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Europe et traduction

Michel Ballard

Renaissance Translation Strategies and the Manipulation of a Classical Text. Plutarch from Jacques Amyot to Thomas North

John Denton

Texte intégral

1. Translation history : from value judgments to descriptive neutrality

1It would be an exaggeration to say that personal value judgments and emphasis on primitive errors in the scholarly study of translation in a diachronic perspective are now entirely a thing of the past, even after the determined assault by the descriptively, (poly) systemically oriented adherents of the now well established independent discipline of Translation Studies, in the evolution of which the collective volume edited by Theo Hermans (1985) is a significant landmark. It will still take some time before older studies are dislodged from their now undeserved position as classics (Denton forthcoming).

  • 1 Rener (8) states that « the intention here is to explain, not to criticize », in contrast with eval (...)
  • 2 Lefevere (1992 and many previous studies) places socio-ideological-poetological constraints above t (...)

2An important step forward in the systematic study of translation practice and its theoretical backup before the upheaval of Romanticism is represented by Frederick Rener’s wide ranging survey (1989), to which all translation historians owe a debt of gratitude, now attested by frequent citation in most recent work in the field. Rener provides us with the micro and macro linguistic parameters conditioning translation activity from Classical Antiquity to the late 18th. century. He reminds us (2-10) of the two « avenues » of research traditionally followed by translation scholars, one focussing on statements in Latin and vernacular treatises, dedications and epistles to the reader, and the other, potentially more productive, though less frequently taken up, focussing on translation performance. Failure to recognize the essential unity of views of language over this admittedly vast time span, an essential component of which was the separability of res and verba, and unnecessary temporal and geographical fragmentation are seen as the main causes of unsatisfactory results, to which one might add an unhelpful evaluative stance, telling us as much about the scholar’s own ideological position as about that of his/her subject of study. Rener, the self styled « archeologist » (8)1 provides a clear, unadorned picture of the facts, within the limits of his aims and methods. Further, complementary illumination can be provided by an increasingly adopted socio-historical approach concentrating on ideological and sociocultural constraints affecting both the translation process and reception of its products (Kittel 1988 : 160, Lefevere 1992). Here investigation of the history of translation has learned much from sociologically oriented comparative literary and cultural studies, though a timely warning (van Leuven-Zwart 1991 : 38-41) reminds us of the necessarily central role of texts and their translations that constitutes the specificity of the discipline2. General conclusions cannot be drawn without the necessary underpinning of case studies attaining a satisfactory degree of both descriptive and explanatory adequacy (Lambert and van Gorp 1985).

2. Renaissance readers and the Muses

3Renaissance translation activity, particularly that into vernaculars, being firmly grounded in hermeneutics, foregrounded reader response, and, as a consequence, tended to adopt a « domesticating » rather than « foreignizing » method. This paper will look at varying degrees of this « ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to dominant cultural values... » (Venuti 1995 : 81, cf. also 67-68) at work in the case of a central Classical text adapted for Renaissance readers, who, either through necessity or preference, wanted to read it in their own (or at least a contemporary European) language.

4Plutarch was one of the most widely read and influential Greek writers in 16th. century Europe (Criniti 1979). Considering the fact that Greek was only known to a restricted circle of scholars, this meant he needed to be made accessible in either Latin or vernacular translation. The reasons for this popularity are to be found in his moralizing, biographical approach to history (in the Parallel Lives) and his status as a mine of encyclopedic information on so many aspects of Classical Antiquity (in both the Lives and Moralia) (Burke 1966 : 142-143). The view of history as a storehouse of examples of behaviour of individuals actively involved in political and military affairs well suited the mainstream Renaissance view of the utility of Ancient (particularly Roman) history. Plutarch, as an especially ‘safe’ writer, was enlisted in defence of the socio-political status quo, his translators using the lexico-semantic strategies at their disposal to reinforce his contemporary relevance in accord with the dominant ideological standpoints of specific societies. Here the geographical fragmentation criticized by Rener in the linguistic domain can find some justification.

