Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Brunetto Latini's Li Livres Dou Tresor: The Translation of a Political System

Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Brunetto Latini's Li Livres Dou Tresor: The Translation of a Political System

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. The paper examines aspects of translation within the context of translatio studii. Why was Brunetto Latini's Li livres dou Tresor (The Book of the Treasure)-an encyclopaedic work composed during the author's exile in France (1260-7)-written in French instead of Latini's native tongue Italian (Tuscan)? Did the reasons for Latini's language option remain pertinent in the Italian version of the encyclopaedia-whose translation was supervised by Latini himself? However, the paper explores not only the translation of the book from one language into another but also the translation, and implicitly the selection, of the ancient sources into Latini's encyclopaedia.

Keywords: translation within the context of translatio studii

Brunetto Latini's name emerges from scholarship rather in incidental references by or in connection with Latini's purported pupil, Dante Aligheri, than in studies devoted to Latini's work.1 However, Latini's The Book of the Treasure/Le Livres dou Tresor / Il Tesoro, a summa of his literary production, propels its author into the domain of encyclopaedia in which the discourse on subordination to Dante is suspended.

The popular encyclopaedia was written in French (or langue d'oïl2 and translated into Italian by a certain Bono Giamboni3 and almost simultaneously into Catalan under Latini's supervision.4 These multiple contemporary translations corroborated with the generic dedication of the book may suggest an intended adaptability of the dedication through translation. In scholarship, the proposed recipients of the French and Catalan versions are named as Charles d'Anjou and Alfonso el Sabio. No contemporary Italian dedicatee has drawn scholars' attention though, according to David Prince, an Italian-to wit Tuscan-translation was already in circulation by 1268.5 The Italian translation and its subsequent versions present an accretion of the historical material with information on events occurred post Le livre dou Tresor.

The historical circumstances nourished the diverse aspects of the problems inherent in translation. We know that Latini was bom to a Florentine influential family around the year 1220 and that he later held for decades the important position of notary (rhetorician). He was part of the important diplomatic mission to the court of Alfonso El Sabio in 1260 initiated by the Florentine communal government by which Florence sought help against Emperor Frederick's son Manfred and the Ghibelline party. Extremely active on the polarized Florentine political stage, Latini, as a Guelph, was condemned to exile in 1260 when the Ghibellines took control of the city but he continued his public life after his return to Florence in 1267.6 Ironically, the seven years Latini had to spend in exile in France proved to be propitious not only for his debut as a writer but also for his entire writing career.

This paper examines aspects of translation within the context of translatio studii,7 to wit the transmission of knowledge: translation of the book from one language to another as well as the translation of the sources in Latini's encyclopaedia. Accretion, digression, and effacement emerge as common devices as the author seeks to accommodate to local needs through the act of translation. The factors are inspired by the goal of Li livres dou Tresor, to prepare a book fostering the practice of good government according to divine and human law. According to Latini, politics, a division of learning in the practical domain, holds the title of the "highest wisdom." The political teleology of Li livres dou Tresor allows claiming that Latini's temporary appropriation of French is just a façade that conceals support for a political structure-the city-state-foreign to the French territory where Latini redacted his Li livres dou Tresor but familiar to the author's place of origin. For Latini, French remains a facilitator; it does not become mark of identity.

Why did Latini write Le livre dou Tresor in French? …

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