Introduction to the Norwegian translation of the Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1888-9)
By Gry Vissing Jensen
Charles Darwins liv og breve [Charles Darwins life and letters] was translated into Norwegian from the first edition of The life and letters of Charles Darwin, and published in 1888-89. A complete Danish translation of Life and Letters has never been published. The autobiography included in Life and Letters was translated in 1909 under the title Charles Darwin Selvbiografi [Charles Darwin’s autobiography] in combination with a new Danish edition of On the Origin of Species and Descent of Man based on Jens Peter Jacobsen’s original translations and revised by Frits Heide. The autobiography was reprinted in 1943, still in Heide’s translation.
The original Norwegian translation was published in the paperback series 'Bibliothek for de tusen hjem' [Library for a thousand homes]. The publisher was Johan Sørensen who was strongly influenced by Darwinism. Prior to Liv og Breve he had just published Grundtræk [Fundamental Features] by Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) in 1888.
Martin Simon Søraas translated all three volumes of Liv og breve (Freeman (1977) incorrectly credited the translation of the first volume to Peder Jacobsen Ulleland). As with the Danish translations of the Origin of Species and Descent of Man, Liv og Breve was initially published as booklets beginning in 1888 at just 30 øre a piece. The first booklet was translated by Ulleland, but it was criticized for being rather poorly translated. Sørensen then contracted a new translator, Søraas, who made an entirely new translation of Life and Letters. Søraas’ translation was ready in 1889. The three volumes were first published by Sørensen’s more prestigious publishing house, 'De tusen hjems forlag' [The Thousand Homes’ Publisher], costing 10 NKK. Later the same year it was published by 'Bibliothek for de tusen hjem', in a smaller format, costing only 5 NKK.
The scientific content of Liv og Breve was supervised by the Norwegian botanist Olav Johan-Olsen (1860-1931), who was one of the strongest Norwegian advocates for Darwinism, author of Udviklingslærens nuværende standpunkt [The present state of evolutionism] published in 1887 in the same series as Liv og breve.
Darwinism was not new to the Norwegians in 1887, as it had already been introduced in 1861 through an article by Peter Christian Asbjørnsen (1812-85) in the magazine Budstikken, and in scientific circles by the theologian and natural researcher Michael Sars (1804-69) in a meeting on 3 May 1869 in Videnskabs-Selskabet [The Scientific Academy]. Moreover Darwinism was advocated through several magazines, amongst others, Nyt Norsk Tidsskrift [New Norwegian Periodical], which was published in 1877-78, Nyt Tidsskrift [New Periodical], which was published in the years 1882-87 and 1892-1895. Both magazines were edited by Johan Ernst Welhaven Sars, the son of Michael Sars. Finally Magasin for Naturkundskab [Magazine for Nature Study], which was published in the 1870s, also discussed Darwinism. The Danish translations of the Origin of Species and Descent of Man were also sold in Norway.
In the 1880s there were close ties between the Norwegian and Danish intellectuals: The Danish publisher for Gyldendal F. V. Hegel, who had published Jens Peter Jacobsen’s translations of the Origin of Species had close connections to the Norwegian poet and Darwinist Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910). Jacobsen and the Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), who combined his views of evolutionism and the history of literature to a conception of nature called ‘psycho-evolutionary theory’, were close friends.
Both the Norwegian and the Danish translations of Darwin’s books were widely circulated among intellectuals of both countries. For almost twenty years Jacobsen’s Danish translation of the Origin in 1871/1872 was the only translation available for the Norwegian audience, as a Norwegian translation of Origin wasn’t published until 1890. Likewise the Norwegian translation of Liv og Breve was the only translation available in Denmark.
Beside the cultural connections there were also linguistic ones: The written and spoken Norwegian language was very closely related to Danish, which made it easy to read for a Danish audience. Hence, it was only natural that Liv og breve was acquired by Det Kongelige Danske Bibliotek [The Royal Danish Library] and Landbohøjskolen [The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural High School of Denmark] just after publication.
In Denmark Liv og Breve was widely read, as the pamphlets were cheap and available by subscription. Liv og Breve is also mentioned in both first and second edition of Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon [Salmonsen’s Encyclopaedia]; the first edition published in 1891-1911 and second edition 1915-30. Salmonsen's was the best acclaimed encyclopaedia at the time in Denmark and widely circulated.
See the general introduction to Darwin in Denmark.
Darwin, F. ed. 1889. Charles Darwins liv og breve med et kapitel selvbiografi. Translated by Martin Simon Søraas. Fagerstrand pr. Høvig: Bibliothek for de Tusen Hjem.
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Darwin, F. ed. 1889. Charles Darwins liv og breve med et kapitel selvbiografi. Translated by Martin Simon Søraas. Fagerstrand pr. Høvig: Bibliothek for de tusen hjem. ix + 459 pp.; iv + 464 pp.; iii + 492 pp. 6.5 x 11,2 x 2.8 cm. Printing: Nikolai Olsens bogtrykkeri, Kristiania.
Darwin, F. ed. 1887. The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. London: John Murray.
