Paratextual Transitions of Travel Texts

The Case of Jan Potocki’s Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte (1789) and its Polish Translation

By Joanna Dybiec-Gajer (Pedagogical University of Cracow, Poland)


Count Jan Potocki (1761-1815), now best known for his Manuscript Found in Saragossa, was an outstanding personality both in his private life and career, which ranged from academic research to literary activity. His education and privileged lifestyle as part of the cultured European elite meant that he embodied Enlightenment views; he was also an intrepid, even compulsive, traveller, who, like many other eighteenth-century gentlemen, committed his travel memoirs to paper. His first literary undertaking, Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte (Journey to Turkey and Egypt, 1789), is also his only volume of travel writing translated into Polish during his lifetime. This article charts the history of the textual transitions in the travelogue’s paratexts, which exemplify changing concepts of authorship, translation and the translator’s status within Polish and European culture, starting at the turn of the Enlightenment and Romanticism and finishing in the mid-20th century when the latest edition of the Voyage was published in 1959. Moving away from source-text oriented analyses that merely juxtapose translation and original, this article analyses how the paratexts shift across the publication and editing history of Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte and its Polish rendering. It therefore sheds light on translational phenomena related to the contextualization of the target text, how it was identified, named and described, and on concepts of authorship and translation across three centuries.

Keywords: travel writing translation, editorial strategies, paratexts, Jan Potocki

©inTRAlinea & Joanna Dybiec-Gajer (2013).
"Paratextual Transitions of Travel Texts The Case of Jan Potocki’s Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte (1789) and its Polish Translation"
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1. Introduction

Count Jan Potocki (1761-1815), now best known for his Manuscript Found in Saragossa, was an outstanding personality both in his private life and career, which ranged from academic research to literary activity. His education and privileged lifestyle as part of the cultured European elite meant that he embodied Enlightenment views; he was also an intrepid, even compulsive, traveller, who, like many other eighteenth-century gentlemen, committed his travel memoirs to paper. His first literary undertaking, Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte, published in 1789, is also his only volume of travel writing translated into Polish during his lifetime.[1] The history of the travelogue’s subsequent paratexts exemplifies changing concepts of authorship, translation and the translator’s status within Polish and European culture, starting at the turn of the Enlightenment and Romanticism and finishing in the mid-20th century when the latest edition of the Voyage was published. The analysis of translating, editing and publishing practices also provides insight into the production and reception of translated travel writing.[2]

Paratext is defined by Genette’s seminal work as textual material not included in the main body of the text, such as titles, dedications, prefaces and notes, that mediates between the reader and the text (Genette 1997: 1). Convincingly arguing for the relevance of paratextual evidence in translation studies, Tahir-Gürçağlar refers to paratexts as ‘presentational materials accompanying translated texts and the text-specific metadiscourses formed directly around them’ (Tahir-Gürçağlar 2002: 44). Translators’ forewords, including descriptive pronouncements on their work, and commentaries such as footnotes have received considerable attention as forerunners of ‘scientific’ translation theories. Moving away from source text oriented analysis and juxtaposition of the translations with the original, this article focuses on the examination of paratextual data. By analysing paratexts from subsequent editions of the Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte and its Polish rendering, the article’s aim is to shed light on translational phenomena related to the contextualization of the target text, how it was identified, named and described, and on concepts of authorship and translation.

2. Jan Potocki and his Times

No exploration of the socio-cultural context could begin without the introduction of the author’s persona. Of particular interest are aspects that directly relate to Potocki’s role as a traveller and travel writer: his journey to the East and the circumstances in which the narrative was written, as well as his linguistic background and concepts of identity. The growing interest in Potocki’s oeuvre over the last few years is reflected in publications ranging from historical investigations (Szczepaniec) to literary criticism (Ryba, Otorowski), translations (Maclean) and scholarly editions of Potocki’s works (Kukulski, Beauvois, Rosset and Triaire).[3] Potocki’s personality has likewise attracted attention, the most recent biographies including volumes by Rosset and Triaire (French edition 2004, Polish translation 2006) and Aleksandra Kroh (French edition 2004, Polish translation 2007).[4] The majority of research focuses on The Manuscript Found in Saragossa – an ironic state of affairs given that he considered this text to be peripheral to the scholarly work to which he devoted years of effort.

Born in 1761 in south-eastern Poland, then the second largest European state after Russia, Jan Potocki grew up in an aristocratic family of great wealth and connections. His father amassed a large fortune to become one of Europe’s wealthiest men. Jan, however, often struggled financially as a result of his profligacy (Rosset and Triaire 2006: 39). Potocki’s travels began in early childhood. At the age of five, together with his brother, Seweryn, he was sent to Yverdon, Switzerland, for some four years to receive what aristocratic circles considered the most efficient, appropriate and fashionable education. The brothers’ studies continued in Geneva and Lausanne from 1774 to 1778, where they were exposed to French culture. Nor does his home life seem to have instilled an appreciation for the Polish language in the young Potocki. His mother, Anna Teresa, née Ossolińska, was ‘unwilling – or unable – to speak Polish’ (Kroh 2007: 12). Potocki’s linguistic background was thus dominated by French, the language in which he wrote. However, he had a reputation as an erudite polyglot. The poet Stanisław Trembecki, Potocki’s contemporary, quipped that he could have worked as an interpreter to the bricklayers of the Tower of Babel (Żółtowska 1984-85: 36). He knew Latin, Greek and Hebrew, could read German, having lived in Germany for a few years, and could make himself understood in Turkish. His ability to speak, read, and write Polish, however, was poor. Yet this did not prevent him from becoming a public figure of some importance. During a period of lively patriotic, political, and, above all, journalistic activity (1788-90), he was elected delegate for the Poznań region (1789) and participated as deputy in the sessions of the Great Sejm[5] (also known as the Four-Year Sejm). Potocki did not know Polish well enough to make speeches, and asked his acquaintance Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz to speak on significant matters on his behalf.[6] However, it was not particularly unusual to hold prestigious posts without knowing Polish, in a multilingual country where aristocratic circles spoke and corresponded in French.

Multilingual societies inevitably raise issues of translation, and it has been argued that the Enlightenment in Poland may in fact herald the beginning of modern Polish translation (Perek 2009: 24). The reasons for this are twofold: the number of translations rose rapidly as literary production increased overall, and translators began writing metatextual commentaries on the nature of translation in various forms, from prefaces to theoretical treatises. French played an important role on Poland’s intellectual and translational scene, with translations from the French outnumbering literary renderings from other languages by far, followed by Latin, German, English, Italian and Greek (Dmitruk 2005: 37). French also served as a cultural mediator, introducing masterpieces from other literatures such as the Arabian Nights and Don Quixote to Polish readers. Between 1761 and 1800, the number of translated novels increased sevenfold as compared to the period 1700-1760, reaching a total of 280 (Łossowska 2002: 17). An interesting thematic shift is also apparent. Whereas acknowledged literary masterpieces were translated during the first decades of the eighteenth century, sentimental novels, philosophical tales and erotic stories became popular during the last two to three decades, reflecting a broader base to the readership. Potocki’s Voyage counted among the ‘less serious’ genres for which literary tastes had been awoken.

