‘A true and faithfull relation […] translated out of Dutch’:

the role and translation of Dutch news in early seventeenth-century England

By Nicholas Brownlees (University of Florence, Italy)

Abstract & Keywords

Translation played a fundamental role in the dissemination of foreign news in England in the Early Modern period. The foreign news was principally European in content with news from the Dutch Republic in high demand. In my article I examine both the relevance of Dutch news and how the news was translated in the English press between 1600-30. Regarding the latter aspect, the methodological framework includes, first, an analysis of metatextual references in the English corantos and pamphlets to translations strategies in the publications and, secondly, an examination of English translations of Dutch print news where the Dutch source text can be identified. From this analysis we see that in the main there was a close correspondence between the source and target texts.

Keywords: English news, seventeenth century, Dutch Republic, English corantos, pamphlets, domestication

©inTRAlinea & Nicholas Brownlees (2019).
"‘A true and faithfull relation […] translated out of Dutch’: the role and translation of Dutch news in early seventeenth-century England"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Transit and Translation in Early Modern Europe
Edited by: Donatella Montini, Iolanda Plescia, Anna Maria Segala and Francesca Terrenato
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2356


In this paper I shall examine the significance and modes of translation of Dutch news in English news publications in the first three decades of the seventeenth century.[1] These formative years in the English press saw news publishing become more frequent, professional and relevant to English society.[2] Whereas up until the sixteenth century news had been mostly communicated by word of mouth and through private letters, from the second half of the sixteenth century onwards news was more frequently communicated in print. Occasional news publications appeared ever more often and then in October 1622 a group of London publishers brought out the first numbers of more or less weekly, serialised news. As a result, English print news began to play an increasingly important role in forming the English reader’s knowledge of the world in which they lived. While domestic news sources were multiple much foreign news was based on the translation of print or manuscript news that had originally been written in Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Italian or Latin. It was through translation that much of what was happening abroad was brought to the English reader’s attention.

However, although the role of translation in the dissemination of religion, literature, history and the arts generally in Early Modern British society has been the object of considerable attention, up until recently very little research has been carried out into translation’s part in the dissemination of foreign news.[3]  The few studies that have been published regarding translation and Early Modern English news include Valdeón (2012), Barker (2013; 2016), Raymond (2013: 406-412) and Brownlees (2014: 36-42; 2018). Valdeón (2012) situates Early Modern news translation within a wider diachronic analysis of translation in news production, Raymond (2013: 406-412) examines general contextual features of translation in Early Modern news, Brownlees (2014: 36-42) outlines broad translation strategies of foreign news, while Barker examines, first, the the public’s interest in news pamphlets (2013), and then more specifically the conceptualization and lexicalization of time in the translation of foreign news from the mid sixteenth century to the 1620s (2016).

In my article I aim to contribute to the above discussion on the role of translation in Early Modern English news by examining both the relevance of Dutch news and how the news was translated in the English press. As regards relevance, I will not only consider how Dutch news satisfied the news values that Galtung and Ruge (1973) refer to as a) ‘meaningfulness’, which incorporates the concepts of geographical and cultural proximity, and b) ‘reference to elite nations’, but more generally why Dutch publications, containing news from the rest of Europe and beyond, had authority and credibility. In the second part of my paper I shall consider the global translation strategies in the translation of Dutch news. In using the term ‘global strategy’ I follow Gambier (2010) who defines the term as the translator’s “planned, explicit, goal-oriented procedure or programme, adopted to achieve a certain objective” (2010: 412).[4] To understand the global strategies I shall analyse, first, the metatextual comment regarding the translation of Dutch publications, secondly, how the Dutch texts are translated in practice. In assessing the quality of the translation, particular attention will be given to the communicative functions of the source and target texts and how these impacted on what the translator was attempting to achieve through the translation. The communication functions, and the socio-historical context framing them, allow us to determine the extent to which in our assessment of the quality of the translation we should base our understanding on questions relating to stylistic felicity, internal coherence, cultural requirements of the target readership, or more simply the direct transfer of news content. In the light of these considerations, it will also be useful to bear in mind translation practises in modern-day newspapers and the extent to which they replicate or contrast with what occurred in the translation of early seventeenth-century news. I have chosen the period 1600-30 because these first decades of the seventeenth century not only feature an increase in translation from Dutch into English of occasional news pamphlets, but also include the first years of the periodical press which relied extensively on Dutch news too.[5]

Relevance of Dutch news

The Dutch news I refer to primarily regards news emanating from the Dutch Republic which consisted of northern provinces of the upper part of the area known as the Low Countries.[6] In 1581 the Low Countries, which had become part of the Kingdom of Spain under Philip II following the abdication of Charles V,  had refused to accept Philip II and Spain as their king and realm.[7] Seven years later, in 1588, after trying in vain to find a suitable monarch at the courts of France and England, the Dutch ‘States General’ (Parliament) declared the Republic of the Seven United Provinces.[8] The Dutch Republic, or the Republic of the United Provinces as it was also known, can be distinguished from its southern neighbour, the Spanish Netherlands, which remained under the authority of the Habsburgs. The principal cities in the Dutch Republic were Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague and Breda whereas in the Spanish Netherlands the important commercial centres were Antwerp and Brussels.

