Some choices inherent in preparing a new edition of a 16th C text
– 22 January 2008

In the course of preparing the 1598 second English-language edition of Claude Dariot’s ‘Brief and Easy Introduction to the Astrological Judgement of the Stars’ I find myself faced with a variety of problems and dilemmas when it comes to deciding what to include and what to exclude.

It might be tempting to simply reproduce the 1598 edition verbatim, this would be unsatisfactory for several reasons.

First of these is that the 1598 edition is a very substantial enlargement by a different author, namely G. C., of the first English language edition of 1583, which was itself apparently a direct, fairly precise translation by Fabian Wither of Dariot’s own words in either French or Latin.

Not only has G. C. appended his own treatise on medical astrology to the end of the 1583 edition, but he has also very significantly expanded a number of chapters of Dariot’s work proper, without expressly indicating where he has done this and when they start and stop. Hence meticulous comparison between editions is necessary to differentiate G. C.’s material from that of Dariot. He does not appear to have altered any of Fabian Wither’s translation in itself – he has just added new paragraphs, tables, and other such material where it suits him, in between and after those of the original translation.

So the first thing I plan to do is to expressly indicate the starts and stops in G. C.’s content on the retyped pages.

Some might ask ‘Why don’t you simply cut out all G. C.’s adulterations and stick with the 1583 translation?’ The answer to that is simple: G. C.’s work is itself of the highest historical importance in the history of astrology in the English language, including not only the first treatise on medical astrology ever published in the English language, but also, in his additions to Dariot’s main text, important tables of influences ascribed to the different planets and astrological signs.

The next, and perhaps more serious, problem I have lies in the incompleteness of the 1583 translation in itself. Dariot’s work was originally published in Latin with the main book (as translated in the 1583 edition), followed by the short electional book (also translated in the 1583 edition and carried down to the 1598 edition), and then Dariot’s own treatise on medical astrology. The very year after the Latin edition appeared, a French translation, presumably by Dariot himself, since he was French, was published. But to judge by the available text found online at least, this French translation was only of the main book and short electional book, thus excluding the medical treatise.

So when the first English translation appeared a decade or two later in 1583, it would appear probable that it was in fact a translation from the French edition, and that for that reason it excluded Dariot’s medical treatise. And when G. C. came in 1598 to enhance the 1583 edition with his own treatise on medical astrology, while he made passing reference to the existence of Dariot’s treatise on the same subject as being untranslated, he declared that he would only be willing to take the time to translate it if his own medical treatise met with a sufficiently favourable reception. To judge from the fact that no translation of Dariot’s treatise has ever appeared, this condition set by G. C. would appear never to have been met.

It would have been nice and easy for me if I had been able to go back to the French edition and find Dariot’s medical treatise all ready to translate on into English, in view of the fact that I took French to degree level, whereas I stopped learning Latin at the age of 14.

For the sake of historical completeness and accuracy, I really feel that it is highly desirable if not absolutely essential for Dariot’s treatise on medical astrology to be translated and presented along with G. C.’s treatise in the same critical edition. However, I don’t feel qualified to undertake this work myself, and although I do have some good Latin dictionaries and grammars stored away should the need arise, I think that the amount of time it would take me to even attempt to translate the treatise to a satisfactory standard (even though it may be only about fifty pages in length) is time that at present I can ill afford.

Beyond this, it would really be desirable also to check the faithfulness of the original English translation against the French and Latin sources, which also might help to clarify a number of slightly difficult words (i.e. not found even in the 3700-page Shorter Oxford English Dictionary).

So I’m left thinking that I might have to shelve this particular project once the retyping of the 1598 edition is complete and move onto something more immediately accomplishable for the time being, which is a pity in that the Dariot edition is of great importance, but to prepare it to a satisfactory standard single-handedly would take me considerably more time than I can afford, and I would rather not churn out a substandard product simply because of the financial expediencies of the moment pressing me to an early publication date.


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