3. The Journey and its Literary Reworking

Naturally, Potocki ‘invented neither the idea of travelling to the East nor writing an account thereof’ (Chymkowski 2008: 57), joining such notable predecessors as the Polish aristocrat Mikołaj ‘Sierotka’ Radziwiłł (1549-1616) and the French diplomat Laurent d’Arvieux (1635-1702). He was thus following a long-established tradition when he set off for the East and Constantinople in April 1784. He was already a seasoned traveller, having been to Italy and Sicily, Tunis, Malta, Paris, and Vienna, not to mention research trips to Hungary and Serbia. He spent six weeks in Constantinople and then headed for Egypt, returning to Poland in 1785 via Venice and Velletri, where, having developed a fascination for Egyptian history, he wished to inspect Stefano Borgia’s famous collection of antiquities, in particular his Coptic manuscripts. His impressions of the journey were recorded in letters addressed to his mother, later reshaped as a larger travel narrative. First published in Paris as Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte, fait en l’année 1784, three years after Potocki’s return, the travelogue consists of 20 letters and five parables. It has a symmetrical structure: ten letters give an account of the journey to Turkey, while the other ten focus on the journey to Egypt. As Ryba argues, miniaturization – an important component of Rococo aesthetics – is one of the characteristic features of Potocki’s literary output (2004: 40) and is visible in the travelogue. The letters are generally quite brief; some are subdivided into daily notes. For instance, Letter 12 is two pages long and consists of three such notes dated 18, 19 and 20 July. The letters, in turn, provide a framework for five short parables recreating the style of Oriental literature.

4. The First Editions and Contexts

The first publications of the Voyage coincided with Potocki’s spell of political involvement in the groundbreaking activity of the Great Sejm (1788-92) and the ensuing hopes, prospects and patriotic feelings that it nurtured. This was also the most fertile period of Potocki’s creativity. The second French-language edition, extended to include an account of the journey to Holland undertaken in 1787, was published in Warsaw by Drukarnia Wolna (the Free Press), Potocki’s latest venture. In founding the printing house, Potocki had adopted the role in which he felt most comfortable, that of ‘organizer of public opinion’ (Szczepaniec 1998: 16). The publishing house was called ‘free’ or ‘independent’ both because it was set up without the royal privilege and because it reflected Potocki’s concept of publishing, unrestrained by pressure from the authorities. Interestingly, Drukarnia Wolna’s publications bore no mention of the owner’s or director’s names. Warsaw was specified as the publication place, but details of the address were omitted. These strategies, not uncommon among printing houses at the time, were aimed at ensuring Potocki’s anonymity (useful in the light of his aristocratic connections) and at enabling him to use the printing house as an independent platform for presenting various political views (Szczepaniec 1998: 29).

It is telling that the first publication to roll off Potocki’s printing press was the second edition of Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte, in January 1789. Whether it was a deliberate programmatic statement or a natural move to publish a text authored by the owner of the publishing house, it shows that the text must have been close to Potocki’s heart. Like its Parisian predecessor, the Warsaw edition did not disclose the author’s identity, so it could not bring Potocki the recognition he sought. It was this second edition that prompted Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz to render the text into Polish (Szczepaniec 1998: 73).

5. The Translator and his Work

Three years Potocki’s senior, born in 1758[7] in Podlasie (now Belarus), Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz was a parliamentarian, man of letters, scholar, and avid commentator on politics and current affairs. As Potocki’s biographers note, the two writers ‘shared a certain spiritual affinity’ (Rosset and Triaire 2006: 124). Living in times of historic development for Poland, such as the Four-Year Sejm, the Kościuszko Insurrection, and the Napoleonic wars, they also shared some biographical affinities. When Potocki was travelling in the Orient in 1784, Niemcewicz was on a Grand Tour of Europe as aide-de-camp to Count Adam Czartoryski; travelling soon became an important part of his life. Like Potocki, he was also a travel writer. He had been writing memoirs since his earliest expeditions as a young man, documenting each of his journeys separately. His recollections of his time in America, Podróże po Ameryce 1797-1807, were translated into English and published in 1965 as Under Their Vine and Fig Tree: Travels Through America in 1797–1799, 1805, with Some Further Account of Life in New Jersey.

Like Potocki, Niemcewicz was a deputy of the Great Sejm: in fact, he was the most active participant, taking the floor 144 times between 1788 and 1791 (Kieniewicz and Witkowski 1977: 772). Interestingly, he also engaged in publishing activity as an editor. While the Constitution of 3 May was being prepared, he published the political newspaper Gazeta Narodowa i Obca (National and Foreign Gazette, launched in 1791), which became very popular and secured him considerable profits. January 1791 also saw the premiere of his Powrót Posła (Deputy’s Return), Poland’s first political comedy. Potocki and Niemcewicz were sharply distinguished by their attitude toward their native country, however. While Potocki’s engagement with patriotism was relatively brief, Niemcewicz demonstrated sustained patriotism and lived a life of public engagement, driven by concern for social and government reform.

Niemcewicz enjoyed a reputation as a good translator. He began by rendering French romances into Polish and, as one the first Polish writers to have a thorough knowledge of English literature, also translated works by Dryden, Milton, Johnson, Pope, and Swift. Many of his translations, for instance Johnson’s The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia and Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, were completed during his two-year imprisonment in St. Petersburg (1794-1796), following the defeat of the Kościuszko Insurrection in which he had actively participated. During his later years he also started to translate Horace and other Latin poets.

When he took up the job of translating the Voyage, he had yet to pen the literary works that were to make him famous. However, he was already a writer, having composed elegies and ballads (dumy) indebted to the Ossianic model. The translation of the Voyage was completed quite quickly, appearing in August 1789 with the title Podróż do Turek y Egyptu z przydanym dziennikiem podróży do Holandyi podczas rewolucyi 1787 z francuzkiego przełożona. This edition gives neither the author’s nor the translator’s name on the title pages. At this time, maintaining the anonymity of writers and translators was not an uncommon publishing strategy. Roughly 30 per cent of translations of novels in the years between 1761 and 1800 were anonymous, while pen names and code names were also used (Perek 2009: 25-6). Interestingly, however, the translator did give the author’s name, whether of his own accord or at Potocki’s suggestion, in a footnote appended to the foreword.

Although the translator remains anonymous, he has a marked presence in the edition. The fact that it is a translation from French is mentioned on the title page, repeated before the first letter, and problematized in the foreword, which provided space for the translator to present his commentary and manifesto. Although unsigned, the foreword’s formulations clearly point to the translator as its author. Written in an elegant style, it begins with an appreciative review of the travelogue: ‘The Voyage to Turkey and Egypt, [...] due to the novelty of its reflections, its grace of style and its pleasant stories has attracted attention everywhere’.[8] Aimed at flattering the author and attracting the reader, this praise also justifies the very act of translation.