For English readers the news regarding the Dutch Republic was relevant and newsworthy on two counts. First, in Galtung and Ruge’s understanding of news values (1973) it satisfied the concept of ‘meaningfulness’ since not only was England very close to the recently formed republic geographically but also culturally. Both were Protestant countries, both as a result regarded Spain as their enemy. This affinity of viewpoint and understanding was an underlying factor in Cromwell’s proposal to the Dutch Republic in 1651 to combine with Britain into a single diplomatic and commercial Protestant federation. The Anglo-Dutch federation did not go ahead but the mere fact that it was proposed testifies to the cultural affinity that appeared to underly English and Dutch society.[9]

However, apart from geographical and cultural proximity, the Dutch Republic’s newsworthiness also lay in its general economic and political importance, factors that led to it satisfying ‘elite nation’ status in Galtung and Ruge’s model of news values.  The 1590s represented an economic miracle for the Dutch Republic and the seventeenth-century is seen as the Republic’s golden age (Israel 1995: 306). Pettegree writes that the Dutch Republic was ‘the phenomenon of the seventeenth century […] the Continent’s leading centre of international trade, home to the most sophisticated market in stocks, banking and insurance’ (Pettegree 2014: 226).

English news readers wanted to find out about the Dutch Republic because it was newsworthy. The Dutch Republic was a power player and England’s destiny was for better or worse closely bound to it. As regards religion, the two countries frequently collaborated in their struggle against Catholic (in particular Habsburg) hegemony whereas in trade the underlying commerical rivalry between the two Protestant states occasionally spilled over into war.[10] There was therefore an appetite for news about the Dutch Republic and much of the news the English read about it was in the form of translation ─ translations of Dutch news publications.

However, there was also another reason why Dutch news was important. This was because Dutch news publications not only included newsworthy information about the Dutch Republic but also good quality news from the rest of Europe and beyond. Amsterdam was a news hub, or to use Dahl’s term, it was ‘the earliest newspaper centre of western Europe’ (1939).[11] Making use of the easy access Dutch publishers had to international networks and markets, which had led to a boom in publishing and bookselling during the first half of the seventeenth century, Amsterdam also developed a flourishing press.[12] The Dutch Republic’s most important commercial centre was akin to a giant news agency.  For the English it was like having Reuters just around the corner. To find out what was happening in the rest of Europe, English news publishers regarded Dutch news publications as a primary source of information. Subscribing to Dutch newspapers and translating them for their own English publications made good sense.[13] This reliance on Dutch news became particularly evident from 1622 onwards when serialised news pamphlets started being published. Unlike occasional news pamphlets, which focused on a single story, serialised news publications, that generically went under the name of ‘corantos’, provided a more or less weekly update on current affairs. For reasons of censorship, serialised news up until 1641 was limited to foreign news, and according to Dahl (1949/1950: 173) ‘during the period 1622 to 17 October 1632 between 60 and 70 per cent of the news material in the English periodical press originated from the Netherlands and particularly from Amsterdam.’[14]

Metatextual reference to translation from Dutch

In the following analysis I refer to explicit references to translation from Dutch into English in occasional news publications and serialised news between 1600-1630. The occasional news pamphlets that were examined contained the word ‘News’, ‘Relation’, ‘Report’ or ‘Discourse’ in their title. The serialised news initiates with the first number of 15 October 1622. All the issues were consulted on Early English Books Online (EEBO).[15]

In Table 1 we see the number of references to the translation into English from Dutch in comparison with translations from other languages. The figure on the left of the slash represents the occurrences of the metatextual reference while the figure after the slash indicates the total number of publications for that decade where metatextual reference to translation is found.

Source Language (SL)









21/62  (34%)***





11/62  (18%)





8/62  (13%)





7/62  (11%)





3/62  (5%)





2/62  (3%)

Intermediary translations (e.g. Italian text first translated into French)




10/62  (16%)

Table 1: Source languages indicated in English news translations 1600-1629
(*Dutch or Low Dutch; **German or High Dutch; *** Percentages are rounded up)

Table 1 shows that the two main SLs were Dutch and French.[16] Although French news had been particularly significant in the 1580s and 1590s, when many English news pamphlets translated French news relating to the French Wars of Religion (Parmelee 1996, Barker 2013), the first decades of the seventeenth century saw more frequent references to a Dutch source text (ST). For reasons outlined above, the vast majority of these references to Dutch news regarded news first published in the Dutch Republic though on occasions the translation from Dutch could also indicate news first printed in the Spanish Netherlands. This latter origin of Dutch news was regarded as being partial to the Catholic Habsburg cause but was nevertheless occasionally referred to either in relation to non-political events (such as wonder stories) or as a means of providing a full political and military perspective incorporating both Protestant and Catholic points of view.[17]

Excepting a few insightful cases where the translator elaborates translation issues in some detail, most of the metatextual references refer to the bare description of the translation process from Dutch into English. These terms are set out in Table 2.