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Holdings: Department of Philosophy and the History of Ideas, University of Aarhus
Book I, first pages: 'Charles Darwin. From a photograph of 1854',
'Charles Darwin. From a photograph presumably from 1874',
'Charles Darwin. From a photograph of 1881.'
Book I, p. 10: 'Slægttavle'
Book II, p. 341: 'Memorandun reference'
Book III, pp. 203-205: 'Francis Galtons qustionaire'
Book III, p. 270: 'Spørgsmaal i anledning af visualisations-evner'
Book II, p. 398: 'Diagram I'
Book II, p. 399: 'Diagram II'
Book III, pp. 401-403: 'Enclosure 1: Bisættelsen i Westminster-abbediet'.-Funeral
Book III, pp. 404-416: 'Enclosure 2, part I, II and III'-bibliography
Book III , pp. 417-418 'Enclosure 3'-portraits
Book III, pp. 419-424: 'Enclosure 4'-honoraries and societies
Contents- volume 1:
3 blank folios
2 title pages
1 translator’s introduction
3 Darwins introduction pp. 3-5,
Chapter 1: Darwins æt. pp. 6-32
Table p. 10
Chapter 2: Selvbiografi. pp. 33-127
Chapter 3: Erindringer. pp. 127-190
Chapter 4: Opholdet i Cambridge. pp. 191-214
Chapter 5: Ansættelsen på 'Beagle'. pp. 214-246
Chapter 6: Reisen. pp. 247-307
Chapter 7: London og Cambridge 1836-1842. pp. 308-343
Chapter 8: Religiøse anskuelser. pp. 343-359
Chapter 9: Livet i Down 1842-54. pp. 359-447
Table of contents pp. 448
2 blank folios
Contents volume 2:
2 blank folios
2 title pages
Chapter 1: Hvorledes 'Arternes oprindelse' blev til. pp. 3-22
Chapter 2: 'Arternes oprindelse' og dens tilblivelse. pp. 22-78
Chapter 3: Den ufuldendte bog. pp. 79-133
Chapter 4: Udarbeidelsen. pp. 134-207
Chapter 5: Om modtagelsen af 'Arternes oprindelse'. Af professor Huxley. pp. 208-237
Chapter 6: 'Arternes oprindelse' udkommer. pp. 238-298
Chapter 7: 'Arternes oprindelse' (fortsat). pp. 299-413
Table, p. 341; list of people positive towards Darwins theory
Diagram, p. 398: 'Diagram I'
Diagram, p. 399: 'Diagram II'
Chapter 8: Udviklingslærens udbredelse. pp. 414-456
Table of contents pp. 456
2 blank folios
Contents volume 3:
2 blank folios
2 title pages
Chapter 1: Udviklings-lærens udbredelse. 'Dyrs og planters afartning'. pp. 3-69
Chapter 2: 'Husdyrs og kulturplanters afartning' udkommer. pp. 69-103
Chapter 3: Bogen om 'Mennesket'. pp. 103-149
Chapter 4: 'Menneskets afstamning' udkommer. pp. 150-205
Table, pp. 203-205: 'Francis Galtons qustionaire'
Chapter 5: Blandinger om anden udgave af 'Koralrevene', 'Menneskets afstamning' og 'Husdyrs og kulturplanters af-artning'. pp. 206-238
Chapter 6: Miscellanea (fortsættelse).-Gjenoptagelse af geologiske arbeider.-Bogen om regnormene.-Erasmus Darwins liv.-Breve af blandet indhold. pp. 239-286
Table, p. 270: 'Spørgsmaal i anledning af visualisations evner'
Chapter 7: Blomsters befrugtning. pp. 286-325
Chapter 8: 'Virkninger af kryds- og selvbefrugtning i planteriget'. pp. 325-331
Chapter 9: 'Forskjellige blomsterformer hos planter af samme art'. pp. 331-348
Chapter 10: Slyngplanter og insektædende planter. pp. 349-369
Chapter 11: Planters bevægelses-evne. pp. 369-379
Chapter 12: Blandede botaniske breve. 1873-1882. pp. 379-396
Chapter 13: Slutning. pp. 396-400
Enclosure 1: Bisættelsen i Westminster-abbediet. pp. 401-403
Enclosure 2: pp. 404-416
– I: Fortegnelse over C. Darwins værker. pp. 404-407
– II: Fortegnelse over bøger med bidrag af Charles Darwin. pp.407-408
– III: Fortegnelse over videnskabelige afhandlinger samt et udvalg af breve og korte meddelelser til videnskabelige tidskrifter. pp. 408-416
Enclosure 3: pp. 417-418
Portrætter. p. 417
De fornemmeste kobberstik efter fotografier. p. 418
Enclosure 4: pp. 419-424
Æresbevisninger, akademiske grader, lærde selskaber o.s.v. pp. 419-420
Selskaber. pp. 420
Udenlandske selskaber. pp. 420-424; p. 420: America, p. 421: Østerrig-Ungarn, Belgien, p. 422: Danmark, Frankrig, Tyskland, p. 423: Holland, Italien, Portugal, p. 424: Rusland, Spanien, Sverige, Schweitz
Index. pp. 425- 488
2 blank folios