Although brief, the preface also directly raises the question of national literature and identity. The translator notes, ‘by translating [the travelogue] into our native tongue I wished to return to our literature the property which belongs to it, because the original was composed by a Pole’.[9] Here, he presents a concept of a national literature unrelated to the language in which it has been created but dependent on the identity of the author, here declared by the translator. In the preface, Potocki is ascribed a Polish identity without any hesitation and it is difficult to imagine that the translator could have done so without authorial consent. Potocki’s excellent biographers argue that ‘it is worth repeating […] that he did not belong to a nation but to a certain social order’ (Rosset and Triaire 2006: 226). Yet at this point, during the Great Sejm, Potocki’s feelings for things Polish were indeed at their height. In an address to the king dated May 13, 1788, he declared ‘when service to the Motherland demands an offer of all my fortune, health and life, I will sacrifice them readily to show that I am a good Pole’ (Kukulski 1959: 9). In the same year, with his typical penchant for theatricality, he symbolically discarded his French attire and began dressing in traditional Sarmatian costume. The leaning toward Polishness is likewise reflected in the activity of Drukarnia Wolna. The majority of its publications, out of a total of 266 items, were published in Polish. Moreover, Potocki made a point of printing on Polish paper. Works printed during the first year of Drukarnia’s activity (October 1788 to October 1789) bore the formula ‘on domestic paper’ on the title pages or in the colophon (Szczepaniec 1998: 35). No other printing houses advertised their paper in this way.

The translator’s understanding of his own work, as presented in the foreword, is expressed in a metaphor: ‘The work loses considerably in translation; it is a copperplate engraving of a beautiful picture. The object is present but the grace of colours is difficult to express’.[10] The metaphor depicts the source text as a high-quality work of art; translation is a mere reproduction which, by its very nature, cannot equal the original. Comparing the translation to a copperplate engraving, the translator perceives his role as that of a skilled craftsman who is able to produce an attractive artefact but who cannot rival the artistic qualities of the original. In this way, he pays tribute to the author as artist. The translator’s success is measured by the fact that the sense of the source text has been preserved.

The painterly metaphor presenting the travelogue as a beautiful picture seems to echo Potocki’s phrasing in the travelogue. Moved by the Pyramids to ponder their greatness and indifference to the passage of time, he seems to call himself to order: ‘I know, however, that a traveller’s pen, as faithful in its descriptions as a pencil sketching views, should not venture beyond what it sees; so I hasten to return to an appropriate manner of description’ (1959: 76).[11] He foregrounds here faithfulness as a quality that a travelogue ought to possess. Last but not least, the translational activity mentioned in the foreword is depicted as a pleasurable experience. Unlike other translators who stressed the burden of their work and the ingratitude of their readers,[12] Niemcewicz writes: ‘I shall be amply rewarded for my work if the reader finds as much enjoyment in its reading as I found in its translation’.[13]

6. Posthumous Editions

Two subsequent editions of the travelogue were published after Potocki’s death, in 1849 and 1924, both in Kraków. Rewording the title to Jana hr. Potockiego Podróż do Turcyi y Egiptu (Count Jan Potocki’s Voyage to Turkey and Egypt), the new editions place the authorial presence centre stage: both include a biographical note about the author and a bibliography of his works. However, the translatorial presence, anonymous yet clearly marked in the first published translation of 1789, disappears entirely. The omission of the translator’s name is particularly striking in the case of the 1924 edition, which twice notes Potocki’s French background in the editor’s foreword: the Voyage was ‘originally published in French, like everything, or almost everything, that Count Jan Potocki wrote […] little is known about Potocki, doubtless because he published his works almost exclusively in French and in small print runs’ (Smolik 1924: 5-6). It remains an open question whether these changes in presentation tie in with broader tendencies in translation and publishing practice or whether, by providing the travelogue with a more scholarly framework and stressing the importance of the author and his scientific achievements, they are in line with the contemporary development of ‘ruch starożytniczy’ (the antiquity movement).[14]

The 1849 publication was edited by Żegota Pauli, librarian and secretary to Adam Potocki, the author’s grandson. Here, another persona becomes clearly visible: the editor’s benefactor. The dedication lists his positions and affiliations (e.g. ‘member of the Kraków Scientific Association connected with the Jagiellonian University’) as well as characteristics (‘lover of sciences’). This, along with the biographical note about the author and his list of publications, places the edition within a more academic framework. Given the family link and the work’s literary qualities, the foreword warmly reviews the travelogue and Jan Potocki’s life. The editor stresses the significance of the author’s writing since ‘the body of our original travel writers so far remains small’ and focuses on the travelogue’s literary qualities, using again a painterly metaphor: ‘[The voyage], its colours still fresh today, paints the impressions of a highly cultivated man and, as if by magic, transfers the readers to the Orient, which presents itself in a charming light as a great panorama, with all its [Eastern] curiosities, which make it so different from Europe’ (Potocki 1849: n. p.)[15]. Thus, by means of the paratext, the same text that was referred to as a copperplate engraving has now acquired the richness of colours, as if by magic. The translator’s text is thus considered transparent: the translator’s ‘filter’ is absent and the translation is perceived as the original. The foreword ends by mentioning plans for future publications: ‘If this work enjoys a satisfactory reception, then we will make our Polish readers familiar with other, no less exciting, voyages of this famous man’ (Potocki 1849: n. p.).[16]

The ‘other voyages’ in fact had to wait over a century for their publication in Polish.[17] A collection of Potocki’s five travelogues appeared in 1959 with the title Podróże in an annotated volume including a biography of the author and a full critical apparatus. The editors’ introduction states that the text and the endnotes were proofread by a team of scholars specializing in Oriental Studies. These editorial practices illustrate the fact that the travelogues had reached the stage of anthologization. The introduction presents the author’s life in a scholarly yet approachable style and discusses the travelogues briefly. No explicit mention is made of the publication’s purpose or intended readership, yet this can be gleaned from the profile of the publisher and is reflected in the book’s paratextual framework. The publishing house Czytelnik (Reader), founded in 1944 as a publishing cooperative, had as its objective ‘not immediate profit [...] but vital concern with raising the level of Polish culture’.[18] Today, Czytelnik continues its agenda, which is, according to its statement, the publication of works of a literary and, in general, humanist nature.[19] It is not surprising, then, that the editor of Podróże uses the word ‘humanist’ while sketching a favourable image of the author as traveller, noting, ‘A distinctive feature of Potocki as observer is his deeply humanist approach, characterized by a lack of any bias towards the people or customs of the countries he visits, and free from the aloofness and contempt characteristic of “the white man”’ (Kukulski 1959: 16). He then stresses the quality and ‘philosophical undertones’ of Potocki’s writing, which made his travelogues literary pieces of enduring appeal. Such statements presenting Potocki’s grandeur and his literary qualities hint at the publication’s broad educational agenda of making Potocki’s achievements available to the reading public.

The anthology offered the first Polish translations of the three travelogues Voyage to Morocco, Voyage to Lower Saxony, and Voyage Across the Steppes of Astrakhan and to the Caucasus by Joanna Olkiewicz and Leszek Kukulski.[20] While Olkiewicz is a little-known contemporary author of popular science books and translator from English and French, Kukulski (1930-1982) earned a reputation as a prolific editor, mainly of Polish Baroque poets including Kochowski, Wacław Potocki, and Morsztyn. Most importantly, he edited Jan Potocki’s texts. Prior to the publication of the Podróże, he may have already prepared the Polish text of Manuscript Found in Saragossa. Working with Chojecki’s 1847 translation, he added a paratextual framework of annotations and foreword.[21] Later, he also edited Potocki’s Recueil des Parades (Parady) (1966). He also engaged in translation from Latin and French.

