Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Popular Scientific Recreation" Part II - A Flea Circus Example of Variations in Translations

Le Ricreazioni Scientifiche ovvero L'insegnamento coi Giuochi is full of wonderful illustrations and I plan to periodically revisit examples from this book since I will touch on only one passage (or lack of one) for now.
Originally published in France under the title Les récréations scientifiques, ou L'enseignement par les jeux, the author, Gastone Tissandier, wrote many similar books in the late 1800s.  He also founded the magazine La Nature which eventually merged with another magazine to become La Recherche which is still in publication.

Flea-drawn carriage in the Italian version
 The copy in our library is the Italian translation though I wasn't able to find a digital copy of it online.  A search for it led me to find the original French text as well as many other translations in English, Norwegian and Spanish.)  I originally intended to only embed the English translation.  However I soon discovered an illustration I wanted to share was missing from that version.  I've embedded the English, French and Spanish online copies at the end of this post for comparison.  The Norwegian version can be found at the Danish library site

In comparing the English text with the Italian copy we have, I found a great example of how a translation may be edited to suit the publisher and the new audience.  The French, Italian, Spanish and Norwegian texts all have the illustration below and paragraph on flea drawn carriages from a flea circus.   Flea circuses and flea feats began in the 1500s and were still very popular during this time period, but for unknown reasons it was omitted from the English text.  Certainly the flea circuses were popular in England too so perhaps the translator or publisher wasn't a big fan or didn't feel it was scientific enough.

Flea-drawn carriage in Norwegian version
from the original French version

Flea circuses recently made the headlines when a German Flea Circus was killed off by cold weather.  For more on the history of the flea circus, see the videos below or visit these sites: and

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