Translation and Language Learning

A Luz Fantastica
Portuguese translation of Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic (1986)

Senate House Library’s printed special collections contain a broad spectrum of translated texts, ranging from 16th-century vernacular renderings of classical and scriptural works to 20th-century poetry and novels. Material can be found across the collections, with unique thematic concentrations in the Colin Smythe Terry Pratchett Archive (all available translations of the novelist’s work) and the Durning-Lawrence Library (around forty Italian and French translations of the works of Francis Bacon).

The collections also include many individual items of specific value and interest. These include the only UK-held copy of a parallel French/Spanish edition of Lazarillo de Tormes (1609) and one of two surviving copies of the Portuguese translation of the English abolitionist Thomas Clarkson’s The Cries of Africa to the Inhabitants of Europe. There are strong holdings of dictionaries and grammars in the special and research collections, among them Cotgrave’s Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611) and the only UK copy of Josep Pau Ballot i Torres’ Gramática de la llengua cathalana (1813), the earliest printed Catalan grammar. There is also a range of material aimed at language learners, including Philippe Garnier’s Dialogues en quatre langues, françoise, espagnole, italienne, & allemande (1656) and an 18th-century Italian translation of Lettres d’une péruvienne printed for French learners of that language.

Translation is a key aspect of the Warburg Institute Library’s focus on cultural exchange and the transmission of classical texts. There are especially strong holdings for the circulation of literature across borders in Renaissance and early modern Europe (classmark NI). The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies has extensive holdings on legal translation (shelved at SB20).