SHARP Translations 1

As Robert Darnton astutely commented in an early issue of SHARP News, despite “the internationalisation of the field”, book historians still often retain their own “national accents”[1]. It has been recognised in recent years that the influential Andersonian model highlighting the role of national print-languages in the emergence of the modern nation state is perhaps somewhat limiting in a world in which multilingualism is the norm rather than the exception: as Maria Tymoczko argues, “In a multilingual nation […] translation policies […] join groups who together constitute the imagined community of the nation and structure the relationship between the nation and the world as a whole”[2]. As a result, research in Book History has recently taken an increasingly international turn, moving beyond traditional “silo” historiographical models based on a largely Western conceptualisation of the nation state in favour of a more sophisticated “tangled” approach that gives due acknowledgement to the significance of intercultural transfer in shaping national cultures.

As a scholarly society that prides itself on setting the agenda for research in the field, SHARP has been at the forefront of this international turn and has recognised that one of its priorities must be to promote Book History beyond its traditional Anglo-French homes. It does so in a number of ways: by appointing representatives to act as regional liaisons for local and regional research; by sponsoring regional conferences, in Kolkata, India (2006), Venice, Italy (2007), Copenhagen, Denmark (2008), Nancy, France (2012), Le Mans, France (2013), Rio, Brazil (2013) and Monterrey, Mexico (2015); by providing financial assistance to enable scholars to attend conferences; and by encouraging the international circulation of research through the work of the SHARP translation committee, set up early in 2013 as a result of discussions at the 2011 Washington conference.

Having a professional background in translation and working at the interface between Book History and Translation Studies, I was keen to get involved in the committee as soon as the idea was mooted. I volunteered my services as chair and put out a call for candidates in January 2013. The call met with an enthusiastic response, with numerous SHARP members offering their services as panel members or as translators. Panel members were then selected to ensure as broad a range of languages as possible. It was decided early on that one of the committee’s aims should be to bring Book History to audiences outside its traditional homes in Europe and North America and particular efforts were made to include members with knowledge of non-Western-European languages. The collective language skills of the eleven members currently run to English, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Croatian, Sanskrit, Chinese, Italian, Slovene, Farsi, Russian, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, and Bengali.

Committee members and regional liaisons were then invited to submit articles for consideration for translation into English. Based on the twenty or so submissions, a short-list was drawn up with two aims in mind for this initial stage of the project: firstly, broadening SHARP’s geographical and research horizons by showcasing the forms taken by Book History outside the US and Europe; and secondly, focusing on languages less familiar to SHARP’s current membership, as it was apparent from the response to the call for candidates that many members already have some knowledge of the major Western European languages. Permissions were sought for the shortlisted articles, which were then translated over the course of 2014 and posted on the SHARP website on a specially created page in the Publications section, each with a brief introduction by the committee member or nominator.


  • Susan Pickford (Committee Chair), Senior lecturer in translation, University of Paris
  • Brigitte Ouvry-Vial, Professor of 20th c literature and book history, Université du Maine, France
  • Martyn Lyons, Emeritus Professor of History, UNSW, Sydney
  • William Butler, Law professor, Penn State University
  • Peter Kornicki, Prof. East Asian Studies, Cambridge University
  • Abhijit Gupta, Associate Professor of English, Jadavpur University, India

In alphabetical order of original author, the articles selected are:

Gish Amit, currently EUME Fellow at Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin, “Treasures of the Homeland: The Jewish National Library and the Yemenite Jewish Manuscripts”, chapter from אקס ליבריס: הספרייה הלאומית ועיצוב התרבות הלאומית-ציונית  (Ex-Libris: the Jewish National and University Library 1945-1955, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, forthcoming). Nominated and introduced by Barbara Hochman, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, translated by Sue Goldian.

Gish Amit’s contribution is a chapter from his PhD thesis, awarded in 2011, focusing on the “Treasures of the Diaspora” project at the Jewish National Library in Jerusalem and examining the mechanisms of the assembly, cataloging and preservation of books and manuscripts as a range of political and social practices acting in a charged field of interests and ideology. It reads the national library not as an innocent, autonomic body, but as a cultural agent in the service of Zionism’s political purposes.

