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Theoretical framework

Our critical approach is based on the combination of three distinct, although overlapping, bodies of theory, which we will bring together, interrogate and adapt in order to achieve our aims. Firstly, our research relies on Chartier’s definition of the culture of print as the intersection between the material aspects of the printed word and the social contexts of its creation, dissemination and reception. We thus consider translations as material objects, and analyse features such as format, layout, typography, etc. – thereby responding to Chartier’s and McKenzie’s invitation to examine the “non-authorial textual determinants” of printed books as important indicators of the way they were designed and read.



The purpose of this project is to conduct a study of the relationship between translation and book history in early modern England, starting in 1473, the year in which the first book was printed in English, and ending in 1660 with the restoration of the English monarchy. To date, no such study has been made. Moreover, translation has played but a very small part in histories of the English print trade.


Our objectives are therefore to demonstrate that the link was extremely strong and had repercussions on the development of literary, intellectual and religious culture in this, one of the richest periods of English history, and to attribute to translation the place it deserves in book history studies. We shall thus be contributing to two fields of intellectual endeavour that are being given increasing attention in the academic world; yet, more unusually, we shall be bringing them together in one investigative exercise covering a period of over a century and a half.


Finally, our study aims to demonstrate the extent to which the proliferation of translation and the development of the printing press together shaped literary taste, furthered knowledge in many areas, and served to advance religious movements. 


The history of English print starts with translation: the first printed book in English was Caxton's 1473 version of Raoul Lefèvre's romance, the Recueil des histoires de Troye. During the ensuing hundred and eighty years or so that ended with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, translation continued to play an extremely important role in English society, in terms of both its share of the book market and its cultural and intellectual significance.


Yet the history of English translation during this early modern period has never been studied in terms of its relationship with that market, and, conversely, the history of English books has paid but scant attention to the contribution of translation to the development of the printing press. The objective of our project is to correct this situation by analyzing for the first time the link between translation and print in this whole period, increasing the visibility of translated texts and translators, and demonstrating how important translation and the printing press, working in tandem, were in the culture of one of England's richest and most dynamic periods.


Main critical outcomes

By bringing together the fields of translation studies and book studies, this project seeks to further recent attempts at integrating material history into the study of early modern English translation; and, conversely, at showcasing the importance of translations in the shaping of early modern English print culture.

This will materialize into two main outcomes:




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