The Voyage to Turkey and Egypt was reprinted, as the edition specifies, ‘according to Julian Niemcewicz’s translation’ (emphasis added). Although the translator’s name is mentioned for the first time in the travelogue’s history, his presence is far from marked. All information relating to the translation, including Niemcewicz’s foreword to the first Polish-language edition, is moved to the end of the volume. Comparing the 1789 edition with Niemcewicz’s rendering, the editors laconically note that ‘it was necessary to introduce considerable corrections, both in terms of content, to remove unfaithfulness towards the original and in terms of style, to rectify complexities and ambiguity’ (Potocki 1959: 452). However, no examples of ‘rectified’ passages are given. This rather critical evaluation of the translator’s efforts and the direct formulation of the editors’ corrective strategy therefore lead to the question of Niemcewicz’s rendition.

7. The Voyage in Translation

Following his manifesto of keeping ‘the object’ in translation, Niemcewicz appears to be a skilful and faithful translator. However, at points, the form-oriented strategy of faithfulness affects the rendering of style, or ‘grace of colours’ to return to the translator’s metaphorical description. Niemcewicz sometimes follows the French rather than the Polish syntax or uses borrowings.[22]

Niemcewicz: Żeby Ci dać poznać zabawy ludu tureckiego, nie zostaje mi mówić, jak tylko o kafenhauzach (22) (instead of: zostaje mi mówić jeszcze o kafenhauzach)
Potocki: Il ne me reste plus, pour vous faire connaître les amusements du peuple turc, qu’à vous parler des cafés. (60)
N: Wystawiaj sobie, exageruj [...] (13) (instead of: przesadzaj)
P: Imaginez, exagérez (55)

Literal translation sometimes results in ambiguity in the Polish text, as in:

N: społeczeństwo tych bezżennych flibustierów wystawiało ciekawe, a może i jedyne w porządku cywilnym towarzystwo (2) (‘the society of these unmarried freebooters demonstrated an interesting and perhaps only community in the civil order’)
P: mais l’association de ces flibustiers célibataires offrait un phénomène singulier et peut-être unique dans l’ordre civil. (47)

We can also find ambiguities that are not caused by literal translation, such as:

N: szukaj w opisujących to miejsce: nigdy dostatecznie piękności jego nie pojmiesz. (13) (‘look in those describing a place: [yet] you will never fully understand its [the place’s] beauty’)
P: recourez aux voyageurs, vous resterez toujours au-dessous de la vérité. (55)

The comparison of the unclear adjective phrase with its corresponding source text unit reveals a much clearer reference to travellers.

Yet examples such as those given above are scarce and do not seem to have a great impact on the reading of the travelogue today. Likewise, earlier readers, including editors, were not hindered in understanding the Polish text, as can be gathered from the prefaces to the 1849 and 1924 editions. Neither of the prefaces comments on the peculiarity of style or the translator’s unfaithfulness, while editorial efforts involve only occasional changes of date or spelling of a place name. In a most thorough and detailed review from 1931, Władysław Kotowicz only corrects the translator in one place.[23] Kukulski and Olkiewicz’s criticism thus calls for a more careful, detailed study of their changes to the text.

A comparison of the previous Polish editions of Podróże with that prepared by Kukulski and Olkiewicz reveals that indeed some complexities and ambiguities were removed in the latter. Yet this results first and foremost from an editorial strategy modernizing the text of the travelogue. Archaic vocabulary and grammar structures are replaced by contemporary usage, e.g. the conjunction ‘lubo’ becomes ‘choć’ (although), the old-fashioned term for bubonic plague ‘powietrze’ (literally ‘air’) becomes ‘zaraza’ (plague) and the –ów form of the genitive pluralis is modernized throughout the text:

N: wsiów porządnych dotąd nie składają (1)
K&O: wsi porządnych wciąż jeszcze nie tworzą (21)

The ambiguous passages are also clarified. ‘[J]edyne w porządku cywilnym zjawisko’ is rewritten as ‘jedyne w swoim rodzaju zjawisko’ (‘the only phenomenon of its kind’) and ‘szukaj w opisujących to miejsce’ becomes ‘czytaj opisy w książkach’ (‘read descriptions in books’). Interestingly, in both cases rewriting involves providing generalizing interpretations of the source texts.

While the two examples demonstrate what could be termed acceptable and perhaps justified changes, examples to the contrary can be found as well, where the editors correct what they assume to be a mistake by the translator.

N: Nie raz widziałem sklep budowany w około wielkiego klonu, który wychodził przez dach i cały liściami go swemi zakrywał (76-77) [more than once did I see a shop built around a grand maple tree, which went out through the roof and covered it entirely with its leaves]
K&O: Nieraz widziałem sklepienie zbudowane wokoło wielkiego platanu, który wychodzi przez dach i cały liśćmi go swymi zakrywa (55) [more than once did I see a vault built around a grand plane tree, which goes out through the roof and covers it entirely]
P: Souvent, j’ai vu des boutiques bâties autour d’un grand platane qui sortait par le toit et le couvrait de son feuillage (72)

Here, some of the previously mentioned issues can likewise be observed, such as modernization (swemi-> swymi, liściami-> liśćmi). The editors correct Niemcewicz’s maple tree into a plane tree, yet distort what seems the key element of the created image, turning a shop into a vault. The phonetic similarity of the Polish ‘sklep’ and ‘sklepienie’ as well as the presence of the borrowing ‘butik’ (‘boutique’) which makes it difficult to mistranslate the French word might suggest that in the case of this sentence the editors relied on a monolingual reading of the text, without consulting the French original.

Finally, let us analyze what may be categorized as content changes made by the editors, related not to the faithfulness of translation but rather to the editorial strategy. Firstly, the editors sometimes apply techniques that are usually part of the translator’s tools, for instance addition. While Potocki marks his first letter simply ‘à Bukaway’ which Niemcewicz rendered ‘z Bukaway’, the latest edition specifies ‘z osady Bukowaja’ (from the settlement of Bukowaja). The same technique is used in the second letter. Secondly, the editors seem to correct factual inaccuracies in the travelogue. Potocki begins his account by writing that he left the Polish borders ‘à Mirgorod’ which becomes ‘w Mirgrodzie’ (in Mirgorod) in Niemcewicz’s translation. The editors change the pronoun ‘w’ (in) into ‘around’, thus preventing a reading which would suggest that the town lay in Poland, whereas it was part of Russian territory. Such editorial corrections are hardly attributable to the translator’s oversight, however.

The changes introduced by the editors in the majority of cases make the text more accessible to contemporary readers by modernizing the language and removing some of the ambiguities; some of them, applying generalization, involve simplification of the travelogue. However, most of what the editors considered as ambiguities seem to be source-text related. In other words, some authorial formulations in French are unclear. It is possible to understand the sense of such utterances, but they require more interpretive effort on the readers’ part than the streamlined translation. Finally, both types of changes, but especially modernization, remove many characteristics to be found in an eighteenth-century text such as word order, vocabulary and inflectional endings which could be perceived as contributing to the charm and appeal of the text. While these changes could be criticized or accepted as part of an overall editorial strategy and publication design, attributing all of them to the apparent faults of translation seems to be a serious breach of editorial ethics. 

