“De interpretatione recta…”:

Early Modern Theories of Translation


Dimitrie Cantemir University, Bucharest


Translation has been essential to the development of languages and cultures throughout the centuries, particularly in the early modern period when it became a cornerstone of the process of transition from Latin to vernacular productions, in such countries as France, Italy, England and Spain. This process was accompanied by a growing interest in defining the rules and features of the practice of translation. The present article aims to examine the principles that underlay the highly intertextual early modern translation theory by considering its classical sources and development. It focuses on subjects that were constantly reiterated in any discussion about translation: the debate concerning the best methods of translation, the sense-for-sense/ word-for-word dichotomy – a topos that can be traced to the discourse on translation initiated by Cicero  and Horace and was further developed by the Church fathers, notably St. Jerome, and eventually inherited by both medieval and Renaissance translators. Furthermore, it looks at the differences and continuities that characterise the medieval and Renaissance discourses on translation with a focus on the transition from the medieval, free manner of translation to the humanist, philological one.

Keywords: translation studies, early modern theory of translation, classical translation theory, literal/ word-for-word translation, sense-for- sense translation, medieval vs. humanist translation