Friday, September 18, 2009

The original copy

Still doing the glossary, i.e., being excessively attentive to each and every word of TWL, I sense somehow the presence of a Latin text behind the Chinese version - what the Chinese like to call the 'original copy' (diben 底本). If (a) there was one, and (b) we could find it, this would, of course, be a little sensation. Both Zhang Baichun and Tian Miao, who have been working with Jesuit texts for a whole while, believe that there must be a Latin original that served as working and guiding text for Dias' translation project.

In order to establish if there was one in the first place, we should read the paratexts carefully, since they may contain some hints about the composition process. I have been reluctant about this task because these texts are hard to read and also extremely hard to decipher since they are written in a beautiful yet extremely cursive calligraphy (see picture!)

A sine qua non clue for finding the 'original copy' would also be to retrieve the original first edition of the Vatican Library. As mentioned in a previous post, the TWL has been digitized at USF, but the text they are using is not the text of the first edition, but rather a reprint that was published many decades later. This is philologically not quite kosher.:-)

If there was an 'original copy' and if this original copy is still extant, where would it be?

These are important questions for our introduction.

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