The most striking aspect related to the travelogue’s reception results from the unequal development of French and Polish. Niemcewicz’s rendition, contemporary to the author’s text, reflects the idiom of late eighteenth-century Polish. As illustrated by the first posthumous edition, published some 60 years after the first, some modernization of the Polish text was already felt to be necessary. This mostly involved changes at the level of graphic representation (fonts), spelling and capitalization. The 1924 publication reprinted this text, sustaining the changes. The second stage of text modernization was carried out by Kukulski and Olkiewicz. Yet comparing the French travelogue (the Beauvois edition added minor modernizations[24]) with the latest Polish edition (incorporating two stages of modernization on a much greater scale than the French text), it is apparent that the former is much closer to present-day French, while the Polish version, despite updating, is perceived as archaic.[25] The archaic quality results mainly from the syntax of the translation, which is considerably different from contemporary usage, and from vocabulary that is rare or obsolete in modern Polish or used in different collocations. For instance, the French ‘café’ used by Potocki is rendered as ‘kafenhauz’ (now kawiarnia)[26]  and ‘Constantinople’ as ‘Carogród’.

Although critical of the travelogue as such, calling it ‘not the best travel piece by Potocki’, Kotowicz admits that it is ‘vividly written’ (Kotowicz 1931: 1). Potocki’s elegance of style and clarity of expression seem to be more directly accessible in the French text. The Polish version of the travelogue is much more influenced by the time factor, with the archaic quality resulting not from the translator’s strategy but from the changes that have since taken place in the Polish language.

8. Mediating the Travelogue: The Endnotes to the 1959 Edition

The 1959 anthology by Kukulski is the first Polish-language edition of the Voyage to offer an extensive critical apparatus, including not only a foreword, but also a postscript and endnotes, 120 in total. An analysis of these grants insight into how the travelogue is mediated to its readers 170 years after the publication of the original. Numerous categorizations of paratextual material are available, including such criteria as authorship (author, translator, editor, publisher); location (epitexts, peritexts) as outlined in Genette (1997); function and status (modest, informative, illustrative) (Kovala 1996: 119-47); contents; and degree of autonomy from the main text.[27] In this instance, the edition’s endnotes come from the editors. In terms of content, following the editorial conventions of an anthology, they aim at reducing the distance between the text and the readers while making assumptions about the readers’ knowledge of the world. The first content-related category can be called encyclopaedic, involving explaining toponyms (e.g. ‘Carogród – Slavonic name of Constantinople (Istanbul)’ [453]), names of historical and mythological characters, historical events, units of measurements, and the like, and providing information about customs and life in foreign locations, frequently explaining culture-specific terms occurring in the main narrative. Examples include ‘efendi (Turkish) – title attached to names of high ranking officials and scholars’ (454), ‘perform circumcision – among the Mohameddans circumcision is usually performed at the age of thirteen’ (454), ‘abdest (Persian) – ritual Mohameddan washing, performed before each of the five daily prayers’ (455), ‘Mevlevi – ‘Whirling Dervishes’, a Mohameddan order established in the 13th century by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi’ (457), ‘dervish (from Persian) – monk’ (457).

The aim of such encyclopaedic endnotes is to provide information believed to be necessary for ‘interpretative cooperation on the part of the reader’ (Soliński 2009: 266). The subcategory of cultural items illustrates the transient character of paratexts. Some footnotes that were felt to be necessary for a reader in the 1960s in Poland would probably not appear now or would have different content. The example of sorbet, explained as ‘(Arabic) – cold drink, a kind of lemonade’ (457)’ illustrates the process of language development. It is a borrowing whose meaning has since become stabilized in Polish, not in the sense of a drink but frozen dessert. Identity discourse marks its presence in the noun ‘mahometanizm’ (Mohammedanism) and its inflected forms. Although listed in numerous Polish dictionaries as synonymous with ‘islam’, it is gradually becoming archaic. Further, it tends to be considered a misnomer when used to mean the followers of Muhammad’s religion since he was merely a prophet.

The paratextual explanation of culturemes serves the metatextual function of domesticating a travelogue originally exoticized by linguistic borrowings. Interestingly, a domesticating strategy is not uncommon within the explanations themselves. Endnotes that generalize a hadji to a pilgrim (455) or define a mihrab as an altar or chapel (458) assimilate them into a non-Muslim culture, thereby omitting the religious contextualization of the items in question.

Another two categories of endnotes are intertextual, referring to other authors and their texts or providing bibliographical information, and linguistic, explaining archaic or foreign words other than those borrowed from the languages of the countries visited, as in the following examples: ‘poem ‘Ogrody’ – this refers to Les Jardins (1780) by the French poet Jacques Delille (1738-1813); the quoted excerpt (IV, 510) reads in the original as follows: Leur masse indestructible a fatigué le temps’ (461); ‘rufianka (Italian)bawd, procuress’ (455).

Although the latter is the sole instance that falls into the linguistic category, it is indicative of the editors’ translation and editing strategies. The word is not found in contemporary dictionaries of Polish and does indeed require explanation nowadays. However, it must have been familiar to the nineteenth-century reading public which Niemcewicz’s translation addressed. Samuel B. Linde’s Słownik języka polskiego, a seminal work in the history of Polish lexicography, includes ‘rufianka’ as a separate entry and also as a synonym for ‘kuplerka’ (from the German ‘die Küpplerin’, procuress) (Linde 1859: 164). Interestingly, while ‘correcting’ Niemcewicz’s translation, the editors decided to follow his wording and add a note rather than modernize the word in the main narrative.

The categories discussed so far allow a reading without consulting the main text, with the exception of intertextual endnotes. The notes in the last category – textological and editorial – are not autonomous. They provide information about the manuscript’s editorial history, documenting authorial changes and omissions carried out in preparing the manuscript for publication for the first time. This category, consisting of 20 endnotes, all pertaining to the part on Turkey and Egypt, is particularly intriguing as it sheds light on the author-text relation. The omissions and rewording provide insight into Potocki’s work with the text, his changing sensitivities, a kind of self-imposed censorship and, importantly, his understanding of the genre. The authorial interventions can be grouped into three categories: genre-oriented, morally, and politically motivated changes.

Genre-oriented changes improve the text so as to achieve a ‘successful’ travelogue in the author’s understanding of the genre. These range from purely stylistic changes, enhancing the text’s flow and argumentation (deleting digressions, introducing more pointed formulations) to more content-oriented changes (deleting or replacing details such as names or historical references with generalizations). A good example of the former would be the omission, in letter nine, written from Constantinople, of a digression describing the flight of a hot-air balloon and the ensuing commotion, focusing the letter on dervishes and their practices. An interesting example of the latter would be the difference between the manuscript version of the account, which has ‘This morning we left Kherson on a boat, which vice-admiral Suchatin was kind enough to arm. Chamberlain and Urzędowski accompanied me to the port...’ (452) and the published version, which reads rather differently as ‘This morning we set off to sea. Our friends accompanied us to the port...’ (letter two, 23).