Translation term









27/62  (44%)*

Faithfully translated




20/62  (32%)






 5/62   (8%)

Out of




 4/62  (6%)

According to




 2/62  (3%)

Diligently translated




 1/62  (1.5%)

Done out of the Italian




 1/62  (1.5%)





 1/62  (1.5%)

Word for word




 1/62  (1.5%)

Table 2: Metatextual terms used to describe translations in
English corantos and news pamphlets (1600-1629) (* Percentages are rounded up)

As Table 2 indicates, the most common term was ‘translated’. This generic label was used with all the SLs and is usually found on the title-page before the imprint. In (1) and (2) the term is used with Dutch occasional news pamphlets of 1612 and 1625.

(1) Newes from Francfort, Concerning the election of the most mighty Emperor Matthias the first of that name, who was elected and crowned in Francfort, in Iune last, anno. 1612. Translated out of Dutch into English. London: Printed for Henry Holland, and are to be sold at his shop in Iuy lane, at the signe of the Holy-bush, 1612. 

(2) A iournall or, historicall relation of all the principall matters which haue passed in the present siege of Breda from day to day. […] Translated out of the Low-Dutch copie, printed at Breda, and at the Hage. 1625. Printed at London for Mercurius Britannicus, 1625. 

The second most frequent term is ‘faithfully translated’, an example of which is seen in (3):

(3) Newes from the Palatinate […] Faithfully translated and extracted out of a Dutch letter sent from Franckendale, by a great commander, who hath beene an eyewitnesse of the same. Printed at the Hage, 1622.’[18]

Given the difference in terminology, one needs to consider whether in practice a ‘faithful translation’ implied something different about the translation process than a mere, generic ‘translation’. In answer to this we can consider first the title pages where we see that in ‘faithful translations’ more information is supplied regarding the ST than is usually found in pamphlets that are just ‘translated’. Thus, in (3) additional information reinforces the status of the ST since we are told that the original text has been supplied by not just an ‘eyewitnesse’ but an eye witness who was also a ‘great commander’. The reference to a ‘faithful translation’ could therefore signify the translator’s intention to provide a close, factual transposition of a highly credible ST involving little or no modification of the content of the ST. This hypothesis is backed up by the metatextual information in Newes from Gulick and Cleue. A true and faithfull relation of the late affaires in the countries of Gulicke, Cleue and Bergh (1615). Described as ‘Faithfully translated out of Dutch by Charles Demetrius, publike notarie of London. Published by authoritie’ on the title page, the translator makes the following address to the reader:

(4) The Translator to the Reader.
Courteous Reader, thus haue you seene in the premises a faithful report of the trueth, & nothing but the truth, translated out of a Dutch coppie printed at Amsterdam by Nicholas van Gelkerken […]

With ‘faithful translations’ the emphasis would appear to be on a close translation where crucial information in news texts such as dates and place names are left as they are in the ST even if their usage creates some confusion for the English reader. This kind of difficulty is recognised in the ‘faithfully translated’ occasional news pamphlet Newes from the Palatinate (1622): 

(5) But before I proceed any further, you must consider, that in all your Dutch Currantoes, this word Elsas is taken for the whole Countrey of Leopoldus, as much as for the Town it selfe, and therefore may bring confusion to the Reader, that he supposeth sometimes the Country is taken, when it is but the Towne, and the Towne is taken, when he is only marching in the Countrey. Another error ariseth from these Currantoes in confusion of time, by stilo nouo, yea by many antidates, and postdates, so that they place that first, which should be last, and that last, which had a passage of former time.[19] Thirdly, that they build too much vpon heare-sayes and reports, and so trusting vnto various opinions, huddle all newes together, because they would be thought to know something […] These things I thought good to certifie you of by way of transition, that you bee not altogether […]  confounded with transmutation of time and names […]   

Similar reasoning is also found in the coranto The Continuation of our Weekly News (1 February 1625). The publication in question is not a translation from a Dutch text but since the title page describes the news as ‘Faithfully Collected and Translated out of the Originalls’ it is relevant for our understanding of the meaning given to ‘faithful translations’. On page 4, the translator/editor writes:

(6)  But before I come to the translation of them, which I will doe sincerely without any addition or diminution, as I doe other things, leauing the construction and censure of them to the Reader, I must let you understand, that there seems to be a contradiction in them, for the one letter of the first of January, relateth, that the Imperiall and Turkish Commissioners are met at Commorra, and the other of the same date reporteth that the Bashaes which are appointed for this Treaty, are yet at Ossen.

Thus, a faithful translation implies a transposition of the ST into the target language even if the target text (TT) reflects the same contradictory information found in the ST. The translator has, therefore, not exercised any authorial intervention so as to make the TT more comprehensible.

