Henry Swinburne’s Travels through Spain (1779) in French and Catalan

Applying a Skopos Approach to Book History

By Susan Pickford (Université Paris Sorbonne)


This article seeks to bring about a rapprochement between Translation Studies and Book History, arguing that the recent ‘turns’ in each field – cultural/sociological and transnational, respectively – have brought about considerable synergies between the two. It seeks to demonstrate the potential research synergies between the two fields by importing a concept familiar from Translation Studies, Hans Vermeer’s skopos theory, into Book History through a case study of two recent editions of Henry Swinburne’s eighteenth-century travel narrative on Spain, into French and Catalan. It applies a skopos reading to each translation not as text, but as material object, reading the peri- and epitext of each edition as evidence of its specific publishing and editorial skopoi.

Keywords: travel writing translation, 18th-century travel writing, book history, skopos theory, henry swinburne

©inTRAlinea & Susan Pickford (2013).
"Henry Swinburne’s Travels through Spain (1779) in French and Catalan"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Translating 18th and 19th Century European Travel Writing
Edited by: Susan Pickford & Alison E. Martin
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/1969

1. Introduction

The recent cultural and sociological turns in translation studies have led to an increasing research focus on the broader social, cultural, and political contexts within which the translation process takes place. Heilbron (1999) was one of the earliest statements of the sociological turn in Translation Studies, shifting the focus away from disembodied texts to the place of translated books as commodities within an international publishing circuit, produced and consumed within two cultures. This has led to occasional, and as yet, timid calls for a rapprochement between Translation Studies and another recently emergent field of specialisation: Book History. Rupke (2000: 211) notes that the translator is missing from Darnton’s (1982: 68, fig. 2) highly influential model of the communications circuit, a lacuna recently made good by Bachleitner (2009). The transnational turn in Book History, in which research has begun to move away from the ‘silo’ model of discrete national histories towards a more sophisticated ‘tangled’ approach to historiographical issues (Hakapää 2005; Rukavina 2010), suggests that such a rapprochement is now timely. However, while Translation Studies has readily embraced the fact of the text as a material object operating within a given set of social, political, and cultural parameters, Book History – perhaps because the field was largely institutionalized in monolingual academic settings – has so far proved reticent in adopting concepts from Translation Studies. There have been a handful of attempts to explore the potential synergies between the two fields, either implicitly through the borrowing of critical vocabulary (Venter 2006; Sonzogni 2011) or explicitly, as in presentations by Marie-Alice Belle on ‘Integrating book history into translation studies: theoretical and pedagogical perspectives’ at the Canadian Association for Translation Studies conference in 2011 and by Susan Pickford on ‘Histoire nationale, république mondiale ou polysystème? Vers un rapprochement entre traductologie et histoire du livre’ at the conference Repenser la place de la traductologie dans les sciences humaines: vers une interdisciplinarité réciproque in Montreal in 2012. However, such attempts have to date remained limited in scope and impact.

The aim of the present article, then, is to further the rapprochement of the research synergies between the two fields by adapting a concept long familiar in Translation Studies for use in Book History. Skopos theory, first outlined by Hans Vermeer in the late 1970s, broke with the then customary focus on the relationship between original and source text, focusing instead on the translation’s reception by a given audience; as such, it is doubtless no coincidence that it emerged at roughly the same time as reception theory, with its concomitant focus on the reader – a prominent research topic in Book History.[1] Schäffner (2011: 117) notes that it is a key postulate of skopos theory that ‘as a general rule it must be the intended purpose of the target text that determines translation methods and strategies’; the skopos, or purpose, of the translation is determined by the initiator (the client) in accordance with the (perceived) needs of the end user, shaped by their social and cultural environment.[2] Recent research, such as that of Buzelin (2005, 2007) and Milton and Bandia (2009), has focused on the translator’s place within a collaborative network, to the point that Agorni (2005: 819) has suggested that research has now brought ‘a set of collateral textual and social practices to the fore (such as proof-reading, giving directions on translating strategies, advice on publication etc.), practices which ultimately explode the myth of translators as the sole directive agents in textual formation’. This expanded understanding of the translator’s role is significant in highlighting the collaborative nature of the process of determining skopos.