Such generalizations might have been motivated by the author’s wish not to disclose particular information; it also seems likely that he did not want to overburden the reader with details and aimed at achieving a timeless and philosophical character in his travel impressions. A passage written in Cairo addressed to his mother, but deleted for publication, reads: ‘Here I could include a historical overview of the Mamelukes’ rule, which continues in Egypt despite the beys’ apparent dependence on the Porte; however, I think it would not be amusing and I would like to avoid such pedantry at all cost’ (461). This programmatic statement clearly demonstrates the importance of entertaining the reader. Therefore, very much in line with the concept of the travelogue as light and enjoyable reading matter for an aristocratic readership, passages relating to unpleasant or unsettling events are omitted, such as the unsuccessful mutiny started by Italian settlers onboard a ship upon finding out about their predecessors’ sad fate in the town of Kherson. The following sentence is not included in the publication: ‘The last thing I see is the famous Castle of Seven Towers where so many of our brave knights breathed their last in captivity’ (458).

Another group includes morally-oriented interventions which make the text and the author appear nobler and more moral. In letter five, discussing the sensual dances performed at a circumcision ceremony by young boys dressed up as girls, the following sentence is omitted: ‘After trembling, which signified the culmination of their ecstasy, there came a moment of sweet fatigue or pain which wrung tears from [the young boys’] eyes and sometimes threw them into a kind of fury’ (454). Likewise, references to the author’s conspicuous wealth, particularly eye-catching in poverty-stricken Cairo, were deleted, such as: ‘I’m witnessing [the unpleasantness of life in a famine-stricken city] from the house where I live, which belongs to the wealthiest merchant in Cairo’ (460).

Finally, the last group consists of politically-motivated changes, which are aimed at avoiding anti-Russian comment. Only one instance of such a correction is documented in the endnotes. The omission involves a passage relating the fate of a Tartar prince cruelly treated by treacherous Russians, in which the author notes, ‘As victors, the Russians frequently act [unfairly] towards the defeated, therefore no other nation of victors has ever been so detested’ (453). It seems plausible, however, that this change might have been motivated by the author’s agenda of avoiding distressing topics.

Commenting on Potocki’s alterations, Chymkowski argues that the author ‘removes such passages which go beyond giving a scientific or scholarly account’ (2008: 62). While his assessment of Potocki’s ‘scepticism of literariness as a means of expressing cognitive experience’ is justified, describing his style of travel writing in the Voyage as scientific discourse seems to be a far-fetched generalization of what appears to be an attempt to achieve some measure of objectivity which, as quoted earlier, he himself terms faithfulness of description (2008: 61).

The textological and editorial endnotes which add selected fragments from the French manuscript, changed or omitted by the author himself in the first edition of the Voyage en Turquie, hint at the author’s conception of his travelogue. It is conceived as a literary reworking of the author’s travel experiences, moods, and reflections, to provide distraction and amusement for an aristocratic audience. For this reason, little or no attention is given to historical facts and dates or to tourist attractions. Not one historical monument is described in the letters from Constantinople, save for a brief mention of Hagia Sophia. This sort of historical and factual detail was frequently removed by the author’s revisions. Furthermore, references to unpleasant or unsettling topics are avoided. Another feature of the travelogue, which becomes more evident in the corrections, is very much in line with the author’s preference for miniaturization: all the changes documented by Kukulski involve shortening the original text to avoid prolixity.

9. Conclusions

In popular, and even academic, writing, Jan Potocki tends to be viewed from the perspective of his eccentricity, penchant for masquerade, and theatricality, encompassing even the careful staging of his own death (Maclean 1995, Chymkowski 2008, Ryba 2009). The author’s travel writing, especially the Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte, remains overshadowed by the popularity of and interest evoked by The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. The Voyage, Potocki’s first attempt at literary activity, written originally in French, self-published and rendered into Polish almost immediately by the author’s contemporary Jan Ursyn Niemcewicz, a future literary celebrity in his own right, appears particularly interesting from a translation studies perspective, especially since its appearance coincides with a significant historical moment termed as the birth of modern Polish translation. 

The Voyage can be treated as an example of a multitext since it exists in a number of both manuscript and published versions. The paratextual transformations in subsequent published Polish-language editions illustrate the changes in the understanding of the travelogue’s function and reception, in publishing and editorial strategies and in the concept of the translator’s status. They also show the significance of editors in shaping the text, mediating it to the public and influencing the reputation of the translator. The first edition in Polish (1789) framed the travelogue as light, enjoyable reading, focusing on a fashionable Oriental theme and intended as an enrichment of Polish literature. The authorship was attributed to Potocki solely in the anonymous translator’s footnote. Importantly, the edition clearly identified the text as a translation, incorporating the phrase ‘translated from the French’ into the title.

As the time span between the text’s original publication and its subsequent editions increased, the contextualization of the target text extended. By expanding the paratextual material, in particular by providing biographical and bibliographical information about Potocki, the later editions gradually foreground the presence of the author and place the travelogue in a more academic context. Despite the translator’s renown, his name only appeared in print for the first time 170 years after the first Polish-language edition. Ironically, in the latest edition (1959), he once again fails to receive due credit for his work. With his foreword relegated to the endnotes, his voice is hardly audible. Further, Niemcewicz’s translation seems to receive unfair criticism for shortcomings the majority of which, if indeed they can be classified as such, are not the translator’s responsibility. The editorial strategy reflected in the latest edition aims mainly at domestication by modernizing the language of the main narrative and bridging the assumed cognitive gap between the author and his readers, as illustrated by numerous endnotes of encyclopaedic nature. It seems that the editors’ greatest contribution to the reception and understanding of the travelogue lies in the genre-oriented endnote material, which documents the authorial changes to the text. On the other hand, the most controversial aspect of the editorial strategy involves obscuring the nature of the editors’ work and thus not giving due credit to the contribution of earlier editors and the translator. The subsequent editions of the Podróże, by incorporating more paratextual material, accumulated more metadiscourse which moved the translator further off stage. Paradoxically, it was in the first, anonymous edition that the translator was most visible.


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Genette, Gérard (1997) Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans Jane E. Lewin, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Kieniewicz, Stefan, and Michał Witkowski (1977) ‘Niemcewicz, Jan Ursyn’ in Polski Słownik Biograficzny, vol. XXII, Wrocław-Kraków: 771-780.

Kotwicz, Władysław (1931) “Jana ... Potockiego Podróż do Turcji i Egiptu ... 1924” (Review), Offprint from Rocznik Orjentalistyczny (Yearly Journal of Oriental Studies), vol. VII (1929/1930), Lwów (Lviv): Polskie Towarzystwo Orjentalistyczne: 1-3.

Kovala, Urpo (1996) “Translations, Paratextual Mediation, and Ideological Closure”, Target 8, no. 1: 119-147.

Kroh, Aleksandra (2007) Jan Potocki: daleka podróż (Jean Potocki: voyage lointain), trans Wiktor Dłuski, Warsaw, Drzewo Babel.

Kukulski, Leszek (1959) “Wstęp” in Jan Potocki Podróże, Leszek Kukulski (ed), Warsaw, Czytelnik: 5-17.