  • 3 At least 30 different editions of Amyot’s translation appeared between 1559 and 1645 (Sturel 1908 : (...)
  • 4 The widely read collection of Latin translations of the Lives by 15th. century Italian humanists fi (...)

5The most widely read3 and prestigious Renaissance translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives of Greeks and Romans (in any language, including Latin4) was undoubtedly that by Jacques Amyot (1559). This is widely attested by contemporary comment both by important readers (e.g. Montaigne) and other translators of the same work such as Xylander (1561) and Cruserius (1564), who recognize Amyot’s superiority, even from the philological standpoint, since he had taken great care to reconstruct Plutarch’s Greek text as accurately as possible, consulting manuscripts and scholars in Venice and Rome, not being satisfied with the Florentine editio princeps of 1517 or the prestigious Aldine edition of 1519 :

Cum iam maiorem operis partem absoluissem, prodierunt Vitae Plutarchi Gallica lingua ab lacobo Amyoto conscriptae. Quem cum praeclaram ei libro operam impendisse ex iis qui linguae eius sunt periti (quod mihi datum non est) et vsum multis ac bonis codicibus audirem : amicorum adiutus [...] officio, nonnullos, de quibus dubitabam, locos correxi : in haud paucis mea coniectura est illius interpretis suffragio comprobata. (Xylander 1561, Praefatio : ad lectorem)
Interea cum iam poliuissem atque emendassem vitas meas Plutarchi, ostendit mihi Bruxellae, vbi agebam illustrissimi principis mei legatus, secretarius regius editas elgantissime ab Amioto linguâ gallicâ vitas Plutarchi, quae exierant tamen in publicum sex menses antequam eas viderem. Hujus viri mihi eruditio et diligentia aliquid lucis nonnullis in locis attulit. Cui ego hoc testimonium dabo : non posse fieri, ut quisquam hoc tempore Plutarchum tam vertat ornate lingua Latina quam vertit ille suâ. (Cruserius 1564, ad lectorem)

  • 5 Delisle and Woodsworth eds 1995 single out Amyot among the many translators mentioned in this colle (...)
  • 6 Gentili 1991 : 36 note 22 suggests that North used the 1574 Lausanne edition of Amyot on the basis (...)
  • 7 Among these exceptions are Wyndham 1919, Matthiessen 1931 : 54-102 (both unsystematic and heavily e (...)

6Amyot’s prestige, both as a translator and as one of the founding fathers of modem French literary prose is also reflected in the wealth of modem scholarly attention he has attracted (Sturel 1908) (Aulotte 1965) (Balard ed. 1986)5. The same cannot be said of Thomas North, who used Amyot as his source text6, and who has, with few exceptions7, only been subjected to secondary scholarly scrutiny in his role as a source for Shakespeare’s Roman plays. The reputation of Amyot as a translator could well have been the decisive factor in North’s choice of him as his source text (the original Greek being out of the question) rather than the fact that he was writing in a modem vernacular rather than Latin. It is difficult to believe that a man of North’s education would have been unable to use one of the easily available Renaissance Latin translations.

7Like most Renaissance vernacular translators Amyot followed the well established strategy of expansion (Ballard 1995 : 101) considered necessary to compensate for gaps in unlearned readers’ knowledge of Classical Antiquity, at times introducing an explanatory gloss with the textual marker « c’est a dire », as the following extract taken from the beginning of the Life of Coriolanus shows :

ούδέυ γὰρ άλλο Μουσῶν εύμενείας άπολαύουσιν άνθρωποι τοσοῦτον, όσον έξημεροῦσθαι τὴν φύσιν ύπὸ λὸγου καὶ παιδείας τῷ λόγῳ δεξαμένην τὸ μέτριον καὶ τò ἅγαν άποβαλοῦσαν. (Plutarch, life of Coriolanus, 1)