The translator’s commitment to a close translation of the ST is further emphasised in those cases in which the translation from Dutch into English is described as ‘verbatim’ or ‘word for word’. The two instances occur in The continuation of the weekly newes (16 September 1624), where the title page informs readers that the contents have been ‘Translated out of the Dutch coppies verbatim’, and The continuation of the weekely news (11 September 1624) where page nine states that the following contents have been translated ‘word for word out of the Coranto printed by Broer Ianson Currantier to the Prince of Orange’. What is probably influencing the English translator’s strategy in the proclaimed ‘verbatim’ and ‘word for word’ translations is once more the source of the original text. As Dutch corantos in the early 1620s were regarded as the most reliable print news sources available, it could have been considered commercially sound to emphasise that what was found in the English publication was an exact copy of the original Dutch coranto.[20] In the above-mentioned issue of 11 September 1624, the  additional information that the translation not only came from a Dutch coranto, but from one published by the Prince of Orange’s own ‘Currantier’, was no doubt intended to further convince readers that the news was of the highest quality. The implicature was that the English translator was translating from a text which was read not by any ordinary reader but by the Prince of Orange. The news was therefore of the highest quality and for this reason the translator affirmed its content had not been altered in any way.

However, to say that ‘faithful’ and ‘verbatim’ translations emphasise the literal aspect of translation does not mean that those texts simply described as ‘translated’ include metatextual references to a freer form of translation. This is never found with the translation of Dutch texts. Even with ‘translated’ texts we find glosses such as below which indicate that in the translation the ST cultural term has been maintained.

In the first case the pamphlet A iournall or, historicall relation of […] present siege of Breda (1625), that was ‘Translated out of the Low-Dutch copie’, concludes with the following gloss: ‘It is to be observed, that a Guilder of the Low Countries was used to amount to two Shillings sterling. Twenty Stiuers makes a Guilder, and eight Duyts make a Stiuer.’

In the second example a coranto of 1623 includes the following editorial comment regarding news about the voyage of the ‘Prince of Portingall from Callice to Flushing’.

(7) Vpon this passage you may please for your better satisfactiō, to heare the marginall note of our Dutch Translator. I guess (sayth he) that this Prince of Portingall, is the sonne of that Prince of Portingall who marryed the Prince of Oranges Sister, and lived many years at Delst in Holland. This Gentleman being the Prince of Oranges Cozen, hath some foure or fiue yeares since, beene employed by the Prince of Orange, as his Deputie or Governour in his Hereditary Principalitie of Orange: and it is very likely, that he is now come backe through France. Thus farre our Translator.
(The Continuation of our former newes, 24 April 1623)

In my opinion, terminological differences between ‘faithful’, ‘verbatim/word for word’ and ‘translated’ do not therefore depend so much on degrees of domestication in the translated Dutch text but rather on whether the entire ST was translated. As will be examined in more detail in section 4 below, there are Dutch texts which for various reasons are not translated in their entirety and in this respect may have prompted the use of the term ‘translated’ rather than ‘faithfully translated’.

Concluding this section on metatextual comment on Dutch translations, mention should also be made of occasional news pamphlets and corantos which included both the source text and translation within the same publication. Between 1600-1630 I have found three occurrences of such parallel texts in all the news publications consulted and two of them consist of English-Dutch parallel texts.[21] The two Dutch texts in question are the pamphlet A true Relation of the Treasons attempted against foure Townes in the Low Countries (1615) and the coranto A Relation of the Late Horrible Treason, intended against the Prince of Orange (19 February 1623).  While the 1615 publication just refers to the existence of the eight-page Dutch ST on the title page by the words: ‘Translated into English, with the Originall in Dutch annexed’ the 1623 publication omits mention of the Dutch ST on the title-page but instead refers to it on the first inside page:

(8) The last weeke we received and published certaine priuate Letters concerning the late intended horrible treason against the Prince of Orange, and the States of the Low Countries; At what time the said Letters were written, little or nothing was knowne concerning the said Conspiracie, but since divers persons haue beene apprehended, and some of them examined, and tortured; vpon whose examination the States haue permitted something to be published to the world thereof, which I hauing receiued in the Printed Dutch Copie, I haue caused to be translated and Printed together with the original […]
(19 February 1623)

The translation of the Dutch ST of this 1623 pamphlet will be examined in section 4 below but as regards why it and the 1615 pamphlet should have included both the ST and TT in the same publication we can consider two possibilities. First, it is possible that publishers hoped that by including the Dutch text they would attract those Dutch readers who wanted to know about treason in their homeland but were unable to fully comprehend the English text. In the late Tudor and early Stuart period London was home to foreign nationals, including the Dutch, and the publishers of the occasional news pamphlets of 1615 and 1623 might have foreseen a Dutch readership of their bilingual publications.[22] However, it is also possible, especially with the 1623 publication, to hypothesise that the  insertion of the Dutch source text was designed not only to attract Dutch readers but to corroborate the English translator’s faithfulness to the original text. Serialised news had begun in the autumn of 1622 and for it to be commercially viable the news publishers needed to convince readers of the reliability of the weekly news that they were printing. In this respect the insertion of the Dutch text in the 1623 publication could have had such an aim. Although there were few English readers of Dutch, the publishers might have thought that Dutch readers of English might have confirmed to fellow English readers that the English and Dutch texts corresponded to one another. By including the Dutch ST, the publisher, therefore, wanted to underline the truthfulness of the reported news in the English text on that particular occasion as well as reinforce in the readers’ minds the likelihood that the editor’s professionalism and accuracy of translation would be found in other future weekly translations as well.

