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The Tradition of the Byzantine Translator's Preface

Elizabeth A. Fisher, George Washington University, Fellow 2007/08

In addition to two Byzantine translator's prefaces that I analyzed in previous publications, I secured in the course of my fellowship eleven more texts that range in date from the eighth through the fifteenth centuries and accompany translations from Latin, Persian, Syriac and Arabic. Of these, one is published only partially and one is unpublished. I obtained manuscript facsimiles of these two prefaces and am preparing annotated editions of them to be published in separate articles.

As my project evolved, I recognized that a series of articles on individual prefaces or groups of prefaces is the most practical means of initially presenting the genre; I shall eventually draw these studies into a monograph as I locate additional prefaces. I shall also examine the antecedents of the Byzantine translator's prefaces. I plan one article on two second-century prefaces to translations from Latin and a second on the Latin source of Manuel Holobolos' thirteenth-century discussion of translation theory.

In addition to studying Byzantine translator's prefaces, I also prepared the first translation with annotations of Michael Psellos' Life of Symeon the Metaphrast and of his On the Usual Miracle at Blachernae, which was a special challenge because of its complex system of references to neo-Platonic doctrine and to Byzantine legal texts.

This year I have also prepared or revised five articles accepted for publication: three on Planoudes' Greek translations, one on the anonymous commentator to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Ⅶ, and one on monasteries and the Latin language in thirteenth-century Constantinople.

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