Aussi à dire la verité, le plus grand fruit que les hommes rapportent de la doulceur & begignité des Muses, c ’est à dire, de la cognoissance des bonnes lettres, c’ est qu’ilz en domptent & addoulicissent leur nature, qui estoit au parauant sauuage & farouche, trouuans auec le compas de la raison, le moien, & reiettans le trop. (Amyot 1559)

8Both the by then traditional use of the rhetorical doublet and the explanatory gloss, though uncontroversial for his contemporaries, were highlighted among the defects of Amyot’s translation in the critical analysis presented in 1635 to the Académic française by Claude-Gaspard Bachet de Méziriac (Ballard 1995 : 160-170, Rener 1989 : 225-226), which has troubled Amyot’s modem defenders (e.g. Aulotte 1959). Seen in the light of a descriptive approach these criticisms simply reflect different ideas of the translator’s relationship with a different readership in a different period (Venuti 1995 : 67, Kelly 1979 : 227). Abbé Tallemant who brought out the first new French translation of the Lives after Amyot in 1663-5, also came to his illustrious predecessor’s defence, remarking in his preface (« Au lecteur ») that « l’on luy fait souvent un grand crime de peu de chose ». However, he also stated that « la clarté et la brievete n’estoient pas si incompatibles que l’on dit », and if we look at his translation of the same passage :

[...] car il n’y a rien qui humainise l’esprit davantage que les Muses, et qui leur enseigne plustost, comme il faut se modérer entre l’ excez & le defaut, le trop, & le trop peu. (Tallemant 1663-1665)

we will notice that his « nouvelle maniere de traduire ny trop licencieuse, ny trop servile » is in sharp contrast with Amyot’s lexical abundance.

9Amyot’s contemporary Latin translators also stayed closer to the Greek source text :

Adeo nullum est maius donum, quod acceptum bonitati Musarum homines ferre debeant, quam quod doctrina & disciplina emolliuntur & mitigantur ingenia, modumque tenere, & nimia omnia vitare discunt. (Xylander 1561)
Nullum enim ex Musarum placiditate ferunt mortales maiorem fructum quam quod ingenium doctrina et institutione molliat, vt amplectat per doctrinam medio-critatem, & quod est immodicum deponat. (Cruserius 1564)

10This can again be explained by the latter’s attitude to their readership. The international Renaissance readers of Latin texts were not considered to be in need of as much assistance as those who were restricted to their native language.

11When we come to North, we can see that unfamiliarity with the Muses was also considered a problem for late 16th. century English readers, though the strategic solution was a different one :

And to saye truely, the greatest benefit that learning bringeth men vnto, is this: that it teacheth men that be rude and rough of nature, by compasse and rule of reason, to be ciuill & curteous, and to like better the meane state, than the higher. (North 1579)

12Replacement by the unadorned « learning » may be due to a Puritan’s dislike of metaphor or the need for more immediate contact with readers, for whom Plutarch was considered of direct practical use rather than as a source of knowledge about details of the Ancient (pagan) World. In fact, North does tend to use the more covert strategy of actualization of many (presumably) obscure aspects of ancient society where Amyot favours the more overt one of the incorporated explanatory gloss (though not always accompanied by the signal « c’est-à-dire »). In the Life of Coriolanus, from which all the examples in this paper are drawn, Plutarch (11) writes of « µονομάχων ὰγῶνα », funeral gladiatorial combats, closely translated as « funebres ludos gladiatorios » (Xylander) and « munus funebre gladiatorum » (Cruserius) for readers of the Latin translations. In Amyot we find : « des combats de Gladiateurs, c’est a dire d’escrimeurs à outrance », which in North becomes : « the cruell fight of fensers at vnrebated swordes ». The insertion of the evaluative adjective « cruell » is representative of a distinguishing marker of North’s translation. Plutarch is covertly presented as hostile to a cultural feature that he actually presents without comment.