Translation of Dutch news

From an examination of English translations of identified Dutch STs there emerge two main features.[23] First, the English text follows the content of Dutch news very closely, secondly, when significant differences of content occur these usually regard the omission of news concerning England. The publishers of the English pamphlets and corantos were motivated by commercial considerations and it was not in their interest to risk alienating a) the reading public by passing off as a translation what was in fact something different b) the English Crown by including information that could be considered controversial. When this general policy was not followed, the consequences could be dramatic. For example, on 22 September 1621 Joseph Meade, a salaried newsletter writer, wrote to Sir Martin Stuteville regarding his ‘corrantor’, i.e. publisher of news: ‘My corrantor Archer, was laid by the heels for making, or adding to his corrantos, as they say. But now there is another that hath got license to print them and sell them, honestly translated out of the Dutch’ (Harl. MS. 389: 122).  As Raymond writes (2013: 408): ‘Meade suggests that it was precisely a more creative approach to the translation of Dutch corantos that landed Archer in trouble, and his successor had promised to be more “honest”, that is to say, literal’.

Examples of cases in which ‘the apprehensiveness about the dangers of publishing “domestic” or British news’ (Raymond 2013: 406) led to English-related news being omitted in translations include the corantos of 31 March 1621 and 20 July 1621.[24] In the first the omitted Dutch text consists of 34 lines and sets out details of James I’s foreign policy. This information regarding royal matters would not have been tolerated and so it is not surprising that the following sentence, for example, was not translated into English: ‘Men verhoort uyt Enghelandt dat syne Majesteyt metten eersten groote helpes senden sal tot assistentie van Coninck Fredericus, om Spinola uytte Pfalts te helpen’.[25] (They heard from England that His Royal Majesty will send a major help to King Frederick as soon as possible to drive Spinola away from the Palatinate).[26] Whereas in the English coranto of 20 July 1621 only one sentence from the original is omitted: ‘Wt Engelant comt tijdinge dat door last van syne Conincklijcke Majesteyt van Groot Britangien, eenighe Groote Heeren ghevangen waren, wat hunne misdaet sy, was noch niet bekent.’[27] (From England comes news that His Royal Majesty of Great Britain has sent to prison some notable Lords, with what charge was not known yet).

Where, instead, translation occurs, the English version follows very closely the content of the Dutch ST with occasional differences the result of probable domesticating strategies. We see this, for example, in the corantos of 9 July 1621[28] and 19 February 1623. The 1621 coranto has been identified as a translation of Broer Jantz’s Dutch text of 3 July and as such presents few differences to the ST content. However, one part of the English text containing slight differences regards news sent from Prague concerning both the city itself and the future movements of the Emperor’s ‘commissioners’. Regarding Prague, the English text provides a gloss for ‘Joden Stadt’ by including in brackets after ‘the Jewes cittie’ the words ‘(or that part of Prague / wherein the Jewes dwell)’. This gloss was no doubt designed to clarify to English readers the reference in the Dutch text to ‘Jewes cittie’. Another difference regards the translation of ‘Brin in Moravien’ in the sentence: ‘ende segtmen dat die executie op toecomende Maendach ofte Dingsdach voltrocken sal worden/ daer na sullen de Keyserlijcke Commissarissen sich van hier nae Brin in Moravien begheven’. In the English version the town ‘Brin’ is omitted, so the English version rather than reading ‘Brin into Moravia’ simply states that the Emperor’s commissioners will go ‘into Moravia’. Although it is much easier to ascribe intention when words are added in the translation, it is possible that in this particular case, through the omission of the name of the Moravian town, the translator has decided that for the English public such information was irrelevant since the town was unknown to most of the target readership.[29]

Domesticating strategies in the form of glosses are also found in the translation of the 1623 serialised coranto containing both Dutch and English texts. For example, ‘300 gulden’ is translated as ‘three hundred Gilders (which amount to thirtie poundes sterling’ and ‘Herberghe’ by ‘Inne or Tauerne (seeing the Dutch word Herberge which in this place is vsed, signifieth both)’.  The translator also provides a functional equivalent for the cultural term ‘Iachtschip’ which is translated as ‘Barge or small Ship’.