The present article sets out to explore how skopos theory can be adapted for use in Book History by combining Vermeer’s insights with Buzelin’s ethnographic approach to translation as an integral part of the editorial process, focusing on the skopos not of the immaterial text, but of the book as a material object. It does so by outlining a further two related categories that can be the focus of study: editorial skopos, identified through peri- and epitextual material[3] that is primarily textual in nature, and publishing skopos, identified through primarily non-textual peri- and epitextual material. It takes as a case study two recent editions of the travels of Henry Swinburne in Spain, first published in English in 1779, published in French (2001) and Catalan (2006). The article explores how the editorial decision-making process in each instance echoes that of what Buzelin (2005: 214) describes as the hybrid ‘translating agent’ in traditional skopos theory, drawing on the peri- and epitext of each edition to identify the particular skopoi that determine its editorial methods and strategies.[4]

2. Henry Swinburne and his Travels

Henry Swinburne was born in 1743[5] in Capheaton, Northumberland, the youngest son of Sir John Swinburne, and inherited Hamsterley Hall near Durham on the death of his brother in 1763. He travelled abroad with his wife in 1774 ‘for the express purpose of indulging their taste for Antiquities and the Fine Arts’ (Rivers 1798: 290), spending six years touring the continent and visiting royal courts across Europe: Joseph II of Austria was godfather to one son, while another became one of Marie-Antoinette’s royal pages. He ran into financial difficulties in the 1780s and eventually settled in the West Indies, where his wife’s family had some financial interests; he died of sunstroke in Trinidad in 1803. His library, sold after his death, reveals him to have had wide-ranging interests, with titles in Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and even Arabic.

Swinburne enjoyed some little reputation as a travel writer: he is recorded decades after his death as a ‘celebrated traveller’ in a brief biographical note signed ‘Surtees’[6] (Wade 1843: 658). In addition to his Travels through Spain, in the years 1775 and 1776 (1779), which will be the focus of this article, he also wrote a Supplement to Mr. Swinburne’s Travels through Spain; being a journey from Bayonne to Marseilles (1787) and Travels in the two Sicilies, 1777–1780 (2 vols, 1783 and 1785). Two volumes of his letters were published posthumously in 1841 with the title The Courts of Europe at the Close of the Last Century; the title page describes Swinburne as ‘Author of “Travels in Spain, Italy &c”’.

Swinburne’s travel narratives were typical of their day in appearing in a variety of editorial guises, reflecting a range of publishing skopoi. The Travels through Spain were issued in a quarto volume by Peter Elmsly of London in 1779, then reprinted in a pirate edition in Dublin the same year; a second edition in two octavo volumes came out in 1787. The title was then turned into a picturesque set of engravings entitled Views in Spain, from the drawings of Henry Swinburne (1794), in turn recycled as the Picturesque Tour through Spain in 1806, 1810 and 1823, with brief texts in French and English facing the plates followed by a 22-page abridged version of the Travels[7]; a facsimile edition was published by JdeJ Editores in Madrid in 2011. The Travels were also extensively excerpted in volume sixteen of William Mavor’s Historical Account of the Most Celebrated Voyages, Travels, and Discoveries: From the Time of Columbus to the Present Period (1797) and similar later anthologies, and in considerably briefer form in press sources ranging from the Universal Magazine (December 1779: 284-87) to the New-York Magazine, or Literary Repository (1792: 85-91). Swinburne’s work on Sicily was similarly taken up in the anonymous The present state of Sicily and Malta, extracted from Mr. Brydone, Mr. Swinburne, and other modern travellers (London: G. Kearsley, 1788). The Travels through Spain and the Two Sicilies (with the unrelated Supplement taking up half of vol. 5) were published in a French translation[8] by the author and composer Jean-Benjamin de Laborde (or La Borde)[9] in 1787; Swinburne and Laborde were acquainted, having met at the French court and visited François Le Vaillant’s collection of stuffed African birds together (Swinburne 1841 vol. 2: 7). Louise-Félicité Guynement de Keralio, a prolific translator, had produced a version of volume one of the Two Sicilies in 1785, while a German translation of the latter work was also produced by Johann Reinhold Forster in 1785. Swinburne had copies of the French and German translations in his library.

The Travels through Spain were based on Swinburne’s journey round Spain in the company of Sir Thomas Gascoigne (1745-1810), who financed the trip on a fairly lavish scale. Spain was  something of a terra incognita for British readers at this point: as one critic noted, ‘The Hottentots themselves, and the Esquimaux of America, are better known […] than the Spanish nation is at present’ (Critical Review 1763: 295). There had been no more than a handful of travel narratives on Spain in the preceding decades:[10] Swinburne noted in his preface that ‘the travels through Spain that have appeared in print, are either old and obsolete, consequently in many respects unfit to convey a proper idea of its present state; or only relations of a passage through particular provinces’ (Swinburne 1779: iii). Consequently, he set out on the journey with the intention of publishing an account of his travels (Swinburne 1779: iv):

In my plan of inquiry, an investigation of the soil, cultivation, government, commerce, and manners of that kingdom, was to be the grand primary object; but what I was more confident of my strength in, and what I own I found more suitable to my inclinations, was the study of its antiquities, especially the Moorish: in that line, my own eye and labour were sufficient helps to enable me to collect interesting materials for a publication.  

