, Latin, French,
Castilian and German.

21 22
Dunn-Lardeau (1986); Reames (1985); Rhein (1995). Palmer (1996).
Early modern Catholic piety in translation 95


As the sixteenth century belongs largely to Spain in the history of spiritu-
ality, the seventeenth belongs to France. The genealogy of this so-called
‘mystical invasion’, painstakingly documented in three volumes by Henri
Bremond,23 takes one deeply into the history of translations. First, great
credit is given to the translations of the Cologne Carthusians, which made
their way to France, opening up the great patristic and medieval texts, as
well as those of the Rheno-Flemish tradition. In addition, other trans-
lations began to appear, even as France was wracked by the Wars of
Religion.24 In 1549, it was Harphius; and beginning in 1553, several texts
by Blosius. Then came some Spanish texts in translation: Lu´s de Granada
in 1572; Juan de Avila in 1586. Near the end of the Wars of Religion came
the Italian writers: Lorenzo Scupoli’s Spiritual Combat in 1595 and the Life
and Works of Catherine of Genoa in 1598.
After the Edict of Nantes ended the carnage in 1598, the translation of
texts from the Rheno-Flemish tradition and from the more recent Spanish
mystics and Italian devotional writers began to increase. From the north
came The Pearl of the Gospel in 1602; Ruysbroeck’s Spiritual Espousals in
1606; and all of Harphius in 1607. From the south came Matthias
Bellintani da Salo’s Practice of Mental Prayer in 1600; Teresa of Avila in
1601; and John of the Cross in 1621.25 In addition, translations of patristic
and medieval authors also began to increase: Gregory the Thaumaturge,
Ambrose of Milan, Bonaventure, Catherine of Siena, Thomas Aquinas and
Dionysius the Areopagite, to name but a few. This flood of translations has
led one expert to conclude that ‘between 1550 and 1610 spiritual literature in
France lived on borrowings’.26
At the turn of the century, as the fratricide subsided, French spiritual
experts began to make their own substantial contributions to devotional
literature. First came the English exile, the Capuchin Benedictus or Benoˆt ı
de Canfield (originally William Fitch), whose Rule of Perfection was trans-
lated into French in 1609. Despite infelicities in style, this text soon became
immensely popular and influential. According to Louis Cognet, ‘all the
mysticism of the age was nurtured on it’. He adds: ‘Canfield, although he
was an Englishman, remains one of the great names of French spiritual
history, and it is a thousand pities that he could not write.’27 Then came the
formidable Francis de Sales (1567–1622), with his juggernaut of a book,

Bremond (1916–33); Cognet (1949). 24 Van Schoote (1963). 25
Dagens (1952b).
Marocchi (1988). 27 Cognet (1958), 60.
Introduction to the Devout Life (1608), a text that sought to distil the
wisdom of the great spiritual experts for the Catholic laity and to set
them on to their own pursuit of holiness. The publication history of this
treatise is remarkable: by 1620, over forty editions of the French text had
been published; by 1656, it was available in seventeen translations. This was
followed in 1616 by his immensely popular Treatise on the Love of God.
Next in line came Cardinal Pierre de Berulle (1575–1629), founder of the
Oratory, who not only brought the Discalced Carmelite reform to France,
but also spearheaded a renewal of the French clergy and a style of devotion
that centred on the humanity of Christ, best summarized in his very
popular Glories of Jesus (1626). It is not at all insignificant that those who
write on Berulle often try to trace his spirituality to the various translated
texts. One Italian treatise in particular stands out in all efforts to discern
the sources of Berulle’s spirituality: Achille Gagliardi’s Brief Summary of
Christian Perfection. Berulle acquired a large following, and was so popular
that by 1644, a mere fifteen years after his death, most of his works had been
gathered together in a single edition. His disciples produced many devo-
tional texts of their own. One of the most influential of these was Jean
Duvergier de Hauranne, abbot of Saint-Cyran, who would figure prom-
inently in the development of Jansenism.29
An abundance of devotional texts, however, does not necessarily indicate
an upsurge in piety. It can also be a symptom of tensions, or perhaps even
their cause. Consequently, the flood of devotional texts published in
seventeenth-century France must always be placed in the context of the
great religious controversies of the period, especially that between the
Jansenists and their mostly Jesuit opponents, and that between the school
of Berulle, with its focus on the incarnate Christ, and the so-called Abstract
school, with its focus on the divine nature of Christ, which eventually
erupted into the Quietist crisis of the late seventeenth century and its
subsequent condemnations.30 Neither can one overlook the conflict
between Catholic and Protestant, which continued to be carried out in
print throughout the seventeenth century. Even polemical treatises can
sometimes count as devotional literature, and the number of such tracts
published in France was tremendous.31 Finally, one must also remember
that by the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, other strong currents
were sweeping through the spiritual landscape of Europe, and that some
of the strongest were those of scepticism and doubt, leading up to the