13When turning to religious questions the Puritan bias of the English translator is even more evident. The despatch of a religious delegation to Coriolanus during his siege of Rome is presented by Plutarch to his Greek readers as follows :

ὅσοι γὰρ ῆσαν ίερεῖς θεών ὴ μυστηρίων όργιαστὰι καὶ φύλακες ὴ τὴv άπ ’ οίωνῶν πάτριον οῖσαν έκπαλαι μαντικὴν έχοντες, τούτους πάντας άπιέναι πρὸς τὸν Μάρκιον έψτφίσαντο [...] έπανελθόντων οῦν τῶν ὶερέων... (Plutarch, Life of Coriolanus, 32)

and even more essentially in Renaissance Latin :

Decretum est enim, vt omnes pontifices, sacrificuli, aeditui, auguresque, irent ad Marcium [...] Vbi rediere Sacerdotes... (Xylander 1561)
Quotquot enim erant deorum immortalium sacerdotes, sacrifici, aeditui, augures, quod patrium iis erat & antiquum sacerdotium... vt Marcium adirent [...] Quibus regressis vrbe... (Cruserius 1564)

14Amyot takes great pains to compensate for his readers’ presumed ignorance of the role of augurs in Roman religious practice, and is initially followed closely by North (though the latter does introduce the word « augures ») :

... car il ordonna que tout faut, qu’ il y auoit de prestres, religieux, ministres des dieux & gardes des choses sacrees, & tous les deuins, qui par l’observation du vol des oyseaux predisent les choses à aduenir, qui est vne sorte de prophetie et de diuination propre de toute ancieneté aux Romains, allassent deuers Martius [...] Quand ces gens de religion furent de retour (Amyot 1559)

For then they appointed all the bishoppes, priestes, ministers of the goddes, and keepers of holy things, and all the augures or soothesayers which foreshowe things to come by obseruation of the flying of birdes (which is an olde auncient kynde of prophecying and diuination amongest the ROMAINES) to goe to Martius [...] When all this goodly rable of superstition and priestes were returned... (North 1579)

15The difference lies in the far less neutral attitude to pagan religion of the English translator when dealing with the return of the delegation.

3. From the Humanist to the Protestant Plutarch

Then well may the Readers thinke, if they haue done this for heathen Kings, what should we doe for Christian Princes? If they haue done this for glorye, what shoulde we doe for religion. If they haue done this without hope of heauen, what should we doe that looke for immortalitie? (North 1579, Epistle Dedicatory)

  • 8 North belonged to the Puritan pressure group in the established Church of England gravitating aroun (...)

16These words from North’s dedication of his translation to Queen Elizabeth set the tone for his Protestant-Puritan interventions in the translated text8, in contrast with the more neutral stance of a humanist French Catholic churchman, as yet unaffected by Counter-reformation hardening of religious attitudes. It was the editing of Amyot’s translation from 1583 (and especially from the edition of 1587) by the Calvinist pastor Simon Goulart (Jones 1917, Pineaux 1986) that pushed the French Plutarch in a radically religiously (albeit Protestant) oriented direction. Although the actual translated text remained untouched, a crucial transformation of Amyot’s paratextual apparatus was carried out by Goulart.

  • 9 In the chapter on translation in a well known modem study of Plutarch these notes are wrongly attri (...)

17A recent study of the European reception of the Cortegiano by Baldassare Castiglione has shown the importance of paratextual material (i.e. prefaces, marginal notes, indices and additional texts added by editors or translators) in influencing reader response (Burke 1995 40-45, 73-75). Apart from Amyot’s two prefaces (the dedication to Henri II and a long eulogy of history, which should be of service to rulers) he only added a limited number of marginal notes concerning textual matters, conversion of ancient sums of money and a few remarks on unfamiliar customs (Worth 1986 : 287-91). North has a new dedication to Queen Elizabeth, a short letter « To the Reader » and his translation of Amyot’s second preface (« Amiot to the Readers »). North emphasizes the examples to be found in Plutarch of loyalty to authority and his usefulness for citizens active in public affairs. When we come to the marginal notes the differences are more pronounced. North’s notes are far more numerous and include a summary of events and, more significantly, occasional moral comments, such as See the fickle mindes of common people at the point where Coriolanus seeks popular support for his candidature for the consulship. As we have seen, the moralizing process was carried out by many covert interpolations in the translation itself. Goulart did even more, though overtly, in the margins of Amyot’s translation, as can be seen from the following « annotations morales en marge » that appeared in their definitive form in the 1587 edition9 (the numbers refer to the sections of the Life of Coriolanus’) :