Swinburne had a particular interest in art and architecture and his work is remarkable for making the English reading public ‘intimately acquainted with Spain, and the arts and monuments of its ancient inhabitants’ (Nichols 1815: 157) through his descriptions of Moorish architecture, particularly that of the Alhambra. The intensely visual nature of his chosen area of interest lent itself to illustration, and the Travels are indeed lavishly embellished with engravings – including six of the Alhambra and three of the Cordova mosque – based on Swinburne’s own drawings,[11] for which he was granted unprecedented access both to the sites themselves and to archive material.[12] As a result, Swinburne was able to position himself as a leading authority on Spain and Spanish culture. Gibbons draws largely on him for the sections of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire devoted to the Saracen conquests, while Felicia Hemans repeatedly quotes him in the notes to her Poetical Works (Hemans 1836: 126). He is widely referred to in nineteenth-century encyclopaedias as an expert on Spanish art and culture – he is even quoted in a guide to the London waterworks as an expert on Spanish plumbing (Matthews 1835: 227) – while the Oxford English Dictionary credits him with the first English use of now familiar terms such as ‘Manchego’ and ‘ramblas’.

Swinburne’s works met with a generally favourable reception. Horace Walpole (1842: 216) admired him, writing to one correspondent that ‘I have been much amused with new travels through Spain by a Mr. Swinburne’; Hannah More, who met him in 1783, described him as ‘a little genteel young man. He is modest and agreeable; not wise and heavy, like his books’ (Courtney 1898: 230), while William Cowper (1904: 126) declared himself ‘pleased with some extracts from [the Travels through Spain], which I found in the Review’. Their publication was also noted on the continent, where Swinburne had built up an extensive network of contacts during his travels, including such literary figures as Stéphanie de Genlis (de Genlis 1825: 337). The Esprit des Journaux printed excerpts from the Travels in April and May 1780, for example. Laborde’s translation extended Swinburne’s influence to Europe, with Chateaubriand drawing on his work for his Aventures du dernier Abencérage (1807).

Some readers, however, were less impressed. The Gentleman’s Magazine 73 (1793: 154) sniffed that Swinburne ‘borrowed, but not improved’ his descriptions from an Arabic writer: ‘The churches are mistaken for castles, and the silver towers of the Alhambra for the beautiful ones’.[13] The London Quarterly Review (1841: 79) was equally damning: the travels in Spain and Italy are ‘respectable (though somewhat dull) publications of their time and class’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most unfavourable comments came from Spanish reviewers, one of whom wrote with heavy irony, ‘Este Ingles [...] está dotado de tal penetracion, que en dos ó tres dias de mansion en España pudo observar que todos los caminos son malos, detestables todas las posadas y fondas, que el País parece un infierno en donde reyna la estupidez &c.’ [This Englishman […] is endowed with such penetrating insight that in a stay of two or three days in Spain he was able to observe that all the roads are bad, the inns and taverns all detestable, that the country appears to be a hellish place where stupidity reigns &c] (Cladera 1788: 143).[14]

Swinburne was indeed frequently uncomplimentary about the Spanish,[15] claiming for instance that ‘the listless indolence equally dear to the uncivilized savage, and to the degenerate slave of despotism, is no where [sic] more indulged than in Spain’ (1779: 369); however, he was perhaps less damning than other contemporary travellers, recognising that the people ‘have made great strides of late towards sense and philosophy’ (68). The Travels formed a significant intertext[16] for later travel accounts on Spain, both in Britain and abroad, and for decades into the nineteenth century. Jean-François de Bourgoing (1797: unpaginated) praised ‘la justesse et la finesse de ses observations’ [the accuracy and sharpness of his observations] in the preface to his Tableau de l’Espagne Moderne, while as late as the mid-nineteenth century, Severn Teakle Wallis (1849: 204) describes him as ‘still much quoted’ in his Glimpses of Spain.

3. The Translations

The aim of the present section is, as outlined above, to study two recent editions of excerpts from Swinburne’s Travels through Spain, not in terms of translation strategies, but rather with the aim of identifying the editorial and publishing skopos of each. The two editions are, in chronological order, Lettres de Grenade published by L’Archange Minotaure in Montpellier in 2001 and El viatge de Henry Swinburne a Catalunya i el País Valencià, published by Edicions la Xara in Simat de la Valldigna in 2006.[17]

