Elisabetta Lonati University of Milan “Words of religious dissent in eighteenth-century Italian translations of Chambers’s Cyclopaedia.”


Chambers’s Cyclopaedia, or An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1728) is the first relevant reference work of eighteenth-century British encyclopaedism. The impact of Chambers’s work was so widespread that in a few years further English editions and translations in other European languages were carried out (e.g. the French Encyclopédie started as a translation project).

Between the 1740s and the 1770s, three Italian editions of Chambers’s Cyclopaedia were issued: in Venice (1748-49 [1748-1753]), Naples (1747-54), and Genoa (1770-75). These translations helped disseminate British culture, history, social values, traditions, and customs in Italy. Among the most interesting topics, religion and religious terminology across two very diverse – even contrasting – religious backgrounds provide a fruitful area of investigation.

The aim of the present study is to collect the entries on religious dissent in Chambers’s Cyclopaedia (the 5th1741-43 edition, and the 1753 Supplement, edited by G. Lewis Scott) and compare them with respect to the same items in the three Italian translations. The analysis highlights the degree of inclusion of religious terminology of this kind, the extension of individual entries (omission-deletion, addition-expansion), and the use of denotation or connotation in describing and translating religious events, entities, and concepts (variation-replacement, source version vs. target version). In other words, the focus of my analysis is on how cultural transfer and exchange of potentially controversial contents are managed by language and translation (especially the adaptation and dissemination of religious contents in a Catholic country).

Keywords: religious dissent, translation, Anglo-Italian, censorship, eighteenth-century,
Chambers’s Cyclopaedia.

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