ProjectVersio latina: Akteure, Funktionen und Ziele der Übersetzung frühneuzeitlicher Literatur ins Lateinische

Basic data

Versio latina: Akteure, Funktionen und Ziele der Übersetzung frühneuzeitlicher Literatur ins Lateinische
10/1/2021 to 9/30/2024
Abstract / short description:
The project Versio latina investigates translations of vernacular literature into Latin that were successful on the early modern print market. Complementary to previous research on early modern literature, it focusses on Latin not as source but as target language, centring on the Neo-Latin translation. It aims at (1) discovering the cultural functions and economical objectives of the versio latina, at (2) describing and theoretically reflecting on the special translation situation applying when translating into Latin in the early modern age, and thus to raise awareness of (3) the ‘forgotten Latinity’ of vernacular literature which was of major importance to the internationalisation of early modern literature as well as the book trade.
The framework proposal of the PP 2130 “Early Modern Translation Cultures” emphasises that Latin was not only used for scholarly communication but played also a vital role as “interkulturelle Gelenkstelle” (‘intercultural junction’; p. 11). The project adopts this approach and connects the versio latina to all three outlined research areas by understanding ‘translation’ (versio) as a category that must be defined verbally as well as culturally.
Culturally, the Neo-Latin versio is characterised by the fact that there are no native speakers of the target language – though global and with a comparatively large language community –, nor does it have a shared geographical place. For this constellation, the term ‘target culture’ must be redefined; the project achieves this by investigating the agents, functions and aims of the versio Latina. Consequently, it confronts previous research’s irritation with these Latin “curiosities” by applying a skopos theory approach based on an international corpus of early modern Latin ‘bestsellers’. Intricately connected is the particular verbal multi-referentiality of any Neo-Latin versio: if a German translator translates a Spanish novel into Latin and the work is published by an internationally active publisher, the decisions concerning the translation are not only informed by the ‘semantic rucksack’ attached to ancient Latin, but also by the possibilities offered by Neo-Latin, the mother tongue of the translator, the source language of the text and potentially the mother tongue(s) of the intended buyers. The surrounding discourse is to be researched on the basis of the translations, their paratexts and secondary sources connected with their publication.
On the example of a relevant text corpus, the whole project aims at reconstructing and methodologically reflecting on the interrelationship between source and target languages, cultural networks and economies around early modern Latin translations. The results obtained will reveal the versio latina to be a complementary phenomenon to the translation from Latin and as intermediary phenomenon of global cultural exchange. They will be valuable for the historical global language Latin as well as for the research into modern international languages.

Involved staff


Institute of Philology
Department of Ancient Studies and Art History, Faculty of Humanities
CRC 1391 - Different Aesthetics
Collaborative research centers and transregios

Local organizational units

Institute of Philology
Department of Ancient Studies and Art History
Faculty of Humanities


Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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