A contemporary account of Laborde’s career, published five years after his death on the guillotine in 1794, records that when he fell out of favour at court after Louis XV’s death in 1774, financial difficulties meant that ‘la culture des sciences, des lettres et des arts devint l’unique objet de ses délassements, de ses plaisirs et de son ambition’ [cultivating science, literature and the arts became the sole object of his diversion, pleasure, and ambition] (Laborde 1799: xviii). He began publishing works on music and topography, adopting a successful subscription model that hints at a high degree of professionalism: ‘il eut en peu de temps près de quinze cents souscripteurs et [le travail fut livré] au public avec une exactitude à laquelle il étoit peu accoutumé pour les ouvrages proposés par souscription’ [he received nearly 1500 subscriptions in a very short space of time and (the work was delivered) to its readers with a promptness most unusual for subscription works] (Laborde 1799: xix). Some brief evidence survives of Laborde’s (or his wife’s) translation practice, shaped by collaboration with the author (Swinburne 1787b: unpaginated), suggesting that Buzelin’s ‘hybrid translating agent’ is an apt description here:  

Heureusement que la traduction de son Voyage en Espagne n’avoit encore que deux feuilles d’impression lorsque notre liaison s’est formée. Je lui ai communiqué le manuscrit, et il a eu la complaisance de le revoir avec une attention d’autant plus exacte, que la langue françoise lui est aussi parfaitement connue que la sienne propre.
[Fortunately the translation of his Travels through Spain was only two printed sheets long when we became acquainted. I gave him the manuscript and he was kind enough to revise it with a care that was all the more accurate since he knows French as thoroughly as he does his own language].

The publishing skopos followed by the well-known Paris printer Didot l’aîne was shaped in part by the necessity of obtaining a royal privilege for the printing, granting the publisher exclusive rights.[18] The royal privilege in the Voyage de Henri Swinburne dans les deux Siciles stipulates that the privilege depends on the work being printed ‘en beau papier et beaux caractères’ [on fine paper and with fine characters] (Swinburne 1787b, unpaginated); the Voyage en Espagne concludes with a brief statement to the effect that the work is covered by the same privilege (Swinburne 1787a: 535).

As made clear earlier in the article, various editions of the same text may reflect different skopoi, especially where they are published for different audiences in different periods. It is hardly surprising to note, then, that the Lettres de Grenade, reprinting Laborde’s translation over 200 years later, is a case in point. As its title suggests, the French edition includes only those letters relating Swinburne’s time in Grenada, where he arrived on Christmas Day 1775 and left on 2 January 1776. The letters focus heavily on the Alhambra, then barely known outside Spain, and described as ‘indisputably the most curious place […] that exists in Spain, perhaps in Europe […] no thing [sic] to be met with anywhere else can convey an idea of this edifice, except you take it from the decorations of an opera, or the tales of the Genii […] I was struck with amazement, as I stept over the threshold, to find myself on a sudden transported into a species of fairy-land’ (Swinburne 1779: 176-77).[19]

The book was one of an inaugural set of three titles by a small independent publisher, L’Archange Minotaure, founded in March 2001 in Montpellier (southern France). The publisher, who also wrote the introduction, was Jean-Michel Cornu, a researcher at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, specializing in Rimbaud’s relationship with Africa. L’Archange Minotaure has gone on to develop a number of specialist lists, three of which are devoted to works on Andalusia, travel writing, and bibliophilia. The Lettres de Grenade are included in the first of these three lists but also share clear affinities with the latter two. The publisher’s general publishing skopos, as stated on its website, is to ‘imposer une “authentique proposition” éditoriale, [...] susceptible, [...] d’être lu par “le plus grand nombre”’[20] [to impose a ‘genuine publishing identity’ […] likely […] to be read by as wide an audience as possible]. Yet the book’s high-end production values are those typically associated with limited-edition fine press publications, placing it visually within the field of restricted production. It features contrasting red and black ink on the table of contents for the titles and page numbers, a conceit carried on throughout the book for footnote referencing and for distinguishing the notes from the 1787 edition from those added for this new edition. The colophon, again printed in red, is atypical in layout, evoking the late nineteenth-century fashion for substantial colophons in works printed by private presses (Figs 1 & 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

The book was published as part of a series entitled Voyageurs Romantiques en Andalousie, the other volumes being devoted to Edgar Quinet’s Je sens brûler le nom d’Allah: voyage à Grenade, Cordoue, Séville (abridged from Mes vacances en Espagne, 1846) and Théophile Gautier’s Voyage d’Andalousie in two volumes (abridged from his Voyage en Espagne, 1843). The three titles were reissued in 2008 in a box set for collectors. The other two titles, by canonical authors who are considerably more familiar to the French reading public than Swinburne, form a significant intertext that plays a key role in shaping the editorial skopos of the French edition. The introduction explicitly locates Swinburne in the French literary tradition, comparing him in the cover blurb to Voltaire, noting that his way of reworking his notes for publication was ‘très exactement celui de Gérard de Nerval pour son Voyage en Orient’ [precisely the same as Gérard de Nerval’s in his Travels to the Orient] (Swinburne 2001: 11), and highlighting the translation’s influence on Chateaubriand.