Antonio Castillo Gómez, Universidad de Alcalá, Madrid, “‘The best portrait of anyone’: The material characteristics of epistolary writing in 16th and 17th century Hispanic society”, originally published as “‘El mejor retrato de cada uno’. La materialidad de la escritura epistolar en la sociedad hispana de los siglos XVI y XVII,” Hispania, 65, 3, 221 (2005), pp. 849-877. Nominated and introduced by Martyn Lyons, University of New South Wales, translated by Simon Tapply and Martyn Lyons

Antonio Castillo Gómez’s article criticizes current historiography for neglecting the writings of ordinary people and argues that letter-writing is vital evidence of writing itself as a social practice. It focuses particularly on the material forms of correspondence such as layout and handwriting to highlight the way that the formal and material characteristics of correspondence reflect the social relationships of writer and recipient, thereby mirroring inequalities of gender and social status.

Hamada Keisuke, Kyoto University, “On booksellers, authors and readers in the works of Bakin”, originally published as ‘Bakin ni okeru shoshi sakusha dokusha no mondai’, Kokugo kokubun 22.4 (1953): 21-38. Nominated, introduced and translated by Peter Kornicki, Cambridge University

This is a classic article on questions of publishing, authorship and readership connected to the early 19th-century writer Bakin, whose long serial novels were circulated by commercial lending libraries: first published when Hamada was just twenty-three, it has influenced generations of scholars in Japan and elsewhere.

Jean-Yves Mollier, Université Versailles – St Quentin en Yvelines, “French publishing in World War Two: A habitus of submission?”, originally published as “”L’édition française dans la tourmente de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale”, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire 112, October – December 2011, pp. 127-138. Nominated and introduced by Christine Haynes, UNC Charlotte, translated by Susan Pickford, Université Paris-Sorbonne

Jean-Yves Mollier’s article draws on his extensive work in French publishers’ archives only recently opened to researchers. He focuses on files related to the Otto list of works preemptively removed from sale by publishers or banned by the German occupiers to draw a comprehensive portrait of the habitus of French publishing under Nazi occupation, characterised, as he demonstrates, by extensive collaboration, to an extent unrecognised by previous research on the subject.

Song Lihua, Shanghai Normal University, “A Brief Review of the Price of Novels in the Ming and Qing Dynasties”, originally published in the Fudan Journal 2002, issue 3, pp. 131-140. Nominated, introduced and translated by Daniel Fried, University of Alberta

Lihua Song traces the pricing of novels during the late imperial period relative both to other books and to other market commodities and explains how booksellers developed different pricing strategies based on the quality of edition and print materials. In contrast to earlier studies which looked exclusively at the book market for late imperial vernacular fiction, Song is able to provide a more fine-grained analysis by incorporating evidence from the classical-language fiction market.

All articles are translated by kind permission of the original publishers. The result is, the committee hopes, a wide-ranging and thought-provoking selection of some of the best research in Book History from around the world, offering innovative intellectual approaches that will serve to enrich Book History as a generously diverse field of scholarship. This first stage can perhaps be seen as the prototype for a new e-journal, possibly even an eventual companion volume to Book History, with future issues potentially taking a specific thematic, regional, or language focus.

However, it is important to stress that the project’s future is still very much open to discussion at the Antwerp conference: other ideas that have been put forward for consideration are the translation of monographs and of foundational works of Book History scholarship into languages such as Spanish and Chinese. The Antwerp round table, at which I will be joined by committee members Martyn Lyons and Abhijit Gupta, will also address a number of practical issues to formalise the committee’s work, which has so far been largely conducted on an ad hoc basis. These include the conditions of committee membership and the particularly thorny issue of whether to use professional or volunteer translators.

I would be glad to hear SHARP members’ thoughts on the project so far and what future shape it might take. Members are also warmly invited to submit material for consideration for translation in the form of a brief one-page abstract in any of the committee’s current languages: I can be contacted at susan.pickford[at]

Susan Pickford
Senior lecturer in Translation Studies, Université Paris-Sorbonne
SHARP translation committee chair, 2013-


[1] (1994) “Volume 3, Number 3,” SHARP News: Vol. 3: No. 3, p. 3. Available at: (accessed 30 July 2014)

[2] “Constructing the Nation: Multilingualism, Translation, and the Imagined Community”, (accessed 30 July 2014)