Faithful Interpreters?

Henderson, F.
Notes and Records
Royal Society

Full title

Faithful Interpreters? Translation Theory and Practice at the Early Royal Society


The early Fellows of the Royal Society received letters, papers and printed books written in several European vernaculars. In many cases a translation was needed to make these texts accessible. Translators, though, had to negotiate the Society's corporate views on language and prose style, and also prevailing contemporary theories of literary translation set out by popular poets such as John Dryden and Abraham Cowley. This article examines the translation practices of early Fellows of the Royal Society, showing that translations formed part of a set of knowledge-making processes at meetings. It also discusses the statements about translation theory found in the prefaces to printed volumes produced by or for Royal Society Fellows, arguing that although translators were aware of the requirement for a faithful translation, in fact they often modified their source texts to make them more useful for an English audience.

full text available online at Royal Society Publishing.