One can say that some famous translators are the alter egos of the original authors and writers. Translation involves meticulous work and knowledge of many things, aside from the fluency in the language pair and high level of creative writing skills. While the translator is not an author (as a profession), the work of the translator in turning a document, a book, a manuscript or any written content into another language is almost at par with the writer of the original work.
Translation has been around since ancient times, with the more famous translators known for translating religious content, such as the Bible. One of the earliest known translators on record was St. Jerome, a Christian scholar credited with translating the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. His translation was used by the Catholic Church as the officially recognized translation. It was used for thousands of years. St. Jerome’s translation had errors as well. He mistranslated the term keren, a Hebrew word. The actual translation should have been “radiated light” instead of “grew horns.” So do not be alarmed when you see images of Moses with horns.
Because of his work, St. Jerome is hailed as the patron saint of translators. He is honored annually on September 30, the International Translation Day.
Around the world are many translators who became famous for their work. In the past, many of them remained unrecognized because they often silently worked in the background. However, there was a time in the history of translation when they were considered celebrities and demanded respect, recognition and plenty of gratuities. During the Victorian Era, translators were in great demand because the rising middle class demanded new materials. Translators did not even care for accuracy at that time and delivered translated work according to the whims of the clients.
But several translators contributed to different aspects of society at different levels. These famous translators made significant work, some of which benefited the entire world.
In the past…
1. Wilhelm von Humboldt
Humboldt was a very talented person. He was a linguist but did not have many contributions to the study of translation. However, he was one of the pioneers in the field of comparative linguistics. He gave the function of language another definition, that of being a formative unit of thought. He did have some recognized translation works, such as his German translations of the Greek poems of Aeschylus and Pindar.
2. Jorge Luis Borges
It is interesting to know that Jorge Luis Borges, who was born in 1899, became a translator at the age of nine. His major success at that age was his English-Spanish translation of The Happy Prince, a book by Oscar Wilde. The Argentine was also an author and wrote several books in Spanish, although he spoke English and Spanish. He grew up surrounded by books, as his house had an English library that contained over a thousand books. He was taught at home starting at age 11 and was already reading Shakespeare when he turned 12. Borges was a key figure in Spanish literature. As a translator, some of the known works of Borges were his Spanish translations of the works of Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe.
3. Constance Garnett
Constance Garnett, who was born in 1891, was a 19th century translator. Garnett was born in England. She’s distinguished for being one of the first translators to translate the works of celebrated Russian authors into English. Her works included the English translations of the books of Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy, which allow English speakers to enjoy the Russian classics. Her other translation works include the important books of Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen, Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky, Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov and Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol.
4. Claudine Picardet
Claudine Picardet was a late 18th century translator who was a subject matter expert. She was a meteorologist, mineralogist and chemist. Later she became a scientific translator and among the chemists from France, she stood out for her wide range of translations of scientific publications from Italian, German, English and Swedish into French. Some of her translation projects included the scientific papers written by Jean-André Mongez, Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Abraham Gottlob Werner, Torbern Olof Bergman, Johann Carl Friedrich Meyer, Johann Friedrich Westrumb, Johann Christian Wiegleb, Martin Heinrich Klaproth, Marsilio Landriani, William Fordyce and Richard Kirwan.
Aside from Constance Garnett and Claudine Picardet, several women made a name for themselves as translators of note. Here are some of them.
5. Anne Bacon
Anne Bacon was born in the mid-16th century. The English scholar’s first work was the English translation of the Ochines Sermons, which was written in Italian by Bernardino Ochino. She later translated the Apologie of the Anglican Church from Latin into English.
6. Margaret Tyler
Margaret Tyler, also born in the mid-16th century, translated works from Spanish into English, such as Espejo de principes y cavalleros by Diego Ortúñez de Calahorra.
7. Anna Hume
This 17th century Scottish translator worked in the Latin-English language pair. She translated the poems written by her father, David Hume. She also translated Trionfi of Petrarch.