Dagens (1952a). 29 Orcibal (1961, 1962). 30 Orcibal (1959).
Desgraves (1984). Vol. 1 alone has 3,595 entries.
Early modern Catholic piety in translation 97
Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and the ultimate demise of
Christian hegemony in Europe. Much of the heat generated by these
controversies was felt outside France, thanks largely to translations.
So much for the sweeping narrative. Let us now turn to its shortcomings.


Reduced to its barest elements, almost to the point of caricature, twentieth-
century surveys of early modern spirituality assume similar features, and
the most common and prominent of these features is their genealogical
obsession with the tracing of lineages through texts and translations. The
basic narrative reads something like this: in the sixteenth century, medieval
devotional literature from the Rheno-Flemish tradition caused a flowering
of mysticism and devotional fervour in Spain, and the Spanish-Rheno-
Flemish literature, in turn, gave rise to an even more dramatic outpouring
of mystical fervour in seventeenth-century France. Then this French phe-
nomenon gave shape to modern Catholic piety. Three assertions are thus
taken for granted by most of these surveys – assertions engendered by an
idealist kind of intellectual history.
First, it is assumed that the texts themselves and the themes found in
them are transmitted from one culture to another and one generation to
another, very much like chromosomes in living organisms, with distinct,
readily identifiable characteristics that can be precisely traced as they make
their way across national boundaries and over decades or centuries.
Moreover, it is also assumed that these texts find their way to specific
human beings who then interpret and recombine the basic elements and
pass on the ‘chromosomes’ in new arrangements, as it were, by means of
new texts. So, for instance, it becomes possible in this scheme of things to
say that John of the Cross picked up one trait from Ruysbroeck, another
from Tauler and yet another from Blosius, and that Berulle, in turn, picked
up this or that trait from John of the Cross, and another directly from
Tauler. This entire process, naturally, depends on the translation of texts.
And very seldom is the process of translation and all of its complexities
analysed. It is always a given, as invisible and as unproblematic as the
disembodied ideas that these surveys attempt to trace.
Second, it is also assumed that devotional literature is primarily mystical
literature, that is, a collection of texts written by monastics for other
monastics who seek undisturbed contemplation of God. Quite often,
then, surveys of devotional literature limit themselves to a relatively narrow
range of texts. Quite often, too, it is hard or impossible to find much of a
relation between the devotional life of the cloistered and that of the laity.
Innumerable questions immediately come to mind, such as the following:
What about hagiographies? At what cost does one ignore the fact that
hagiographies became ever more popular after the Council of Trent? For
instance, in Spain one finds only 23 hagiographies published between
1500–59, but between 1600–30 the number climbs to 350, with 124 in the
decade 1620–9 alone.32 Many of these texts were translations.
And what about other sorts of devotional texts? What about translations
of polemical texts for persecuted minorities, such as the English recu-
sants?33 What about Bibles, such as the English Douai translation? What
about practical how-to manuals that dealt with ethical questions and
everyday matters, such as Luis de Leon’s La perfecta casada (The Perfect
Wife, 1583)? These are just a few examples; the list of titles heretofore
ignored by surveys of spirituality and devotional literature is so long that it
has yet to be compiled.
Third, it is also assumed that Spain and France deserve the most
attention in the early modern period because these two nations produced
the greatest number of mystics and devotional texts – narrowly defined – in
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This assumption, while not wholly
indefensible, has a doubly skewed perspective: it not only gives short shrift
to texts published elsewhere in Europe, but also ignores the most pro-
minent feature of the early modern world, the rise of Protestant cultures.
Much more work remains to be done in this area. Translation is the
transmission of culture, the penetration of boundaries, the erosion of
complacency, the explosion of localism. It involves translators, publishers,
printers, distributors, travellers. It involves, above all, communication.
And in the early modern period it involves technology and art. It is so
much more than genealogy, mere texts and disembodied ideas.
In closing, as a means of summarizing and critiquing the subject at the
same time, I would like to point out six rather large holes in the historio-
graphy of devotional texts, their translation and distribution – gaps in our
knowledge that cry out for attention and will undoubtedly take some time
to be filled, if anyone decides to take on the task.
1. We need a clearer definition of devotional literature and a systematic classi-
fication of texts. Up to now most of the focus has been placed on the ‘classics’ of
the contemplative monastic tradition, those texts that give voice to the ascetic
mystical quest. More attention needs to be paid to hagiographies, prayer books,

