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A Translation of Quintilian: Part I

August 16, 2011

This is the first in what I hope will be a many-part series: a translation of as much as I can (surely over a period of years) of Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria, or Oratorical Instruction.  I thought that — given as I want to read Quintilian in Latin anyway, and need to be doing something to keep my Latin in shape — y’all might be interested in the work, which after all accords very nicely with many of the things this blog has been up to lately. For those with Latin, I’ve provided the original text, so that you may take issue with the liberties I have taken with it.

Today’s entry: the introductory epistle.

M. Fabius Quintilianus Tryphoni suo salutem.  Efflagitasti cotidiano convicio, ut libros, quos ad Marcellum meum de institutione oratoria scripseram, iam emittere inciperem.  nam ipse eos nondum opinabar satis maturuisse, quibus componendis, ut scis, paulo plus quam biennium tot alioqui negotiis districtus impendi: quod tempus non tam stilo quam inquisitioni instituti operis propre infiniti et legendis auctoribus, qui sunt innumerabiles, datum est.  usus deinde Horati consilio, qui in arte poetica suadet ne praecipitetur editio nonumque prematur in annum dabam iis otium, ut refrigerato inventionis amore diligentius repetitos tamquam lector perperenderem.  sed si tanto opere efflagitantur quam tu adfirmas, permittamus vela ventis et oram solventibus bene precemur.  multum autem in tua quoque fide ac diligentia positum est, ut in manus hominum quam emendatissimi veniant.

Marcus Fabius Quintillia sends health to his Trypho.  You have demanded with daily reprimand that I begin to publish now the books I had written to my Marcellus about oratorical instruction. For I myself did not suppose that they had ripened sufficiently — I devoted, as you know, a little over two years to compiling them, distracted by so many other duties — because time was allowed not so much for composition(1) as for the investigation of [oratorical] instruction, a work properly infinite, and for reading the authorities, which are innumerable. Then, following the advice of Horace, who in the Ars Poetica recommends that the edition not be rushed out “and be suppressed into the nineth year,” I gave them leisure, so that I might return to them more diligently, with cooled love of my invention, and assess them carefully just as a reader would.  But if they are demanded with a need as great as you say, let me entrust my sails to the winds and pray well to the Fulfillers for shore.(2) Moreover, I have also put much in your faith and diligence that they come into people’s hands as free as possible from errors.

1. The Latin here is “stilus,” originally “stylus,” eventually “style.”  Here we catch the word midway in its evolution.

2. This is my best guess for this idiom, which I find rather perplexing.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. linebrick permalink*
    August 17, 2011 3:19 pm

    The Fulfillers are great, and you’ve gorgeously rendered refrigerato inventionis amore (!). The last line, while certainly grammatical in English, rings a little of translatorese, at least to my ear… I’m unhelpfully stumped as to how to improve on what you’ve got there, but it seems to me that in English we wouldn’t say “it is placed in your faith… that they come,” but something more along the lines of “that they come… is placed in your faith.” Hm, that also sounds bizarre. I don’t know. Is the verb “to put” instead of “to place” just too ugly and wrong? (cf “I’m putting this on you,” etc?) Well done though; I like this stuff.

    • August 17, 2011 7:44 pm

      Maybe: “I have put it much in your faith and diligence that they come into people’s hands as free as possible from errors.”

  2. August 17, 2011 7:39 pm

    I think the weirdest thing about it is “greatly placed.” I’m not sure we’d ever say that.

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