20 (on the method of voting at Coriolanus’ trial) Iniquite des Tribuns qui faussent leur promesse, afin d’acabler Martius : ce qui monstre combien l’indignation des magistrals est a redouter sur tout quand elle est brouillee de mauvaises passions
24 (episode of Titus Latinius’ dream of Juppiter) Satan se fourre a la traverse tant pour attiser le feu de division par ses prodiges & miracles de mensonge, que pour establir tant plus ses superstitions & idolatries
33 (Volumnia’s answer to Valeria and the other Roman women) Sage complainte de Volumnia la quelle neantmoins prend courage, & monstre qu’il ne faut iamais desesperer quand mesmes tous semble perdu

18The topics of these moralizing interventions are of a political, religious and more general nature. In this section religion has been singled out, the political aspect, where there are arguably even more examples of translational manipulation, having been treated elsewhere (Denton 1997).

19In the brief space at my disposal I hope to have illustrated some of the complexities involved in the diachronic, intercultural transfer of a key Greek writer. In the musical sphere one often hears about Karajan’s Beethoven or Toscanini’s Verdi, showing the key role of the interpreter in influencing reception. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, in the case of Amyot’s or North’s Plutarch.



1. Editions and translations of Plutarch cited

Amyot Jacques, Les Vies des Hommes Illustres, Grecs et Romains, comparees I’vne auec I’autre par Plutarque. Translatees de grec en Francois, Paris, Vascosan, 1559.

Amyot Jacques (ed. Simon Goulart), Les Vies des Hommes Illustres, Grecs et Romains, comparées I ’une auec L ’autre par Plutarque de Chaeronee. Translatees par M. Jaques Amyot... Enrichies en cette derniere edition d’amples sommaires sur chacune vie : d’annotations morales en marge qui monstrent le profit qu’on peut faire en lecture de ces histoires... Le tout dispose par S.G.S... Paris, Jeremie des Planches, 1583.

Amyot Jacques (ed. Gérard Walter), Les vies des hommes illustres. Texte établi et annoté par Gerard Walter, Paris, Gallimard (Collection La Pléiade), 1951.

Cruserius Hermannus, Plutarchi... Vitae comparatae illustrium virorum, Graecorum et Romanorum, ita digestae ut temporum ordo seriesque constat, H. Cruserio... interprete, apud T. Guarinum, Basileae, 1564.

North Thomas, The Liues of the Noble Grecians and Romanes compared together by that graue learned Philosopher and Historiographer Plutarke of Chaeronea : Translated out of Greek into French by lames Amyot... and out of French into English by Thomas North, imprinted at London by Thomas Vautrollier and John Wight, 1579.

North Thomas (ed. George Wyndham), Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans Englished by Sir Thomas North, London, Nutt, 1895.

Plutarch editio princeps, του σοφωτατου Πλουταρχου Παραλληλον. Bioi ‘Ρωμαιων και ‘Eλληνων Sapientissimi Plutarchi paralellum. Vitae Romanorum et Graecorum Quadrginta novem, in aedibus P. juntae, Florentiae, 1517.

Tallemant Abbé François, Les vies des hommes illustres de Plutarque, nouvellement traduites de grec en franqois par M. I’abbe Tallemant, Paris, J. Guignard, 1663-1665.

Xylander Guilielmus, Plutarchi... opus quod Parallela et vitas appellant : G. Xylandro... interprete, ... Heidelbergae, Basileae, 1561.

2. References

Aulotte Robert, « Jacques Amyot, traducteur courtois », Revue des Sciences Humaines, 94, 1959, pp. 131-139.

Aulotte Robert, Amyot et Plutarque. La tradition des Moralia au XVle siècle, Geneva, Droz, 1965.