However, there is one part of the translation of the 1623 coranto which differs from the Dutch ST. It is on page 4 and relates to the feverish, ominous dreams of a ‘sayler’ (sailor) presaging the terrible act of treason that was about to befall. This description of 72 words is a heavily compressed version of the Dutch version of over 600 words. In this particular case what might explain the omission of the news is not the text’s controversial content ─ as occurs with news relating to British matters ─ but rather questions of space and pagination. The translation in this case, as in all print translations, is regulated by fixed spatial limits dependent on the size of the page. In the 1623 coranto the English version of the Dutch ST ends at the bottom of page 9 thus allowing the Dutch text to begin at the top of page 10. This compressed translation of a part of the Dutch text could therefore have been motivated by the need to finish the English text at a certain point so as to let the Dutch text begin at the top of the following page. Such a hypothesis is certainly not improbable given how conscious news writers were of page space and its interrelationship with text length. For example, in the occasional news pamphlet of 13 June 1622, the editor informs the readers that ‘Because the Printer shewed us a blancke page at the end, we therefore haue filled it up with forraine relations which are nothing to the continuation of our discourse’.

Interestingly, the above-mentioned 1623 coranto, in which we find the shortened English version of the Dutch text, is described by the editor as simply ‘translated’ unlike the publication of 11 September 1624, where, according to Dahl (1952: 124), the metatextual reference to ‘word for word’ accurately reflects the translation strategy adopted. These differences in modes of translation give strength to the view that the metatextual terms adopted by the translators do give some indication as to how they approached the translation of the Dutch text.

Concluding Observations

Translation played a fundamental role in the dissemination of foreign news in England in the Early Modern period. The foreign news included prevalently European news with news from France and the Low Countries in high demand. English interest in French events was most marked in the latter half of the sixteenth cemtury when the country was ravaged by the Wars of Religion that threatened to engulf and dismember the state along the confessional Protestant/Catholic divide. With the return of stability in France, interest in that country’s affairs was replaced by growing attention to events in the Low Countries and especially to the fledgling Protestant Dutch Republic. Not only did the English regard Dutch independence with sympathy but they also recognised the commercial interconnectedness (and potential for conflict) between their own country and the young, vibrant state that was fast becoming a dominant European commercial power. With the advent of the Thirty Years War in 1618 interest in Dutch news increased still further since Dutch sources of information regarding the dramatic events unfolding in central Europe were highly rated. By the third decade of the seventeenth century, Amsterdam had become the preeminent news centre in northern Europe. Dutch news was sought and for English readers translated.

Our understanding of how this news was translated is based on what the editors say about the translation process and what can be understood from a comparison of Dutch and English translations in those cases where the Dutch ST can be identified. From this analysis it emerges that translators kept close to the content and wording of the Dutch text. In the main this global strategy of translation was based on the authority and status of the Dutch ST but we can also hypothesise that it met the strategic aims of editors of serialised periodical news. In order to keep a readership from one week to another they needed to show that the news they were providing was authentic and one sure way of doing this was to provide a close translation of the Dutch texts where the news content in the source text was reproduced in the English version. Exceptions to this global translation strategy occur when on occasion the translator domesticated Dutch cultural terms through a gloss or for reasons of censorship did not translate a specific news item. Apart from this it is also possible that in some circumstances the English translation might have been shorthened as a result of pagination demands. In this respect the omission of text in the ST would reflect what happens in modern-day news translation where ‘summarizing information […] is often used to fit the source text into the space available’ (Bielsa and Bassnett 2009: 64).

What we do not find with Dutch into English translations is metatextual comment alluding to a non literal translation, as is the case, for example, with three occasional news pamphlets of translations from Spanish into English (1614, 1623) and Italian (1620). In News from Mamora (1614), Good Newes to Christendome. Sent to a Venetian in Ligorne (1620) and A true relation of that vvhich lately hapned to the great Spanish fleet (1623) the translators unequivocally state that there was no full correspondence between Source and Target text. The translators respectively write “I respected not so much exactnesse in Translating word for word out of the Originall, (whereby the matter must perforce loose its garb and graine)” (1614) “those [words] which you haue, meerely come from the apprehension of the sentence in the coherence of the matter, rather then the particular signification of the words by themselues” (1620), “Be therefore fauourable I pray, to reade it without a strict comparison of the originall, and accept of an honest intent” (1623). The fact that these translators openly admit a non-literal approach indicates that as regards early seventeenth century news there is no uniform mode of translation.[30] In this respect news translation of the period reflects what Hosington says about Renaissance translation generally: ‘it is unwise and inaccurate to speak of Renaissance translation as if there were only one type’ (2015: 13). In news translation there was more than one strategy though in the case of Dutch news the publishers’ editorial and commercial objectives favoured a translation which closely followed the content of the source Dutch text.


Primary Sources

Early English Books On-line (EEBO),URL: http://eebo.chadwyck.com (accessed 1 December 2017).

Harleian Manuscripts, 389, British Library, London.

Secondary Sources

Arblaster, Paul (1999) “London, Antwerp and Amsterdam: Journalistic Relations in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century” in The Bookshop of the World: The Role of of the Low Countries in the Book Trade 1473-1941,  Lotte Hellinga, Alastair Duke, Jacob Harskamp and Theo Hermans (eds), Goy-Houten, Hes & De Graaf: 145-50.

