‘These changes and accessions of knowledge’: translation, scientific travel writing and modernity - Alexander von Humboldt's Personal Narrative
Martin, A. E. (2011) ‘These changes and accessions of knowledge’: translation, scientific travel writing and modernity - Alexander von Humboldt's Personal Narrative. Studies in Travel Writing, 15 (1). pp. 39-51. ISSN 1755-7550
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/13645145.2011.535375
A second English translation of Alexander von Humboldt's account of travel to South America, the Relation historique (1814–25), was published between 1852 and 1853. Appearing some 30 years after the first seven-volume translation (1814–29) by Helen Maria Williams, this second rendering of the Personal Narrative by Thomasina Ross was an abridged version that aimed to make Humboldt's travelogue more relevant to the mid-century reader. This translation has largely been overlooked by Humboldt scholars, despite it being a far more affordable, accessible and popular edition. I discuss here how Ross's revisions can be understood within a larger process of rereading and revision that responded to critics’ assessments of the first translation. Emphasising the status of the Personal Narrative as a text in flux, I assess how Ross modernised it to meet the demands of a new readership, recasting the image that Humboldt had constructed of himself as a travelling scientist, scientific writer and member of the international scientific community.
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