Monday, December 18, 2006

Penalty for Not Translating Into One's Native Language, ca. 1744

In an episode of In Our Time dealing with the French Encyclopédie, Judith Hawley tells that the origins of the Encylopédie lay in a translation of Chambers' Cyclopaedia by John Mills. The translation, however, was so incompetent, due to Mills' deficient knowledge of French, that publisher André le Breton had Mills beat up. As Dr. Hawley recounts it, "they punched him in the stomach and hit him over the head with a cane." Mills took le Breton to court, but lost because the translation was truly bad; according to the Wiki Encyclopédie article, he could barely read or write French.

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