Barker, Sara K (2013) “‘Newes Lately Come’: European News Books in English Translation” in  Renaissance Cultural Crossroads: Translation, Print and Culture in Britain, 1473-1640, Sara K. Barker and Brenda M. Hosington (eds), Leiden, Brill: 227-244.

Barker, Sara K. (2016) “Time in English Translations of Continental News” in News Networks in Early Modern Europe,  Joad Raymond and Noah Moxham (eds), Leiden, Brill: 328-49.

Barker, Sara K., and Brenda M. Hosington (eds) (2013) Renaissance Cultural Crossroads: Translation, Print and Culture in Britain, 1473-1640, Leiden, Brill.

Bielsa, Esperança, and Susan Bassnett (2009) Translation in Global News, Abingdon, Routledge.

Boys, Jayne  (2011) London’s News Press and the Thirty Years War, Woodbridge, Boydell Press.

Braden, Gordon, Robert M. Cummings and Stuart Gillespie, eds (2010) The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English vol. 2 1550-1660, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Brownlees, Nicholas (2014) The Language of Periodical News in Seventeenth-Century England. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Brownlees, Nicholas (2018) “The Gazette de Londres: Disseminating news and exercising news management through translation”, Token: A Journal of English Linguistics 7: 13-33.

Burke, Peter (2007) “Cultures of translation in Early Modern Europe” in Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe, Peter Burke and Ronnie Po-chia Hsia (eds), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 7-38.

Burke, Peter, and Ronnie Po-chia Hsia (eds) (2007) Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Coldiron, Anne E. (2015) Printers without Borders. Translation and Textuality in the Renaissance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Dahl, Folke (1939) “Amsterdam ─ Earliest Newspaper Centre of Western Europe”, Het Boek. xxv. 3. 161-98.

---- (1949-50) “Amsterdam—Cradle of English Newspapers”, The Library Fifth Series, IV. 166-78.

Denton, John (2016) Translation and Manipulation in Renaissance England, Florence: Firenze University Press.

Dunthorne, Hugh (2013) Britain and the Dutch Revolt, 1560-1700, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Frank, Joseph (1961) The Beginnings of the English Newspaper, 1620-1660, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Gambier, Yves (2010) “Translation strategies and tactics” in Handbook of Translation Studies, vol 1, Yves Gambier, and Luc van Doorslaer (eds), Amsterdam, Benjamins: 412-418.     

Galtung, Johan, and Mari Ruge (1981) “Structuring and Selecting News” in The Manufacture of News: Social Problems, Deviance and the Mass Media (revised edition) Stanley Cohen and Jock Young (eds), London, Constable: 52-63.

Gillespie, Stuart (2011) English Translation and Classical Reception. Towards a New Literary History, Oxford, Wiley Blackwell.

Grell, Ole P. (1989) Dutch Calvinists in Early Stuart London, Leiden, Brill.

Harline, Craig (1987) Pamphlets, Printing, and Political Culture in the Early Dutch Republic, Dordrecht, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

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[1] The research for this article was in part funded by a PRIN grant (Prot. 2015TJ8ZAS) from the Italian government.

[2] For studies on print news in Early Modern Britain, see Frank (1961), Raymond (2003), Boys (2011), Brownlees (2014). For news in a European context, see Pettegree (2014) and Raymond & Moxham (2016).

[3] For translation’s importance in the fields of Early Modern British religion, literature, history and the arts generally, see, among others, the following recent publications arranged in chronological order: Morini (2006); Burke and Po-chia Hsia (2007); Braden, Cummings and Gillespie (2010); Gillespie (2011); Schurink (2011); Barker and Hosington (2013); Coldiron (2015); Hosington (2015). Denton (2016: 9-22) provides a very useful overview of recent developments in research on translation in Renaissance England.

[4] In contrast, Gambier defines ‘local strategies’ as procedures or techniques adopted in achieving the global strategy (2010: 412, 416). 

[5] The periodical press continued until October 1632 when it was banned by Charles I. The ban, which lasted 6 years, was probably motivated by the king’s opposition to the publications’ increasingly flattering portrayal of Gustavus Adolphus, Protestant king of Sweden. The English king, he too a Protestant, could have found this threatening since it showed up the unpopular passivity of his own foreign policy in the Thirty Years War.

[6] The Low Countries consisted of present-day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

[7] The Low Countries were at the time already officially not part of the Holy Roman Empire although still under Habsburg rule.

[8] The seven provinces to declare their independence were Groningen, Friesland, Zeeland, Overijssel, Gelderland, Utrecht and Holland (commercially the most important). For histories on the Dutch Republic and Anglo-Dutch relations of the time, see Israel (1995), Dunthorne (2013) and Helmers (2015).

[9] This sense of affinity and mutual interest in each other’s affairs explains why ‘the English Civil War likewise received a great deal of attention in Dutch pamphlets’ (Harline 1987: 35).

[10] Both countries vied for control of the maritime trade routes and the three seventeenth-century Anglo-Dutch wars (1652-1654, 1665-1667, 1672-1674) were essentially fought at sea. 