Linde, Samuel B. (1859) Słownik języka polskiego, 2nd ed., vol. V, Lwów (Lviv), Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich.

Łossowska, Irena (2002) Tradycja i nowoczesność dydaktycznej powieści oświecenia w Polsce (The Tradition and Modernity of the Didactic Enlightenment Novel in Poland), Warsaw, Wydz. Polonistyki Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego.

Perek, Marzena (2009) “Przypisy tłumacza w osiemnastowiecznych polskich przekładach francuskich powieści” (Translators’ Footnotes in 18th-century Polish Translations of French Novels) in Przypisy tłumacza, Elżbieta Skibińska (ed), Wrocław, Księgarnia Akademicka: 23-48.

Potocki, Jan (1879) Podróż do Turek y Egiptu z przydanym dziennikiem podróży do Holandyi podczas rewolucyi 1787, Warsaw, w Drukarni Wolney.

---- (1980) Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte, en Hollande au Maroc, Daniel Beauvois (ed), Paris, Fayard.

Rosset, François, and Dominique Triaire (2006) Jan Potocki: biografia, trans Anna Wasilewska, Warsaw, Wydawnictwo W.A.B.

Ryba, Janusz (2009) “Jan Potocki, maniak języka francuskiego” (Jan Potocki as a Maniac of the French Language) in Oświeceniowe tutti frutti: maskarada – konwersacja – literatura (An Enlightenment Miscellany: Masquerade – Conversation – Literature), Janusz Ryba (ed), Katowice, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego: 69-78.

Skibińska, Elżbieta (2009), “O przypisach tłumacza” (About Translator’s Notes) in Przypisy tłumacza, Elżbieta Skibińska (ed), Wrocław, Księgarnia Akademicka: 7-19.

Smolik, Przecław “Przedmowa” in Jana hr. Potockiego podróż do Turcyi i Egiptu z wiadomością o życiu i pismach autora przez Żegotę Paulego, Kraków, Nakł. Tow. Miłośników Książki: 5-8.

Soliński, Wojciech (2009) “Przypisy tłumaczy w polskich przekładach prozy Bohumila Hrabala” (Translator’s Notes in the Polish Renditions of Bohumil Hrabal’s Prose) in Przypisy tłumacza, Elżbieta Skibińska (ed), Wrocław, Księgarnia Akademicka: 245-268.

Szczepaniec, Józef (1998) Drukarnia Wolna Jana Potockiego w Warszawie (Jan Potocki’s Free Press in Warsaw), Wrocław, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego.

Tahir-Gürçağlar, Şehnaz (2002) “What texts don’t tell. The uses of paratexts in translation research” in Crosscultural Transgression: Research Models in Translation Studies II: Historical and Ideological Issues, Theo Hermans (ed), Manchester, St. Jerome: 44-59.

Żółtowska, Maria E. (1984-85) ‘Potocki, Jan’ in Polski Słownik Biograficzny, vol. XXVIII, Wrocław-Kraków: 36-42.


[1]The Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte has attracted some scholarly attention, yet literature concerned specifically with the travelogue is less sizeable, including mainly literary and historical perspectives. For the former see Jadwiga Ziętarska, ‘Relacje Jana Potockiego z Turcji, Egiptu i Maroka na tle piśmiennictwa podróżniczego doby Oświecenia’ (Jan Potocki’s Accounts from Turkey, Egypt and Morocco in the Context of the Enlightenment Travel Writing), Przegląd Humanistyczny XVII (1973), p. 41-59 and Roman Chymkowski ‘Jana Potockiego podróże na Wschód’ (Jan Potocki’s Journeys to the East), Przegląd Humanistyczny 5 (140) (2008), p. 55-64. For the latter see Daniel Beauvois ‘Introduction’ in Jan Potocki, Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte, ed. Daniel Beauvois (Paris 1980), p. 7-42. All translations from sources other than English are by the author of this article.

[2]The analysis involves all French and Polish editions of the Voyage.

French-language editions:

  1. Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte,  fait en l’année 1784. Paris 1788.
  2. Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte,  fait en l’année 1784. Seconde édition revue, corrigée et   augmentée. Voyage en Hollande, fait pendant la révolution de 1787. Warsaw, Drukarnia Wolna, 1789.
  3. Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte, en Hollande au Maroc. Ed. Daniel Beauvois. Paris, Fayard, 1980.

Polish-language editions:

  1. Podróż do Turek y Egiptu z przydanym dziennikiem podróży do Holandyi podczas rewolucyi 1787. Warsaw, Drukarnia Wolna, 1789. (Jagiellonian Library 390686 I)
  2. Jana hr. Potockiego Podróż do Turcyi i Egiptu: z wiadomością o życiu i pismach tego autora. Kraków, Drukarnia D.E. Friedleina, 1849.
  3. Jana hr. Potockiego podróż do Turcyi i Egiptu z wiadomością o życiu i pismach autora przez Żegotę Paulego. Kraków, Nakład Towarzystwa Miłośników Książki, 1924.
  4. Podróże. Ed. Leszek Kukulski; transl. J. U. Niemcewicz, J. Olkiewicz, L. Kukulski. Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1959.
    ‘Podróż do Turek i Egiptu’
    ‘Podróż do Holandii’

[3] Józef Szczepaniec, Drukarnia Wolna Jana Potockiego w Warszawie (Jan Potocki’s Free Press in Warsaw) (Wrocław 1998); Janusz Ryba, ‘Jan Potocki, maniak języka francuskiego’ (Jan Potocki as a Maniac of the French Language) in Janusz Ryba, Oświeceniowe tutti frutti: maskarada – konwersacja – literatura (An Enlightenment Miscellany: Masquerade – Conversation – Literature) (Katowice 2009), ‘Mały Potocki’ (Miniature Potocki) in Od oświecenia ku romantyzmowi (From the Enlightenment to Romanticism), ed. Marek Piechota, Janusz Ryba (Katowice 2004); Michał Otorowski, Jan Potocki. Koniec i początek. Wprowadzenie do badań nad Rękopisem znalezionym w Saragossie (Jan Potocki. The Beginning and End. An Introduction to the Studies on The Manuscript Found in Saragossa) (Warsaw 2008); Jan Potocki, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, trans Ian Maclean (London 1995); Jan Potocki, Podróże. ed. Leszek Kukulski, trans J. U. Niemcewicz, J. Olkiewicz, L. Kukulski (Warsaw 1959); Beauvois, Voyages; François Rosset, Dominique Triaire, Oeuvres. 1-3, (Louvain 2004).

[4] It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss research concerned with Potocki. F. Rosset’s bibliography gives some idea of the scale of recent critical interest in his work, including over 20 books and 300 articles. See François Rosset and Dominique Triaire (2006) Jan Potocki: biografia, trans Anna Wasilewska Warsaw, Wydawnictwo W.A.B. For another biography of Potocki, see Aleksandra Kroh, Jan Potocki: daleka podróż (Jean Potocki: voyage lointain), trans. Wiktor Dłuski (Warsaw 2007).

[5] This refers to the parliament of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1788-1792) set up to institute political and economic reform, culminating in ratification of the 3 May Constitution, which curbed the power and privilege of the nobility.