32 33
Sanchez Lora (1988), 374, 448–50. Allison and Rogers (1989–94).
Early modern Catholic piety in translation 99
catechisms, practical manuals, apologetics and, in general, to texts that are
directly aimed at the laity.
The impact of religious discord needs to be taken more into consideration, both
in terms of internal and external controversies between competing factions
within each denomination, and between competing churches. This essay has
dealt with only Catholic devotional texts. Much more comparative work needs
to be done for the early modern period as Catholics and Protestants develop
their competing Reformations. Devotional life develops as much from discon-
tinuities as from continuities, and identities are forged as much by antagonism
and conflict as by axiomatic instruction. More needs to be done to sort out the
similarities and differences among the religious traditions that emerged in the
early modern period, especially in light of the fact that by the eighteenth
century, all traditional religious belief came to be challenged ever more intensely
by scepticism and the rise of the natural sciences.
The infrastructure and the personnel responsible for the actual work of trans-
lation itself need more attention, especially from the vantage point of social
history. More research could be done on the identity of the translators and their
place in the larger scheme of religious life. Centres such as the Charterhouse of
Cologne, corporations such as the Society of Jesus, or individuals such as Juan
Eusebio Nieremberg need to be approached as parts of a greater whole, in their
social, political and economic context. Questions of sex and gender also need to
be taken up, especially because devotional life is one of the very few areas in
which women play a prominent and highly visible role in the early modern
period, especially as authors and as paradigms of holiness.
The proselytizing spirit of the age should enter into the larger picture too, for this
is a peak period in the Christianization of Europeans and non-Europeans alike.
Within Europe itself, devotional literature has to be approached as part of the
process of confessionalization, not just as one link in the chain of social
disciplining and state formation, but also as an integral part of the forging of
cultural and religious identities. Outside Europe, but also inseparably bound to
it, devotional literature becomes part of the mission work in the Americas, Asia
and Africa. Missions are not a one-way street: the encounter with non-Christian
others produces perhaps as many changes within Europe itself as among the
‘others’ who are exposed to Christianization, whether by force or mere persua-
sion. All of the literature connected with mission activity, within and outside
Europe, has a devotional dimension and an intimate connection to translation.
It, too, awaits more research from various perspectives.
Translations in and of themselves also await further analysis from multiple
perspectives: linguistic, epistemological, theological and social. The life of the
texts themselves as they undergo translation is an area of research that needs
further work by scholars of literature and social historians alike, not just as part
of the history of ideas, but also as part of the history of the interaction and
transmission of cultures. Texts that undergo multiple translations within one
language or into several languages can shed all sorts of light on various ques-
tions. For example, what is one to make of the rendering of the Germanic
inwerken into the Latin inactio and of the consequences of this translation for
the history of Spanish society and culture in the sixteenth century? Devotional
texts can be volatile at times, and highly charged with the potential for
controversy. At times the choices made by translators make a world of differ-
ence, literally as well as figuratively. At times, even the very fact that a text was
chosen for translation into a particular language, either for the first or the fifth
or sixth time, raises all sorts of questions about the history of a specific set of
circumstances. Bible translations, in particular, open up nearly inexhaustible
avenues of research for many different types of scholars.
6. Last, but certainly not least, we still need more bibliographical research.
Arriving at a definitive and exhaustive bibliography of translations in this
subject is probably impossible, due to the fluidity of the term ‘devotional
literature’. Nonetheless, we still need a more thorough bibliographical scrutiny
of translated texts – one that aims for a more global inclusion of titles and a


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