Balard Michel (ed.), Fortunes de Jacques Amyot, Paris, Nizet, 1986.

Ballard Michel, De Cicéron à Benjamin. Traducteurs, traductions, reflexions, new edition (1st. ed. 1992), Lille, Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1995.

Barrow R.H., Plutarch and his Times, London, Chatto & Windus, 1967.

Bellorini Maria Grazia, « Thomas North traduttore di Anton Francesco Doni », Aevum, 38, 1964, p. 84-103.

Burke Peter, « A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians 1450- 1700 », History and Theory, 5, 1966, p. 135-152.

Burke Peter, The Fortunes of the Courtier, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1995.

Bushby Lady Frances, Three Men of Tudor Time, London, Nutt, 1911.

Cioranescu Alexandre, Vie de Jacques Amyot, Paris, Champion, 1941.

Criniti Nicola, « Per una storia del plutarchismo occidentale », Nuova Rivista Storica, 63, 1979, p. 187-203.

Delisle Jean, Woodsworth Judith (eds), Translators through History, Amsterdam, Benjamins, Les traducteurs dans l’histoire, Ottawa, Presses Universitaires d’Ottawa, 1995.

Denton John, « Plutarco come lo leggeva Shakespeare : la traduzione delle Vite parallele di Thomas North (1579) » in : B. Scardigli (ed.), Plutarco : Le vite di Coriolano e Alcibiade, Milan, Rizzoli, 1992, p. 57-78.

Denton John, « Plutarch in English from Sir Thomas North to the Penguin Classics » in : D. Hart (ed.), Aspects of English and Italian Lexicology and Lexicography, Rome, Bagatto, 1993a, p. 265-278.

Denton John, « Wearing a Gown in the Market Place or a Toga in the Forum : Coriolanus from Plutarch to Shakespeare via Renaissance Translation » in : G. Caliumi (ed.), Shakespeare e la sua eredita, Parma, Zara, 1993b, p. 97-109.

Denton John, « Plutarch, Shakespeare, Roman Politics and Renaissance Translation », Poetica (Tokyo), 48, 1997, p. 187-209.

Denton John, « The Descriptive Turn in Historical Translation Studies, or the Decline (and Fall ?) of Translation : an Elizabethan art », forthcoming in : Proceedings of 7th. National Conference on the History of English ‘English Diachronic Translation’, Gargnano sul Garda, October 1995, Rome, Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato.

Gentili Vanna, La Roma antica degli elisabettiani, Bologna, il Mulino, 1991.

Giustiniani Vito R., « Sulle traduzioni latine delle Vite di Plutarco nel quattrocento », Rinascimento, 2nd. series 1, 1961, p. 3-62.

Hermans Theo (ed.), The Manipulation of Literature. Studies in Literary Translation, London, Croom Helm, 1985.

Jones L.C., Simon Goulart 1543-1628, Paris, Champion, 1917.

Kelly L.G., The True Interpreter. A History of Translation Theory and Practice in the West, Oxford, Blackwell, 1979.

Kittel Harald, « Kontinuitat und Diskrepanzen » in : H. Kittel (ed.), Die literarische Ubersetzung. Stand und Perspektiven ihrer Erforschung, Berlin, Schmidt, 1988, pp.158-179.

Lambert Jose, van Gorp Hendrik, « On Describing Translations » in : T. Hermans (ed.) 1985, p. 42-53.

Lefevere André, Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame, London, Routledge, 1992.

Matthiessen F.O., Translation : An Elizabethan Art, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 1931.

Pineaux Jacques, « Un continuateur des Vies Paralleles : Simon Goulart de Senlis (S.G.S.) » in : M. Balard (éd.) 1986, p. 331-342.

Rener Frederick M., Interpretatio : Language and Translation from Cicero to Tytler, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1989.

Sturel René, Amyot, traducteur des Vies parallèles de Plutarque, Paris, Champion, 1908.

van Leuven-Zwart Kitty, « Translation and Translation Studies : Discord or Unity ? » in : Sonja Tirkkonen-Condit (ed.), Empirical Research in Translation and Intercultural Studies, Tilbingen, Narr, 1991, p. 35-44.

