‘To make such things known in my Native Language’: acquiring, translating and disseminating Boehme’s writings in England and Wales

Hessayon, Ariel. 2023. ‘To make such things known in my Native Language’: acquiring, translating and disseminating Boehme’s writings in England and Wales. In: Lucinda Martin and Cecilia Muratori, eds. Jacob Böhme in Three Worlds: The Reception in Central-Eastern Europe, the Netherlands, and Britain. Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. 301-322. ISBN 9783110720495 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

It is significant that between 1645 and 1662 most of Boehme’s treatises and the majority of his letters were printed in English translation at London. Moreover, two shorter pieces were rendered from English into Welsh in 1655. Yet the question of why Boehme’s writings were translated into English and the mechanisms behind this process has never been adequately explained. Among Boehme’s followers there circulated a garbled story that Charles I had been the main patron of the venture before his execution on 30 January 1649. Some also maintained, probably correctly, that after the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy the remaining works were brought out under the auspices of Philip Herbert, fifth Earl of Pembroke. In their eyes this tradition of royal and aristocratic support gave the undertaking prestige. Yet it simplifies developments, obscuring the involvement of a number of people with common aims. Actually there were three overlapping phases. Firstly, before the outbreak of Civil War in August 1642 certain English speakers, who could also read Latin and sometimes German and Dutch as well, obtained Boehme’s writings both in manuscript and print through their associates in the Dutch Republic and Holy Roman Empire. Then manuscript translations were made primarily from German and to a lesser extent Dutch and Latin versions of Boehme’s works. Most of these texts were available in editions published at Amsterdam. These English translations, a few of which are anonymous, circulated privately in much the same way as did other mystical and prophetic writings during the period. Finally, there was an organised scheme for publishing the extant corpus in English. While some of the cost was met by the translators themselves, it is clear that Samuel Hartlib and members of his circle acted as intermediaries by using agents to purchase books, subsequently shipping them to England.

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18 December 2023Published

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29 Jan 2024 14:56

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30 Jan 2024 08:36



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