Attempts to Identify the Translator of the Daniel Brown Edition

  • One of our favored public domain translations of Lucretius is an anonymous prose translation published by Daniel Brown in London in 1743.

    As a matter of idle speculation, I thought there might be some interest in trying to identify the responsible party. The two main approaches that occur to me at the moment are to a.) Locate individuals from that time period who display an interest in Lucretius, and b.) Review other contemporaneous translations of Latin authors for signs of similarity.

    This is very much an exercise of throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks, so with that in mind I present my first contender;

    Christopher Pitt - Wikipedia

    Dates: 1699-1748

    Other translations:

    -Lucan's Pharsalia

    -Virgil's Aeneid

    From wikipedia: His father translated a portion of Lucretius (the plague in Athens) for Thomas Creech¹ in verse, and his brother translated five books of Paradise Lost into Latin. After 1740 when he finished Virgil, no major work is listed. This gives him three years to complete Lucretius, alongside his clergy work and poetry.


    ¹I had no idea Creech had a contributor!

  • Here's the engraver, Guernier, named after his father, another engraver.

    Louis Du Guernier - Wikipedia

    An interesting, unrelated sidenote, I read the referenced book by George Vertu on the state of painting and engraving in England in the 18th century, and one of the entries was of Claude de Bosc (mentioned in Guernier's page above). One of his works was a "Cartoon" for other printsellers. Vertu cites this entry at the bottom of a page with:

    * One Epiciere and Baron assisted him.

    The word Epiciere is interesting, it seems to be from the french épicier which means grocer. épicier itself is derived from the french word épice meaning spice, hence grocer = spice - er. There are various other forms of french words that come from the late latin word speciēs, and while this might seem very off-topic for the thread, and I might move it should this prove a credible finding, I cannot help but notice the similarity between these french words and "Epicure". Perhaps that's another link in the connotation between Epicurus and food, and where the modern culinary definition of Epicurean is derived from.

    épicer - Wiktionary

    Edit: Just saw the post you made in the original 1743 thread last month about Guernier. In the meantime, I've just been going down the rabbit hole of the various Creech editions. The 1712 edition of Creech, published by Jacob Tonson, however, is the source of most of the illustrations and engravings of the Browne edition.

    “If the joys found in nature are crimes, then man’s pleasure and happiness is to be criminal.”

  • Quote

    Edit: Just saw the post you made in the original 1743 thread last month about Guernier.

    Ha! I thought I vaguely recalled looking into this recently. I often write up a post or a new thread and then decide to delete it without submitting, so I thought it was that.

  • This issue is well worth keeping alive. The Brown translation is head and shoulders above that of Creech and someone really deserves credit for the advancement.

    And the Pharsalia poem is one we don't discuss often, given its very different topic, but the last I looked at it I can surely see the attraction that it holds for someone who likes Lucretius. If I recall correctly it's a very "romantic" tribute to the "republican" side that I would expect most of the Epicureans sided with and I can see a very strong "what might have been" attraction in translating both poems.

  • I remember when I came across Pharsalia maybe six years ago I downloaded a text version and ran it through a text-to-speech converter and listened to the whole thing.

    Most of it was blood and guts and makes the Plague of Athens section in Lucretius Book 6 sound like a walk in the park. I remember thinking that I had never heard so many creative ways to slash the bodies of soldiers into pieces.

    However I also remember that there was a section devoted to Pompey's defeat that went on and on about how terrible the result was -- something to the effect that the whole world was crying that Pompey had lost and what might have been if he had won the battle. I wish I could find that as it would be a good section to post and perhaps illustrate a parallel in sentiment if not in subject matter. If I come across it I will.