Comments of translators

Translating Valvasor: Liguistic and orthographical challenge

Valvasor and the co-author Francisci use a nice 17th-century German. To translate this language into 17th-century Slovenian would be strenuous and futile undertaking. The old Slovenian includes words that are incomprehensible to the modern reader, the same as many terms from 17th-century German are incomprehensible to modern Germans. Using such language would stress the reader. What was necessary and appropriate in the translation of Homer, is not necessary and appropriate when translating Valvasor. The expressions that Homer used in his Iliad and Odyssey were deliberate archaisms, and that is why Homer translators have all the right (and duty) to use this stylistic device. But because Valvasor, by contrast, wrote his book for his contemporaries in a language that was understandable to them, the translation made for today’s readers must use modern terminology and grammar. However, the Baroque style remains preserved by faithfully using many adjectives, adverbs and particles, synonyms as well as a syntax with very few subordinated clauses.

Without the use of historical dictionaries and old encyclopedias, many of the 17th-century German word would be incomprehensible today. Over time, German words have either preserved or changed significantly their meaning, while some words have disappeared altogether. Some have even more than one meaning, for example curios means a) careful b) curious c) strange. The pronoun Scribent was used neutrally in the 17th century, while the modern Skribent is extremely ironic. What Valvasor means with curiose Scribenten are not strange scribes but careful writers. The word Gelegenheit, for example, has in Valvasor the old meaning position but also already the modern meaning opportunity – which is the only meaning preserved today. Similarly, the German Begriff here and there has the modern meaning notion, idea, but in most cases it means extent. Let us just list few more examples that everyone who will compare the translation to the original will see: auswendig – outer, superficial, Beduncken – judgement, expert opinion, erledigen – to free, gestaltsam – suitable , glaubmäßig – credible, probable, hinterstellig – left over, Ruch – smell, Scherz – game, schier – hardly, Spruch – statement, Vergeltung – payment, vergnügen – to be enough, versucht –experienced, Vorgeben – claim, affirmation. There are many examples where spelling is not uniform, for example: Dinte instead of Tinte, Igel instead of Blutigel or Blutegel, so Egel, leech. If not exactly surprising, it is at least interesting that there were beside usual names for “east, west, north and south” also synonymic terms Aufgang, Niedergang, Mitternacht in Mittag.

We found that already the German dictionary by Adelung, published less than 100 years after Valvasor’s The Glory, marks many of these words as obsolete (Ruch) or official (Beduncken), but many of the keywords are still in the dictionary. The entry on Igel includes a comment that the correct spelling is Egel, meaning leech, and Igel, meaning hedgehog. A small number of keywords not in the Adelung were found in Heinsius German dictionary. Surprisingly we found many of this old German words in German-Slovenian dictionary by Matej Cigale (1860). These books proved especially helpful in the translation:

  • Adelung, Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der hochdeutschen Mundart, 4 books, Leipzig 1793, (no year), 1798, 1801
  • Heinsius, Vollständiges Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 4 books, Wien, 1840
  • Samuel Hahnemanns Apothekerlexikon (Samuel Hahnemanns, der Arzneigelahrtheit Doktors und Mitgliedes einiger gelehrten Gesellschaften, Apothekerlexikon, Ersten Theils erste Abtheilung: A-E, Ersten Theils zweite Abtheilung: F-K, Zweiten Theils erste Abtheilung: L-P, Zweiten Theils zweite Abtheilung: Q-Z, Leipzig: Siegfried Lebrecht Crusius, 1793, 1795, 1798, 1799)
  • Deutsch-slowenisches Wörterbuch, Ljubljana 1860, costs for editing and print paid by prince bishop Anton Alois Wolf, (author Matej Cigale)
  • Johann Hubners neu vermehrtes und verbessertes reales Staats-Zeitungs und Konversationslexikon, Wien, 1780
  • Real-Encyclopädie der gebildeten Stände, Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1820 Many dialectal, regional and obsolete plant and animal names were found in Franz
  • Dornseiff, Der deutsche Wortschatz nach Sachgruppen, Berlin, 1959 Translators

No one reaches great glory without hard work!

To the kind reader of translations from Latin in the Slovenian edition of Valvasor's The Glory of the Duchy of Carinola

Due to the sad fact that I, as a good Slovenian, have always talked a lot about the extraordinary Glory of the Duchy of Carniola by the greatest literary baron from our part of the world, but have actually only rarely peeped into the book – and when I did I mostly looked at the wonderful copper engravings of towns, castles and monasteries of Carniola – I was quite astonished when I started to translate Latin citations from the first book of Valvasor’s masterwork. There were a great number more of them as one would expect. So for me there is nothing else to do than to admit that Valvasor was quite a challenge. Valvasor and his faithful collaborator Erasmus Francisci have included almost the whole spectrum of Latin-writing people, from the first and second rate Latin classics, including poets like Vergil and Ausonius, as well as polyhistorians from Antiquity and chaps that tried, with varying success, write meaningful studies in Latin in Valvasor’s time. Here and there, we can find in the first book of The Glory a transcript of Latin inscriptions abundant with legendary abbreviations.
Latin citations in The Glory are variegated in terms of contents as well as style. Highlights of Latin literary creativity, at which generations of lovers of this ancient language faint for over 2,000 years, are mixed almost randomly with kitchen Latin and with Latin that vaguely resembles the English spoken by Indians in old westerns. Of course, I put no special effort in attempts to turn those stuttering sentences into faultless Ciceronian utterances because this would be completely wrong.
Translating polyhistorian Latin from the end of 17th century is quite a challenge for someone who is not a polyhistorian but a “fachidioit” translator, especially in terms of terminology. I was therefore more than ever thankful for the benefits of the internet, which would also be a great source of joy for Valvasor if he had lived 300 years later. Of all web sites that helped me in the last few months, I would like to point out the great richness of online information on Slovenian flora and – to a slightly lesser extent – fauna. Without this help, I would be forced to put a question mark on many places in this book. But this does not mean that there are absolutely no question marks in the translation. There were a few obstacles that I overcame with a skillfully camouflaged omission, but I guess I better not speak aloud about it. Before I conclude, I have to confess that I proved to be unworthy of my predecessors from the pleiad of Slovenian translators from Latin in one very important issue. Owing to the (again unpleasant) fact that I have received no blessing from the Muse I dared to translate many fragments from Latin verses, completely without piety, into boring prose. Furthermore I did not imitate most of the plays on words in poetical masterworks especially in the beginning of The Glory, which is, I hope, understandable and will be excused by the kind reader more easily than the sky-reaching sin I admitted above.
With regard to the spelling of (primarily personal ) proper nouns I would like to say that I tried to follow consistently the standardized rules of Slovenization. This was my motto even when unknown 17th century writers were concerned.

In Maribor on the Drava, on the namesday of Saint Helena in Anno Domini 2009 Aleš Maver