Random Translations

Bits and Pieces Chosen for No Good Reason

A World Powered by Compressed Air

A French magazine from 1847 describes the enthusiasm of M. Antoine Andraud for compressed air. M. Andraud actually made some experiments with compressed-air vehicles in the 1840s, but he dreamed of much more.

The Unreliability of Libanius’ Autobiography

Introducing his own study of Libanius, Émile Monnier explains why he will not look to Libanius’ account of his own life for reliable facts.

Better than Virgil

A short literary anecdote from Albert Cim shows us a French translator who presumes to think that Virgil needs his help.

Boissier on African Latin

An extensive quotation from Boissier’s book Roman Africa. After we began the translation, we discovered that there is another translation of this book by Arabella Ward, but we like our translation better.

Was There an African Latin?

In the massive Dictionary of Christian Archaeology and Liturgy by Fernand Cabrol and Henri Leclercq, the article “Africa (Languages Spoken in)” (1920) concludes that African Latin was not distinct enough from Latin elsewhere in the Empire to form a definable dialect.

A Feminist Emperor of Rome

Louis Denise and Georges de Dubor, writing in a 1918 issue of the Mercure de France, attempt to explain the inexplicable emperor Heliogabalus by means of an interesting suggestion: the emperor was, at heart, a feminist.

Don’t Read My Stupid Preface

Louis Napoléon Andoche Junot, second Duc d’Abrantès, wrote novels, since the duking business was not very remunerative for him. Here he begins a preface to Two Hearts of Woman by telling us not to read the preface.

The Consolation of Inheritance

Albert Cim’s New Literary and Historical Recreations is the sort of book you can open anywhere: it has little organization other that that this reminded the author of that. Here, for example, he mentions an interesting little fact about Guez de Balzac, which brings up a longer anecdote about Balzac’s rival Vincent Voiture, which in turn reminds him of a play.…

Here’s My Sloppy Book

Paul Scarron explains that his own laziness, not his printer’s neglect, is responsible for any errors in printing in his new book. Le Romant comique, or the Comical Novel (a very utilitarian title), was a great hit for Monsieur Scarron, and has gone through many editions since, but every subsequent edition still carries this notice to the reader. It’s part of the fun.

Europe Must Balance the Power of the United States

As news from the Mexican War came in, Europeans wondered what the dominance of the United States portended. A French writer in a Belgian magazine argues that, left to themselves, the nations around the Union are likely to disappear, with serious damage to European interests. It will be necessary for Europe to throw its power into the balance to keep the relentlessly acquisitive “Anglo-Saxon race” in the United States in check.

What Is This Place?

Sometimes Dr. Boli finds himself reading a book in French (or occasionally Latin) and comes across an interesting passage that, out of his great regard for his readers, he makes available in a new English translation. This is another way of saying that sometimes Dr. Boli gets bored and scribbles a translation at random from whatever he happens to be reading at the moment.

All these translations are released into the public domain through a CC0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. You can use them for any purpose without asking permission, and the only condition is that you cannot hold Dr. Boli responsible for their accuracy or safety.

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