[11] For histories of Dutch corantos and news pamphlets in the Early Modern period, see Dahl (1939, 1949-1950), Harline (1987) and Hoftijzer (2013).

[12] Boys (2011: 34) writes: ‘the traffic in news developed alongside the traffic in commodities because merchants required ever more frequent and exact information about distant events. News became regular like the trade in commodities itself, with newsletters becoming weekly reports.’ As a result of radical improvements in the postal network in the sixteenth century, ‘a network of postal routes that covered the whole of continental Europe was established, regular collection and delivery times began to be fixed, and the time for a letter to travel from one place to another became relatively constant.’ (Infelise 2007: 40).

[13] For further information on commercial relations between English and Dutch news publishers, see Dahl (1949-1950), Arblaster (1999), Boys (2011: 37-40).

[14] The Star Chamber decree banning periodical news publications was issued on 17 October 1632.

[15] For a bibliography of English corantos 1622-1641, see Dahl (1952).

[16] The translation of several Spanish news pamphlets in the early 1620s is explained by the English readers’ interest in Prince Charles’s sojourn in Spain in the spring and summer of 1623 during which an alliance with England’s traditional enemy was deemed probable through the prince’s intended engagement to the Infanta.

[17] For example, on 31 January 1623 the editor of the coranto writes: ‘Gentle Reader, we must aduertise you that in our Newes we deliuered some things in seuerall places as wee get the tidings in seuerall parts, to shew you how the parties agree in their relations, seeing it is knowne that many write partially, and the one addes some circumstances more then the other; and hereafter we will put down very exactly from whence euery thing commeth. For you must conceiue we set downe some things as we receiue them from The High Dutch Copies, and some from the Low Dutch, printed at Antwerpre which peraduenture may speake partially.’

[18] Although a translation from a Dutch publication, Boys (2011: 281) doubts the authenticity of the imprint regarding the place of printing. In her opinion the news pamphlet could have been directly printed in London.

[19] The confusion was caused by the contemporaneous use in Early Modern Europe of two contrasting calendars. The reformed Gregorian calendar was referred to by the term ‘Stilo nouo’ in contrast to the old Julian calendar that was called ‘Stilo veteri’. See Barker (2016: 333) for further considerations on how the presence of two calendars ‘caused confusion for people corresponding with, and reading news about, people operating in different “time zones”’.

[20] Although Dutch news sources were considered credible by the general public, they were the subject of contemporary satire. Ben Jonson in his play The Staple of News (1626) makes much fun of the embryonic news trade and its reliance on unsubstantiated news reports that in the view of the English playwright, and other literati of his time, were little more than gossip.

[21] The other English publication is The present state of the affaires betwixt the Emperor and King of Bohemia (1620), which contains both the English translation of a two-page letter to the king of Bohemia and the Latin ST. 

[22] For information regarding the presence of Dutch and Walloon communities in London and the south-east of England, see Pettegree (1986) and Grell (1989).

[23] Difficulties relating to ‘definitively identifying translations’ (Barker 2013: 230) do not just regard English translations of Dutch publications but Early Modern English news in general.

[24] The wording in both imprints states they were printed in Amsterdam by a Dutch printer and hence although there is no explicit reference to them being a translation they would have been deemed such by the English readers.

[25] Dahl (1952: 33-34).

[26] For the translation of this Dutch text, as for other Dutch texts in this section, I owe a debt of thanks to scholars of Dutch language, literature and culture. In particular, I would like to thank Francesca Terrenato (Sapienza, University of Rome) and Gloria Moorman at the Nederlands Interuniversitair Kunsthistorisch Instituut, Florence, Italy.

[27] Dahl (1952: 45).

[28] See note 23.

[29] For further details on 1620-1621 corantos, see Brownlees (2014: 33-36).

[30] In Table 2 see also the expression ‘Done out of the Italian’, an example of what Burke (2007: 26) refers to as vague terms of translation in Early Modern Europe that ‘seem to license a free or domesticating approach’ to translation.

About the author(s)

Nicholas Brownlees is Professor of English Language at the University of Florence. He is the co-compiler of the Florence Early English Newspapers Corpus (http://cqpweb.lancs.ac.uk) and has written extensively on news discourse in the early modern era. He is the author of The Language of Periodical News in Seventeenth Century England (2014, 2nd edition), coauthor of News as Changing Texts: Corpora, Methodologies and Analysis (2015, 2nd edition) and editor of News Discourse in Early Modern Britain (2006). He is founder of the CHINED series of conferences on historical news discourse (http://www.chinednews.com9 CHINE.D conferences have so far been held in Florence (2004), Zurich (2007), Rostock (2012), Helsinki (2014), Porto (2015) and Sheffield (2017).

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©inTRAlinea & Nicholas Brownlees (2019).
"‘A true and faithfull relation […] translated out of Dutch’: the role and translation of Dutch news in early seventeenth-century England"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Transit and Translation in Early Modern Europe
Edited by: Donatella Montini, Iolanda Plescia, Anna Maria Segala and Francesca Terrenato
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2356

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