Venuti Lawrence, The Translator’s Invisibility. A History of Translation, London, Routledge, 1995.

Worth Valerie, « Les fortunes de Jacques Amyot en Angleterre : une traduction de Sir Thomas North » in : M. Balard (éd.) 1986, p. 285-295.

Wyndham George, « North’s Plutarch » in : Charles Whibley (ed.), Essays in Romantic Literature, London, Macmillan, 1919, p. 1.17-235.


1 Rener (8) states that « the intention here is to explain, not to criticize », in contrast with evaluative approaches, and refers specifically to Kelly (1979 : 5). In fact, Kelly’s descriptive/critical approach is more in line with Rener’s than the latter would have us believe.

2 Lefevere (1992 and many previous studies) places socio-ideological-poetological constraints above those of language, but he uses the term in a more restricted sense than that intended by Rener.

3 At least 30 different editions of Amyot’s translation appeared between 1559 and 1645 (Sturel 1908 : 93-148, 615-619, Jones 1917 : 585-588), a remarkable number, if we compare it with the 7 editions of North’s translation between 1579 and 1675-6. Late 17th. century and 18th. century France appeared to have preferred new translations (Tallemant, Le Serre, Dacier and Ricard), although there was an ‘Amyot revival’ between 1783-6 and 1826 (the editions edited by Brotier). The translation chosen for inclusion in the Pléiade collection is significantly Amyot’s with modernized spelling and some lexical updating (Amyot ed. Walter 1951). North had to wait until the end of the 19th. century for his revival (North ed. Wyndham 1895).

4 The widely read collection of Latin translations of the Lives by 15th. century Italian humanists first published in Rome in 1470 (Giustiniani 1961), though newly edited and reprinted frequently up to 1560 (when it was replaced by the new translations of Xylander and Cruserius) did not reach Amyot’s bestseller status.

5 Delisle and Woodsworth eds 1995 single out Amyot among the many translators mentioned in this collective treatment of the role of practitioners in translation history, including a photograph of his statue (itself a significant fact) in his native Melun (66 fig. 6). The considerable contemporary biographical material on the French translator allowed a modern scholar to write his biography (Cioranescu 1941). North has no statues, or any other iconographic material, and the short account of the little we know of his life (Bushby 1911 : 175-192) adds nothing essential to his short entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.

6 Gentili 1991 : 36 note 22 suggests that North used the 1574 Lausanne edition of Amyot on the basis of the identity of the medallions in the two translations. Actually these appeared for the first time in the 1572 edition.

7 Among these exceptions are Wyndham 1919, Matthiessen 1931 : 54-102 (both unsystematic and heavily evaluative), Bellorini 1964, Worth 1986. The author of the present paper has begun a new investigation : Denton 1992, 1993b, 1997.

8 North belonged to the Puritan pressure group in the established Church of England gravitating around his patron the Earl of Leicester. For further treatment and full bibliographical references see Denton 1997.

9 In the chapter on translation in a well known modem study of Plutarch these notes are wrongly attributed to Amyot himself (Barrow 1967 : 164). Denton 1993a provides a different view of English translations of Plutarch up to the present.


Maître de conférences en langue et linguistique anglaise à l’Université de Florence, en Italie. Il est coauteur d’un manuel de traduction universitaire, Translation Revisited/Ritorno alla traduzione (Florence, 1985) et l’auteur de nombreux articles sur la traduction à la Renaissance (portant plus particulièrement sur Plutarque/Amyot/North, les métaphores de la traduction, la bible anglaise et la traduction de textes liturgiques), l’analyse contrastive de textes anglais et italiens et la traduction dans les médias de masse contemporains. Il a participé à l’élaboration de Translators through History/Les traducteurs dans l’histoire édité par Jean Delisle et Judith Woodsworth (Amsterdam/Paris/Ottawa 1995).

© Artois Presses Université, 1998

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