The most immediately apparent aspect of the editorial skopos is the fact that the text is significantly abridged. The 427 pages of the original edition are reduced to a mere 61 pages of French text, encompassing letters 20 to 25 (pp. 138-201 in the original), and omitting a considerable amount of material from the letters selected.[21] Similarly, the work includes only those engravings featuring the Alhambra (fig. 3). This decision to restrict the geographic scope of the narrative to one region sheds further light on the editorial skopos, which is to make Swinburne a key precursor to the (French) Romantic rediscovery of Andalusia. The inside cover blurb thus briefly recapitulates the history of the region and the Romantic vision of ‘al-Andalus’, reflecting a Saidian understanding of Orientalism, while the inside back cover gives the details of two forthcoming works in the ‘Aux Andalousies’ collection. The focus on the Alhambra in both letters and engravings stands as a metonymy for the site’s significance as a vestige of Andalusia’s Moorish past. The fact that the publisher’s slogan is ‘éditeur au plein midi’ [in the heart of the south] suggests a sense of shared cultural identity within one common Mediterranean space; the edition’s stated aim of paying homage ‘au discernement et l’indépendance d’esprit d’un homme qui [...] voulut montrer que le souvenir des Maures de Grenade valait celui de hommes qui firent Athènes ou Méroê’ [the discernment and independent-mindedness of a man who […] set out to demonstrate that the memory of the Moors of Grenada is worth that of the men who made Athens and Meroë] (Swinburne 2001: 96) is a clear attempt to rehabilitate a peripheral (Mediterranean) space by challenging the traditional attributions of cultural value promoted by standard historical narratives. This is perfectly in line with the publisher’s overall list, which, as well as a number of works on Andalusia, includes translations from minority languages such as Amharic and Latvian.  

Figure 3

The Catalan translation, like the French, was published by a tiny independent publisher based well outside the main national book publishing and distribution circuit, but the similarities stop there. Both the ideological use to which Swinburne’s work and the production values of the book are very different. The publisher’s website www.laxaraedicions.com highlights both its profile as an academic publisher in the social sciences and the humanities and its commitment to issues of regional identity. Significantly, works in the former category are published in Castilian, while those in the latter tend to be in Catalan, including those in the Col·lecció País series (fig. 4).

Figure 4

The book’s production values are those associated with self-publishing or print on demand. Little effort has been made to distance the inner pages typographically from a word-processed document; the pages are densely packed, the front and end matter is reduced to the bare minimum, and the engravings are reduced to one-quarter page size and set into the text, masking much of the detail (fig. 5).

Figure 5

Interestingly, the book features a number of illustrations drawn from other sources, such as a photograph of a scale model of a xàbec [a xebec or small trading ship] illustrating a page describing a trip to the Barcelona theatre (the link between image and text is unclear) and a portrait of Antoni Barceló, lieutenant general of the Spanish Royal Armada, on a page devoted to an account of ‘moltes xalupes plenes de tropes anant i venint sota la popa de l’almirall’ [numerous small skiffs full of troops to-ing and fro-ing beneath the stem of the admiral’s ship] (Swinburne 2006: 65) (fig. 6). Unlike the French version, the book has no pretensions to collectability. Rather, its skopos is that of a small publisher working in isolation in a language that has only recently been afforded legitimacy as a vector of publication.

Figure 6

As the title suggests, the work includes only those letters that deal with Swinburne’s time in Catalonia and Valencia. Swinburne travelled to Catalonia in late October 1775, writing his first letter from Sant Celoni on 27 October; he set out for Barcelona on the 28, staying there for nearly a month before travelling south to Valencia and Alicante. His final letter from the region was written in Cartagena on 15 December. Though Catalonia had become part of a centralized Spanish state when the last of the Decretos de Nueva Planta was promulgated in 1716, Swinburne repeatedly attributes specific character traits to the Catalan people, generally in flattering terms: ‘Barcelona seems to be a busy, thriving town, and the Catalans an industrious set of men’ (10) [‘Barcelona sembla ser una ciutat activa i pròspera i els catalans un poble treballador de mena’, Swinburne 2006: 46]; Catalans are ‘a hardy, active, industrious race’ (61) [‘una raça forta, activa i industriosa’, Swinburne 2006: 83], ‘brave and indefatigable, [though] averse to the strictness of regular discipline […]  their honesty, steadiness, and sobriety, entitle them to the confidence of travellers’ (64) [‘però tot i ésser valents i incansables no s’adapten a la rigidesa de la disciplina militar [...] Llur honestedat, formalitat i sobrietat els fa guanyarse la confiança dels viatgers’, Swinburne 2006: 85]. He also notes their proud sense of regional identity: ‘They cannot brook the thoughts of being menial servants in their own country’ (64) [‘No es poden empassar la idea de fer de criats en llur propi país’, Swinburne 2006: 85].

