Translators tend to live in the shadows of the writers and authors whose work they translate. But today is World Translation Day. That means it’s time for translators to enjoy their day in the sun. To celebrate, we’re highlighting 8 of the world’s most famous translators. Which one is your favorite?
St. Jerome (347-420 AD)
St. Jerome was an early Christian scholar who translated most of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. His translation, known as the Vulgate, became the official Catholic translation of the Bible and was the only translation of the Bible in use for a thousand years.
As such, even Jerome’s translation mistakes had a tremendous influence on Western culture. For instance, there are countless pictures of Moses with horns on his head because Jerome translated the Hebrew “keren” as “grew horns” instead of “radiated light.”
St. Jerome is the patron saint of translators, and we celebrate World Translation Day on his feast day.
Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890)
Let’s jump right from the sacred to the profane, shall we? Sir Richard Francis Burton was an “English explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat” (according to Wikipedia).
In other words, he was basically The Most Interesting Man in the World for the 19th century.
Sir Richard Burton didn’t always translate ancient literature into English…but when he did, it was usually something erotic and “scandalous” for the time. For example, he was the first person to translate the Kama Sutra into English. He was also the first to produce an uncensored translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. Other notable translations include The Perfumed Garden of the Cheikh Nefzaoui: A Manual of Arabian Erotology and the Priapiea, a collection of ancient Roman poems dedicated to “the rigid god.” Read more