[6] During the last session of the Sejm, on 29 May 1792, Niemcewicz announced Potocki’s plan to arm local peasants from Łomża and Ciechanów to strengthen the Polish military in the face of Russia’s declaration of war on May 18, 1792.

[7] According to Kieniewicz and Witkowski (1977: 771).

[8] In Polish: ‘Podróż do Turek i Egyptu [...] z nowości postrzeżeń, wdzięku stylu, przyjemnych swych powieści wielką wszędy zjednała sobie zaletę.’ Potocki, Podróż, n.p. All quotations are in modernized spelling and punctuation. All translations from the travelogue are by the author of the article.

[9] ‘Tłumacząc ją na Ojczysty język chciałem powrócić literaturze naszej własność, która do niej należy, bo w oryginale przez Polaka pisana.’ Potocki, Podróż, n.p.

[10] ‘Dzieło to w tłumaczeniu wiele traci, jest to kopersztych pięknego obrazu, rzecz się w nim znajduje, ale wdzięk kolorów trudno było wydać.’ Potocki, Podróż, n.p.

[11] ‘Wiem jednak, że pióro podróżnego, równie w opisaniach swych wierne jak kreślący widoki ołówek, nie powinno się zapuszczać nad to, co widzi: spieszę się więc i właściwy opisywania przywracam mu sposób.’

[12] Cf. Dryden’s words from the Dedication to his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid: ‘But slaves we are, and labor on another’s man plantation; we dress the vineyard, but the wine is the owner’s: if the soil be sometimes barren, then we are sure of being scourg’d; if it be fruitful, and our care succeeds, we are not thank’d; for the proud reader will only say the poor drudge has done his duty.’ Virgil, The Works of Virgil Translated into English by Mr. Dryden, (London 1806), vol. II, ‘Dedication’, p. i-cxvi (p. cv-cvi).

[13] ‘Nagrodzonym za pracę moją sowicie zostanę, jeżeli czytelnik tyle smaku w czytaniu dzieła tego znajdzie, ile ja znajdowałem w tłumaczeniu onego.’ Potocki, Podróż, n.p.

[14] Inspired by Romanticism, the movement looked back at architectural monuments and literary artefacts and mythologized them as memories of a Polish national past. Studies on the history of Poland and folk poetry proliferated. Likewise, travel writing became fashionable with writers, editors and publishers. A passion for collecting antiquities spread among aristocrats, noblemen, and writers. For a detailed account of the movement, see especially volume 2 of Andrzej Abramowicz, Dzieje zainteresowań starożytniczych w Polsce (The History of the Interest in Antiquities in Poland) (Wrocław 1983 and 1987).

[15] In the original: ‘[Podróż] świeżemi dziś jeszcze barwami maluje wrażenia męża tak wysoce ukształconego, i czarodziejską niejako sztuką przenosi czytelnika na Wschód, który się mu jak wielkie panorama w całym uroczym przedstawia blasku ze wszystkiemi swemi osobliwościami, czyniącemi go tak niepdobnym do Europy.’

[16] ‘Jeżeli dziełko to zadawalającego dozna przyjęcia, natenczas nie omieszkamy czytelników naszych polskich obznajomić i z drugiemi nie mniej zajmującemi podróżami tego sławnego męża.’

[17] Two modern French-language editions by Daniel Beauvois appeared in 1980: Voyages en Turquie et en Égypte, au Maroc, en Hollande and Voyages au Caucase et en Chine (Paris: Fayard). Unlike Kukulski’s edition, they include maps of his routes.

[18] Upon its foundation, the cultural and educational concerns of the publishing house seem to have had considerable political undertones. In a contemporary press release, the Cooperative’s aim was defined as ‘publishing and propaganda activity, based on democratic and progressive principles, to elevate the general level of socio-political knowledge in Poland.’ Rzeczpospolita, October 1, 1944 at the website of the publisher: [url=][/url] (accessed on 30 June 2011)

[19] [url=][/url] (accessed on 30 June 2011)

[20] The beginning of the Voyage Across the Steppes appeared in Polish in Dziennik Wileński (Wilno Daily) in 1828 in an indirect translation from the Russian (1959: 489). Olkiewicz and Kukulski’s translation is likewise incomplete, as the translators decided to omit ‘learned digressions, mainly from the field of linguistics (etymology of proper names), [and] ancient history’. Similarly, the text of the Voyage to Lower Saxony was shortened by ‘one seventh’ (1959: 483). ‘Przypisy wydawcy’ in Potocki, Podróże, 1959, p. 489 and p. 483.

[21] Kukulski’s edition of Manuskrypt  znaleziony w Saragossie seems to have been first published in the 1950s, reaching its third edition in 1965.

[22] All quotations in this section, marked N, are taken from the first Polish edition of the travelogue (1789) and given in modernized spelling. Quotations marked P come from the French edition by Beauvois (1980).

[23] The reviewer points out that the translator fails to understand the word ‘hykaïet,’ rendering it as ‘hyakin’, which was later copied in subsequent editions (see Kotwicz 1931: 2) The Kukulski edition rectifies the mistake. 

[24] Daniel Beauvois, ‘Établissement des textes’ in Jan Potocki, Voyages, p. 42.

[25] I would like to thank Prof. Daniel Beauvois and Dr. Elżbieta Gajewska for their insightful comments concerning Potocki’s language and style in the original and translation.

[26] Linde’s dictionary actually records both ‘kafenhauz’ and ‘kawiarnia’. However, the former seems to have been more popular, judging by the word’s status of a separate entry and the number of related forms (including the noun ‘kafenhauznik’, a café regular, and the adjective ‘kafenhauzowy’, as in Linde’s example ‘kafenhauzowi politycy’, café politicians. See Samuel B. Linde (1859), Słownik języka polskiego, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Lviv: 289, 340.

[27] For a fuller overview of this typology as well as an informative introduction to the phenomenon of paratexts, including a bibliography, see Skibińska 2009: 7-19.


About the author(s)

Joanna Dybiec-Gajer currently works at the Pedagogical University in Kraków, Poland. She holds a PhD in American literature from the University of Paderborn, Germany, where she studied at the Graduate School of Travel Writing and Cultural Anthropology. Her research interests include travel literature, in particular travel writing and translation, translation theory and practice, translator education and teaching Polish as a foreign language. She has published Guidebook Gazes: Poland in German and American Travel Guides (1945-2002) (2004) and cooperated on the textbook Polnisch Aktiv (2006) and co-authored Verba Volant, Scripta Manent. How to write an M.A. thesis in Translation Studies (2012). Her latest book Zmierzyć przekład? Z metodologii oceniania w dydaktyce przekładu pisemnego [Measuring Translation? Towards an Assessment Methodology in Translator Education] (2013) discusses the problem of translation quality assessment in a translator training context.

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©inTRAlinea & Joanna Dybiec-Gajer (2013).
"Paratextual Transitions of Travel Texts The Case of Jan Potocki’s Voyage en Turquie et en Égypte (1789) and its Polish Translation"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Translating 18th and 19th Century European Travel Writing
Edited by: Susan Pickford & Alison E. Martin
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