The focus in the Catalan edition, then, is not on recovering Spain’s glorious Moorish past, but in highlighting the continuity of Catalonia’s specific regional identity over the centuries – an aspect picked up by at least one reviewer: ‘De los catalanes destaca su personalidad independiente, tan diferenciada del resto de los españoles que casi parecen extranjeros’ [He emphasizes the independent character of the Catalans, so different from the rest of the Spanish that they almost appear foreign].[22] As such, it is part of the recent Catalan publishing boom that is in turn part of a broader movement by intellectuals and regional authorities to reassert Catalan identity following decades of cultural repression under Franco.[23] In 1946, a mere twelve books were published in Catalan (Crameri 2000: 24); by 2001, 6,669 titles were released in the language (as against 48,500 in Castilian, Lottman 2002: 29), rising to 8,571 in 2010 (Conecta 2010: 11).

As a polysystem theory reading of the Catalan situation would predict (Even-Zohar 1990), translation became a significant means of cultural expression in Catalonia with Noucentisme: as Francesc Parcerisas notes (King 2005: 69), ‘la traducción al catalán ha desempeñado un papel muy importante a la hora de introducir nuevos estilos, teorias, géneros, etc. en la literatura autóctona’ [translation into Catalan has played a highly significant role in introducing new styles, theories, genres, and so on into the region’s literature]. Unusually, translation from English is in this context considered less of a threat to the language’s cultural identity than is usually the case: Catalan is atypical for a minority language in a diglossic society in being spoken primarily in the more affluent urban areas (Woolard 1985: 91), making it an ‘awkward fit’ (Buffery 2007: 2) in applying the standard power relationships between central and peripheral languages. There have to date been few concerns about the ‘deleterious’ effect of translations from the English (Branchadell 2005: 8), since clearly, the main threat to an independent Catalan cultural space has long been not English, but Castilian, which enjoyed far greater support and visibility for much of the twentieth century; 91 per cent of translations from Catalan are into Castilian (Arenas and Skrabek 2006: 91), reflecting the latter’s extreme dominance within Spanish cultural space. However, the fact that translations from Castilian into Catalan doubled in the period 1996-2006 suggests a tendency towards a rebalancing of the power relationship between the two languages and Castilian and Catalan versions of the same book are now commonly sold alongside each other (Arenas and Skrabek 2006: 90).

As Branchadell points out, most translation into Catalan violates the assumption underpinning much work in Translation Studies that translation exists to build bridges between mutually unintelligible communicative situations. Given that all Catalan speakers also speak Castilian, the decision to translate Swinburne’s narrative into Catalan rather than reprint the extant Castilian version of the same text (which, though admittedly rare, is available in the Biblioteca Nacional) is indicative of a desire on the part of the publishers to contribute to the reconstruction of Catalan’s cultural capital through translation, building on Cèsar August Jordana’s observation as early as the 1930s that

un exercici saludable per als que creuen, o pretenen fer-nos creure, que la cultura catalana és un camp clos seria de dreçar el cataleg de les bones traduccions que s’han fet al català. La llista mostraria en la novella, i encara delicada, cultural catalana un desig d’enriquir-se mirant enfora portant endins, que altres cultures plenes d’orgull podrien envejar-li. [A useful exercise for those who believe, or would have us believe, that Catalan culture is a closed field would be to draw up a catalogue of all the good translations into Catalan. The list demonstrates that the new, and as yet fragile, Catalan culture is keen to enrich itself by looking beyond itself – something other, prouder cultures can envy us] (Buffery 2007: 4).

The publishing and editorial skopoi demonstrated by the La Xara edition are fairly representative of Catalan-language publishing. Only in recent decades have Catalan publishers begun to break free from the cultural and linguistic hegemony of Castilian, due in large part to the efforts of professional bodies such as the Gremi d’Editors de Catalunya [Editors’ Guild of Catalonia], founded in 1977, and the Associació d’Editors en Llengua Catalana [Association of Catalan-Language Publishers, 1978]. Catalan-medium publishing remains to a large extent dominated by small independents – 73 per cent of 260 Catalan publishers in 2007 (Heesman 2007: 26) – whose skopos is largely overdetermined by the regional political situation: for example, the sector is supported by generous subsidies from the Generalitat de Catalunya as part of its language policy programme;[24] the Viatge was itself subsidized to the tune of 1,838.94 euros.[25] The La Xara edition triply contributes to the process of Catalan cultural emancipation: as a small independent publisher in rural Valencia, it retains its regional roots outside the centralized (Castilian) Spanish publishing circuit; by translating a work directly from English, it contributes to weakening Castilian’s cultural dominance; by translating Swinburne’s letters, it adds to the assertion of an independent Catalan identity by furnishing it with a powerful historical precedent.