8. Lucy Hutchinson
Lucy Hutchinson was the first translator to do an English translation of De rerum natura, which was written in Latin by Lucretius.
9. Aphra Behn
English woman Aphra Behn translated works from French into English. She was also a novelist, poet and playwright and wrote 19 plays. One of her last memorable translations, that was published in 1688, was her French to English translation of Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes, or A Discovery of New Worlds. It was written by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle.
10. Anne Dacier
French scholar Anne Dacier specialized in translating the classics from Greek into French, such as the Odyssey and Iliad by Homer. Her prose translation of the Iliad was published in 1699, which introduced the Greek classic to French readers. The prose translation of the Odyssey was published in 1708.
11. Giuseppa Barbapiccola
Her most widely known work was her translation of Principles of Philosophy by René Descartes, from French into Italian. It was published in 1722. She also translated works from Latin into French. She was a champion of women’s education and said that her motivation for translating the work of Descartes was to make it known that women should not be prevented from studying the sciences.
12. Catharina Ahlgren
Catharina Ahlgren, an 18th century poet and writer, was multilingual and translated German, French and English languages into Swedish. Some of her works included the poem Die Prüfung Abrahams of Christoph Martin Wieland and The Distressed Wife, or the History of Eliza Wyndham that was penned by Dumanoir.
13. Julia Evelina Smith
Julia Evelina Smith was distinguished for being the first woman to do an English translation of the Bible for its original texts that were written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. She worked for eight years on the translation and completed it in 1855. But it wasn’t printed until 1876. Her translation was used until the King James revised version of the Bible was published in 1881.
In the present…
Today, more translators are becoming famous, as there are more current literary works that audiences want to be available in their language. Many of the works being translated today are often from best-selling authors, although there are still translators that work in other sectors, to bring forth a better understanding of other cultures.
1. Edward George Seidensticker
Readers who speak English are now able to enjoy the words of several Japanese authors, such as Yukio Mishima, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki and Yasunari Kawabata thanks to the work of English-Japanese translator Edward Seidensticker. His translation works are very important. He was cited by The New York Times, which said that his translation of the work of Kabawata helped the author get the 1968 Nobel Prize in Literature, which was the first time a Japanese writer received the prestigious award.
2. Stephen Mitchell
Stephen Mitchell was born in 1943, but his specialty is doing modern translations of literature from the past. Some of his famous translation works include The Odyssey, The Iliad, Gilgamesh and Tao Te Ching. Known for his accessible, earnest and vibrant translations, he was called the rock star of translators by The New York Times.
3. Gregory Rabassa
Gregory Rabassa, who was born in 1922, was known for translating Spanish and Portuguese literature into English. He has translated some of the works of Julio Cortazar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Amado. He was a favorite of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The author waited three years so that Rabassa could translate one of his works, One Hundred Years of Solitude, which the Colombian author wrote in 1967. Marquez even considered the translation of Rabassa better than his original writing.
4. Lia Wyler
The Harry Potter books are available in more than 68 languages. One of the contributors to the great success of the books is Brazilian Lia Wyler. She translated the English books into European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, even giving local flavors to some of the characters’ names, whenever possible.
Aside from the Harry Potter series, she also translated works by Sylvia Plath, Stephen King, Henry Miller and Margaret Atwood.
Never miss out on understanding important documents
Many literary works past and present are still waiting to be translated. Translations contribute to the wider appreciation of the works of many authors from different cultures. Let the world know and understand the literature of your country. We are here to help you bring them out to the world, to be read by a wider audience. The human translators of Day Translations, Inc. are all native speakers and live in-country. They understand local culture and the nuances of the language, and are knowledgeable about the literary masterpieces in their country. Allow us to help. Give Day Translations a call. We work with over 100 languages, so we can deliver an accurate translation of your literary manuscript in the language you choose. We are open 24/7, 365 days of the year, so you can call us at your convenience at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email here: Contact us.
National Archives and Records Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons