SHARP Translations 2

Following our first issue of articles on book history translated into English, we are pleased to present a further selection of five articles from Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. The countries concerned are Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania. Three of the articles are recently published works; one is a previously untranslated classic of Russian scholarship, while the fifth, by Jana Dremaine, has been adapted from her own previously unpublished doctoral thesis.

Leading on from the presentation of the first phase of the translation committee’s work at the 2014 Antwerp conference, a call for translation nominations went out on the SHARP-L listserv in September 2014. Suggestions were received from a variety of expert contacts, including SHARP’s regional liaison officers. The committee then drew up a shortlist taking account of what we thought would prove of most interest to members of SHARP, though several factors determined our final selection of articles for translation above and beyond the intrinsic interest of the topics covered. Budgetary constraints unfortunately prevented us from including the longer pieces of work nominated, and we are always dependent on the goodwill of publishers in seeking their permission to reproduce journal articles or book chapters in English. It further seemed sensible to include no more than one article for each country. Professional academic translators were commissioned in almost every case, the sole exception being the article by Jana Dremaine, who provided her own English version.

The original selection, reliant on individual nominations, was a fairly random one, and we do not claim that the articles presented here are in any way representative of the range of work which is proceeding in the countries concerned. We are, however, convinced they are of considerable interest to Anglophone scholars in the field, both individually as works of scholarship that reveal a broad range of approaches to book history, and collectively insofar as they hint at profound shifts in intellectual practice shaped by the region’s own history over the past half-century.

Our authors hail from various disciplines, including language and literature (Fidlerová), semiotics (Lotman), librarianship (Monok and Dreimane) and book science (Navickiene). They illustrate the variety of approaches which invigorates the study of book history today. Only one article pre-dates 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Lotman’s article is the oldest text translated here: first published 50 years ago, it is very much a work of its time as a typical product of Soviet scholarship. The articles by Dreimane (Latvia) and Navickiene (Lithuania), on the other hand, clearly reflect the recent history of their countries and the sense of national resurgence which has followed their complete independence from the USSR. The articles by Monok (Hungary) and Fidlerová (Czech Republic) fit more easily perhaps into the horizon of expectations of English-speaking readers; both build on excellent previous scholarship on literacy and reading in early modern central Europe. Several of the articles presented in this issue treat the history of reading in one aspect or another, from Latvian libraries, to women’s reading in Hungary, the audience for prayer books in early modern Bohemia and Lotman’s reflections on peasant readers’ reception of a story by Karamzin. They suggest that we have plenty to learn from eastern European scholars in these and other areas.

On behalf of SHARP, we thank all the authors and translators who are acknowledged by name in each text. In addition, we would like to express our special thanks for their valuable advice and assistance to Katalin Szende and Damiano Rebecchini.

To conclude, a brief word about the next stage of the project. While the first two issues of SHARP Translations have been published online on SHARP’s own website, it has been decided for issue three to launch a special e-journal to be titled Lingua Franca, dedicated to showcasing the best in book history research originally conducted in languages other than English from around the world. As always, we invite SHARPists to send us nominations for articles and ideas for special issues, and we always welcome expressions of interest from members with language skills, particularly outside the major Western European languages.

Susan Pickford
Chair of the SHARP translation committee, 2013
Université Paris-Sorbonne,

Emeritus Professor Martyn Lyons
Sharp Executive Member-at-Large,
University of New South Wales,