4. Conclusions

The skopoi of these two editions inevitably differ considerably from that of Swinburne’s original text (and its subsequent editorial reworkings), being published over 200 years later. The translation skopos of the La Xara edition, translated into modern Catalan for a 21st-century readership, is also very different from the skopos of the original; in Vermeer and Reiß’s (1984: 45) terms it evidences Funktionsänderung. In the case of the French edition, the translation skopos reveals a further layer of complexity, as it is an abridged reprint of Laborde’s eighteenth-century version: the publishing skopos of the 2001 edition evidences Funktionsänderung vis à vis the 1787 translation, which is itself Funktionskonstant as regards the original English edition of 1779.

The present article has chosen not to focus on evidence of translation strategies within each text. However, in the light of Buzelin’s ethnographic explorations of the translation process, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that the translation strategy employed by Alfons Ginés and Enric Dolz in Catalan was in turn shaped by the editorial skopos of their edition,[26] the named translators being merely the most readily identifiable members of a ‘hybrid translating agent’ working within a publishing process that collectively and cumulatively determines the final skopos of both the immaterial text and the material book. This represents a rich potential vein of enquiry for future study, and one likely to enable Book History and Translation Studies to share their respective insights.


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[1] As indicated by the name of the leading research association in the field, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, founded in 1991 ([url=http://www.sharpweb.org]http://www.sharpweb.org[/url]).

[2] It should be noted that in cases of translation, the original work has its own skopos that may differ from that of the translated text. It would, of course, be possible to apply the notion of the publishing skopos to editorial projects not involving translation, just as it is possible to identify the skopos of a source text.

[3] Peritextual material is the author- or publisher-generated material surrounding the text proper within the bound volume (prefaces, illustrations, titles and so on); the epitext consists of material beyond the bounds of the individual volume, such as author interviews, letters, criticism and so on. See Genette (1987).

[4] See for example Munday’s (2008: 80) assertion that the advantage of skopos theory is that it ‘allows the possibility of the same text being translated in different ways according to the purpose of the TT [target text] and the commission which is given to the translator’. Simply replacing ‘translated’ by ‘published’ indicates the potential relevance of skopos theory to studies of the publishing process.

[5] According to the majority of sources: Swinburne (1841) has him born in 1752.

[6] This is likely to be the novelist Robert Smith Surtees, best known for Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities (1838); his father Anthony bought the Hamsterley estate in 1806 after Swinburne's death. Swinburne himself was the great-great-uncle of the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne.

[7] The Monthly Review wrote of the 1806 edition 'we sustain a disappointment, when, after having attended the traveller through the most celebrated cities and towns belonging to the Spanish monarchy, we discover that we have been listening to an old instead of a new relation' (Anon 1808: 203-4).

[8] This French translation was the occasion of a literary quarrel between Dominique-Vivant Denon and Jean-Claude Richard de Saint-Non. Saint-Non having described Denon as collaborator rather than co-author on the Voyage pittoresque dans les royaumes de Naples et de Sicile (Paris, 1780-86), Denon took revenge by passing his notes for the publication to Swinburne; Laborde then included them in the French translation in the form of footnotes. For further details, see Nowinski (1970), pp. 47-49.

[9] Some of his compositions can be heard at http://www.deezer.com/fr/artist/3438491 (accessed 10 June 2013). All bibliographical sources attribute the translation to Jean-Benjamin de Laborde. However, Swinburne himself noted in the second edition of the Travels in the Two Sicilies that it was the work of ‘Madame de La Borde, the amiable and accomplished wife of a fermier-general’ (Swinburne 1790: ix), while Bajot (1840: 259) records a copy of the Voyage en Espagne with the comment ‘on a mis à la main que c'est Madame Laborde qui l'a traduit’ [it contains a handwritten note to the effect that it was translated by Mme Laborde].

[10] As Guerrero (1990) notes, the number of travellers to Spain increased from the 1760s on, with a cluster of texts in the latter half of the 1770s, including Francis Carter's Journey from Gibraltar to Malaga (1777), William Dalrymple's Travels through Spain and Portugal in 1774 (1777), and Richard Twiss's Travels through Portugal and Spain , in 1772 and 1773 (1775). Swinburne wrote to his brother that the latter work had ‘damped [his] ardour’ given his own intention to ‘[make up] a pamphlet of [my journey], if it answers my expectations’, but that in the end, ‘upon the perusal of the work my colour came again, and the resolution has become doubly strong in me. It is scarcely possible to write a more shallow, pedantic, catch-penny book than that, and I think a plain, unaffected tour may go down after his bombast and trifles’ (Swinburne 1841: 70).

[11] Now in the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art.

[12] See Swinburne 1841: 118: ‘Casiri, Arabic librarian to the king, was prevailed upon to lend me the translation of all the Arabic manuscripts in the Escurial […] and all the plans that the Academy has taken at Cordova, Grenada, &c. […] (I) am sure that nobody ever had the same opportunities’.

