Book Series Contact and Transmission, vol. 3

Narratives on Translation across Eurasia and Africa

From Babylonia to Colonial India

Sonja Brentjes, Jens Hoyrup, Bruce R. O'Brien (eds)

  • Pages: 406 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:2 b/w, 5 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2022

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59489-7
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59490-3
  • E-book
  • Available

The book disentangles histories of translations from their treatment in specialized intellectual fields, making the point that histories of translations are not merely sub-categories of the histories of pre-modern sciences, religion, law, or literature but are in fact histories of cultural practices that cut synchronically and diachronically through the entire textual fabric of the investigated societies.


Sonja Brentjes is a retired historian of science in Islamicate societies and Christian Europe.

Jens Høyrup is a professor emeritus; history of Mesopotamian and European medieval mathematics and pre-Modern practitioners’ mathematics.

Bruce O’Brien is a historian of England from the tenth to the twelfth centuries, researching principally medieval translation practices and law.


What has driven acts of translation in the past, and what were the conditions that shaped the results? In this volume, scholars from across the humanities interrogate narratives on the process of translation: by historical translators ranging from ancient Babylonia to early modern Japan and the British Empire, and by academics from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries who interpreted these translators’ practices.

In Part 1 the volume authors reflect on the history of the approaches to the phenomenon of translation in their specific fields of competence in order to learn what shaped the academic questions asked, what theoretical and practical tools were deployed, which arguments were privileged, and why certain kinds of evidence (but not others) were thought to be the basis for understanding the function and purpose of all translation performed in a given culture. Part II explores how translators and authors from antiquity to modern times described their own motivations and the circumstances in which they chose to translate. In both parts, the contributors disentangle histories of translation from the specialized intellectual fields (such as science, religion, law, or literature) with which they have been bound in order to make the case that we understand translation best when we take into account all cultural practices and translation activities cutting synchronically and diachronically through the entire societal fabric.


Introduction — Sonja Brentjes, in cooperation with Jens Høyrup and Bruce O’Brien

Part 1: Observer Narratives

Scholarly Translation in the Ancient Middle East: Ancient and Modern Perspectives — C. Jay Crisostomo

Interdisciplinary Interactions: Septuagint Studies, Classics, and Translation Studies — Benjamin G. Wright III

A Plurality of Voices: Fragmented Narratives on Syriac Translations — Matteo Martelli

Re-visiting the Translation Narratives: The Multiple Contexts of the Arabic Translation Projects — Miriam Shefer-Mossensohn

Philosophical Pahlavi Literature of the Ninth Century — Götz König

Changing Perceptions in Modern Scholarship on Tangut Translations of Chinese Texts — Imre Galambos

Biblical Theology, Scholarly Approaches, and the Bible in Arabic — Miriam Lindgren Hjälm

Translating inside al-Andalus: From Ibn Rushd to Ibn Juljul — Maribel Fierro

Part 2: Participant Narratives

From Opheleia to Precision: Dionysius the Areopagite and the Evolution of Syriac Translation Techniques — Emiliano Fiori

Wisdom in Disguise: Translation Narratives and Pseudotranslations in Arabic Alchemy — Christopher Braun

Philology and Polemics in the Prologues to the Latin Talmud Dossier — Alexander Fidora

Faraj ben Salīm of Agrigento: Translation, Politics and Jewish Identity in Medieval Sicily — Lucia Finotto

Practices of Translation in Medieval Kannada Sciences: ‘Removing the Conflict between Textual Authority and the Worldly’ — Eric Gurevitch

The Trope of Sanskrit Origin in Pre-Modern Tamil Literature — Eva Wilden

Ibn al Quff the Translator, Ibn al-Quff the Physician: Translation and Authority in a Medieval Commentary on the Hippocratic Aphorisms — Nicolas Carpentieri

Isaac Aboab da Fonseca’s Preface to his Hebrew Translation of Abraham Cohen De Herrera’s Puerta del Cielo — Federico Dal Bo

Mahometism in Translation: Joseph Morgan’s Version of Mohamad Rabadán’s Discurso de la Luz (1723–1725) — Teresa de Soto

The Possibility of Translation: A Comparison of the Translation Theories of Ogyū Sorai and Ōtsuki Gentaku — Rebekah Clements

The Hermeneutics of Mathematical Reconciliation: Two Pandits and the Benares Sanskrit College — Dhruv Raina