Merry Christmas to Me

First, thank you to all my readers. Sometime Sunday morning I reached 5000 hits on the wordpress counter. I know that others read Heavenfield by google reader or wordpress’s blog surfer, so I know there have been more than 5000 views and I feel like Heavenfield is off to a good start.

In the way of a mini- preview for 2008, I also treated myself to a new book for Christmas… the newish paperback version of Barron and Burgess’s The Voyage of St Brendan: Representative Versions of the Legend in English Translation. This book contains medieval ‘translations’ of the voyage from Latin to Anglo-Norman, Dutch, German, Venetian, Occitan, Catalan, Norse and two English versions (South English Legendary and Caxton’s Golden Legend). These have all been translated into modern English. So lots of material for future posts.

Now medieval translations are not quite what we think of as translations today. A faithful medieval translation tells the same story as the original without adding or subtracting much, but still changes the language considerably. In other words, its never a word-for-word translation. Most medieval translations retell the story in their own way and freely add and subtract material. Sometimes their changes totally redirect story in a new direction or cut out an entire theme. It will be interesting to see what these ‘translations’ do with the spiritual/theological themes found in the Voyage, and if removal or alteration of this material explains why people link Brendan with the discovery of North America.


4 thoughts on “Merry Christmas to Me

  1. Alfred said his translations were “sense for sense.” This, as you point out, is the tradition of translation in the middle ages. Talking about today’s translations though, sometimes I am troubled by my graduate colleagues blind acceptance of sources in translation. I am speaking particularly here of the OMT series. These are great sources, but, they are conflations of what the translators feel are the best, or most faithful manuscripts. Bede is a good example, with many texts to choose from. I know they depended heavily on the Leningrad manuscript, but ther are still departures between the Colgrave and the Penguin Shirley trans. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying at all that the trans. are useless, Colgrave has saved my worthless behind more than once, I am saying though, if you truly want to know a source, learn to read it in the vernacular. Too many people depend on these translations, it almost seems like academic laziness. btw, I do hope you had a spectacular Xmas, and remember, next semester is fast approaching.

  2. As a non-professional medievalist, I’m afraid I’m dependent upon translations, but I do try to find the best translations. There is just no comparison between the Penguin (Shirley-Price trans) and the Oxford (Colgrave) translation. Compare the hymn to Æthelthryth between Cograve, Shirley-Price and the new translation of the Liber Eliensis!

    I don’t get why classes apparently use the Penguin edition. It isn’t that much cheaper, both are reasonable prices, especially when there is apparent widespread agreement that the Colgrave translation is the best.

  3. I know what you mean about the price. If you can get the oxford classics colgrave, that is what you should use. I actually have both volumes in the OMT series (figured since I was taking out a ton in student loans, I might as well begin to build a private research library) I would absolutely suggest getting the Wallace_Hadrill commentary to go with the Colgrave. I have the new LE translation, and I really like it, even though the paper Boydell and Brewer uses tends to smell of strong chemicals. I also have a copy, xeroxxed, of the latin edition edited by E.O. Blake. I had to use that for the St. Audree translation project. I am not a professional medievalist either, just a grad student, but I have already found an ambiguous translation in Colgrave, after checking with several of my profs. to make sure I had my Latin right, I was able to use the new, and better translation in a paper I presented at the ‘zoo last May. Whether one is a pro or not, Latin is indispensible in research. Still, I must say, your breadth of knowledge is both astounding and very impressive. I really look forward to reading your new posts. Here’s hoping 08 will be a banner year!

Comments are closed.

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