Are you one of those talented people who can read/write a foreign language? Excellent, I have a simple but valuable favour to ask of you.
Why do I need you?
I am currently working on a project to try and bring together all known translations (especially contemporary ones) of the works of the co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). Already I have managed to uncover over 50 translations in 10 languages.
Unfortunately, as is necessary with a project like this, I am now increasingly reaching the stage where my own personal linguistic abilities are stretched.
This is especially the case for those languages which do not use latin/roman script (such as Russian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) However, whatever your linguistic strengths any help would be greatly appreciated.
The likelihood is that there are many other works I have missed in languages currently inaccessible to me. However, if you can read/write the language it will take you only a few minutes to find them. For me, however, it would take considerably longer or perhaps even not happen at all.
What would I like you to do? The 3 simple steps…
What I would find extremely handy is if you could do a simple preliminary search in one/some of the various national libraries across the globe. This is how:
Find the national library catalogues of the countries that use the language you read/write. This is easily done by finding the country in this Wikipedia list of national/state libraries
or searching for “national library of [so and so country]” in your search engine of choice
2. Search for whatever Wallace’s name would appear in local translation (such as Альфред Руссель Уоллэс in Russian). If you feel inclined, a search for “Alfred Russel Wallace” would also be great
Want to do more?
If you know of anyone else who may be able to help please do forward them a link to this post. The wider the net that is cast the more likely we will catch the translations; wherever they may be.
Furthermore, if you’re willing to spend a little more time looking that would be superb! You may well know some ideal ways of finding more hidden translations.
Know other public, university or private libraries which may hold Wallace works. Great. Think a private collector you know may have an idea of an item. Brilliant.
Whatever you think may help it will be very warmly received indeed.
What is going to happen to the information?
Currently the resulting material is planned to be written up into a paper which will—for the first time ever—bring together information on Wallace in Translation.
Already, Archives of Natural History have expressed an interest in publishing the resulting paper. Obviously your generosity will be recognised in some way or another.
What is more, I am in the process of developing a site which will list all known translations of Wallace’s works and–hopefully–eventually include scans where possible of them. This, of course, will develop over time.
Why is this important?
Translations are very important historical documents. None of them are carbon copies of the original just in a foreign language. Something is always added, adjusted or lost in translation. These changes tell us a lot about how the work was received globally and also something about the context in which it was translated.
For those of you able and willing to help I can only thank you for your time and effort. It will be much appreciated.
Roll of Honour
Here is a–rapidly growing–list of those who have already helped so far:
George Beccaloni (Natural History Museum, London)
Juan Manuel Rodriguez Caso (University of Leeds)
Anne Holdorph (University of Southampton)
Becky Holdorph (University of Southampton)
Michèle Kohler (C. C. Kohler, Antiquarian Bookseller)
Hong Kong Central Library (esp. Yvonne Yu)
Det Kongelige Bibliotek Nationalbibliotek og Københavns (esp. Anne Marie Furbo)
Katalin Straner (Central European University, Budapest)
Thank you all!