[13] See also the comment by John Shakespear, author of a History of the Mahometan Empire in Spain (1816): ‘the generally accurate writer Swinburne […] was either misled by others, or attempted what himself was wholly unqualified to perform’ in his translations from the Arabic (Heleniak 2005: 199, note 35).

[14] For further examples, see Hilton (2002), chapter 10.

[15] He was by no means alone in this: an anonymous traveller wrote in 1783, ‘Nothing but necessity can induce a man to travel in Spain: he must be an idiot, if he make the tour of this country from mere curiosity’ (Hontanilla 2008: 123). On Spain’s negative image in the eighteenth century, see Crozier Shaw (2008) and Hilton (2002).

[16] It should be noted that Swinburne's account is itself already heavily intertextual: it incorporates in extenso an allographic Journal of the Spanish Expedition against Algiers, by an Officer Present at the Action  (Swinburne 1779: 28-43) and borrowings from, among other sources, Denis-Dominique Cardonne’s Histoire de l'Afrique (1765), named only in the second edition. Passages like ‘besides this income in specie, a great number of imposts were paid in kind’ (Swinburne 1779: 289) are suggestive of unacknowledged translation of the French ‘en espèces’ and ‘impôts’.

[17] There are also two earlier partial translations of Swinburne's text into Castilian. The first is Viaje por Cataluña en 1775, translation and lithographs by Paz Fabra (Barcelona, José Poter [Seix y Barral Hnos.], 1946). I have been unable to procure a copy of this extremely rare work, of which only 150 copies were printed (Berenguel 2012: 49). The second is Viajeros británicos por la Valencia de la Ilustración (siglo XVIII): Richard Twiss, Henry Swinburne, John Talbot Dillon, Joseph Townsend, Arthur Young (Valencia: Ajuntament de Valencia, 1996). The section on Swinburne was translated by Ana Sánchez Lorente.

[18] The strategy appears not to have been effective: Boucher de la Richarderie (1808: 396) records that ‘Il y a eu une contrefaçon de cette belle édition’ [this fine edition was counterfeited].

[19] Laborde's translation reads ‘elle offre, sans contredit, l'intérieur de palais le plus curieux que l'on puisse trouver en Espagne, et peut-être même en Europe. […] rien de ce que l'on peut rencontrer ailleurs ne pourroit donner une notion juste de cet édifice; il n'y a que les décorations d'opéra ou les contes des génies, qui puissent en donner une juste idée. […] à ma première visite je fus saisi d'étonnement, lorsqu'ayant passé le seuil de cette porte je me trouvai soudain transporté dans le pays des fées’ (Swinburne 1787a: 228-9).

[21] ‘Nous avons supprimé ici onze pages de l'édition originale correspondant à la chronique des souverains de Grenade qui se sont succédés de 1236 à 1492’ [We have omitted eleven pages of the original edition corresponding to the chronicle of the rulers of Grenada who succeeded each other from 1236 to 1492] (Swinburne 2001: 86).

[22] Galves, ‘Barcelona, nada es más agradable’, 8.

[23] See for example the introduction to the first issue of the Catalan Journal of Communication and Cultural Studies: the editors see the journal proposal's acceptance as evidence of a ‘growing stature and confidence in Catalan culture and society in the international sphere’ (2009: 5). For a convincing challenge to standard Catalan historiographical readings of the Decretos de Nueva Planta as a key moment in Catalonia's cultural subjugation, see Laitin, Solé and Kalyvas (1994).

[24] A budget of nearly two million euros was devoted to publishing in Catalan and Occitan in 2010, for example. See http://www20.gencat.cat/docs/Llengcat/Documents/InformePL/Arxius/a_cap03_10.pdf (accessed 26 February 2013)

[25] ‘Resolució de 28 de maig de 2007, de la Conselleria de Cultura, Educació i Esport’, http://www.docv.gva.es/datos/2007/06/06/pdf/2007_7334.pdf (accessed 10 June 2013).

[26] Alfons Ginés is a teacher and participant in history and historiography seminars at the Universidad Literaria de Valencia; Enric Dolz teaches Castilian language and literature in the Generalitat Valenciana education department, participates in history seminars at the Universidad de Murcia, and has published on medieval Spanish culture and literature.

About the author(s)

Dr. Susan Pickford is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the Université Paris-Sorbonne, where her research focuses on book history and the sociology of translation. She is also an experienced translator and member of the board of the Association des Traducteurs Littéraires de France.

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©inTRAlinea & Susan Pickford (2013).
"Henry Swinburne’s Travels through Spain (1779) in French and Catalan"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Translating 18th and 19th Century European Travel Writing
Edited by: Susan Pickford & Alison E. Martin
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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