At the end of the 18th century, along with the changes in society, politics, economics and cultural life in the Romanian Principalities, the Romanian language started a thorough process of modernization. Thus, unlike the early 18th century, when Romanian was mostly represented by translations from Church Slavonic and Greek, the second part of the century sees a significant growth in translations from Modern Greek and other modern European languages (French, Italian, German, Russian, English). The period 1780-1830/40 is considered the start of the “modern stage” in the history of modern literary Romanian (Ion Gheţie, Introducere în studiul limbii române literare, Bucureşti, 1982), or a “transition period” between old and modern Romanian literary language (Şt. Munteanu, D. Ţâra, Istoria limbii române literare, Bucureşti, 1979), also called the “pre-modern stage” (Al. Piru, Istoria literaturii române, vol. II: Epoca premodernă, Bucureşti, 1970). It took the Romanian language out of the realm of the church and into modernity with a series of translations from various domains (history, geography, religion, philosophy, literature, etc.).
The research on this period focuses mainly on issues of paternity, translation sources, and the extent of borrowing from Latin and Romance idioms (e.g. N.A. Ursu, Contribuţii la istoria culturii româneşti, Iaşi, 2002 and 2003; Eugenia Dima, Limba traducerilor laice din a doua jumătate a secolului al XVIII-lea din Muntenia, Iaşi, 1989 etc.). In a recent study, Vita di Pietro, de Antonio Catiforo şi versiunile româneşti din secolul al XVIII-lea (Iaşi, 2013, p. 9), Eugenia Dima remarks that Romanian translations from this period need further research especially as far as the translation techniques are concerned. However, in recent years some texts have been completed with studies on the paternity of translation and sources as part of some ongoing research programmes (e.g. the project The Beginning of the Modernization of the Romanian Culture and its Connection to Western Europe through Translations, coordinated by Andrei Corbea-Hoişie). In this context, the systematic research on the transposition of foreign proper names into Romanian can, along with the other philological and linguistic aspects explored so far, add to our understanding of the ways in which Romanian culture and language were integrated in the West-European culture by shifting direction from the Greek and Slavic models.
Currently, not many philologists who have studied this period in the history of Romanian have done a systematic research on the transfer of proper names from other languages into Romanian. As a consequence, the few existing studies are influenced by some specific research interests – i.e., morphology, spelling, cultural studies, etc. Thus, certain aspects regarding the treatment of proper names in translation will feature in philological editions of some texts written before the pre-modern period (forexample, Liviu Onu, Herodot – Istorii, Bucureşti, 1984; N.A. Ursu, Noi informaţii privitoare la manuscrisul autograf şi la textul revizuit al Vechiului Testament tradus de Nicolae Milescu (I) , in „Limba română”, XXXVII, 1988), in the context of dating them and establishing their sources and paternity. Other studies tackle the morphological adaptation of some types of proper names to the Romanian language system (e.g. Domniţa Tomescu, Observaţii asupra adaptării morfologice a toponimelor străine în limbaromână, in „Limba română”, XXVII, 1978; Felicia Şerban, Elena Popescu, Numele proprii în primele traduceri româneşti ale Cântării Cântărilor, „Cercetări de lingvistică”, XXXI, 1986), or the history of some representative names in the Romanian culture (e.g. Eugen Munteanu, Iisus Hristos, in Lexicologie biblică românească, Humanitas, 2008; Vasile Arvinte, Român, românesc, România, Iaşi, 2003). Still, they are mainly restricted to the translation of proper names in religious texts from Greek and Church Slavonic. Also, each of these studies emphasizes a certain aspect (morphology / spelling / writing system) in transferring the names from one language to another.
In the context of a significant cultural transfer via translation which “revolutionized” the Romanian language towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the next, we aim at investigating the translation practices in use for the proper names found in a series of historical and geographical texts, in print or manuscript, translated into Romanian from Modern Greek, French, Italian, English, and German between 1780 and 1830/40. Our selection includes:
1) printed texts
Claude Buffier, De obşte gheografie pe limba moldovenească, scoasă de pe Geografie lui Bufier, după orînduiala care acum mai pre urmă sau aşăzat în academie dela Parizi, Iaşi, 1795 [Géographie universelle en vers artificiels…, Paris, 1715 or a later edition, via its Italian translation, i.e. Geografia universale del padre Claudio Buffier della Compagnia di Gesù tradotta dal francese nell’italiano , Venezia, 1761 or a later edition];
I. H. Campe, Descoperirea Américii. O carte foarte folositoare…, tomul I, Buda, 1816 [Die Entdekkung von Amerika…, Wien, 1781];
Dimitrie Cantemir, Scrisoarea Moldovei…, Neamţ, 1825 [Descriptio Moldaviae, translated via Demetrii Kantemiris, ehemaligen Fürsten in der Moldau… Beschreibung der Moldau, Frankfurt und Leipzig, 1771];
Claude-François-Xavier Millot, Istorie universală, ádecă de obşte, care cuprinde în sine întîmplările veacurilor vechi…, Buda, 1800 [Élémens d’histoire générale. Première partie. Histoire ancienne, 1772-1773 or a late edition and its German translation, i.e. Universalhistorie alter mittler und neuer Zeiten. Aus dem Franzözischen. Mit Zusätzen und Berichtigungen (Wilhelm Ernst Christiani, trad.), Wien, 1793-1794];
Johann Daniel Friedrich Rumpf, Alexándru I. Împăratul a toată Rósiia. Arătarea stăpînirei şi a caracterului lui Alexándru I, împăratul a toată Róssiia…, Buda, 1815 [Alexander I. Kaiser von Russland, Berlin, 1814];
Thomas Thornton, Starea de acum din oblăduirea gheograficească, orăşenească şi politicească a Prinţipaturilor Valahiei şi a Moldaviei, Buda, 1826 [chapter IX from The Present State of Turkey, London, 1807, translated via a French version, i.e. État actuel de la Turquie…, chapter IX: Moldavie et Valachie, Paris, 1812], etc.;
André-Guillaume Contant D’Orville, Istoríia Américăi, cuprinzind un perilipsis a aflării ei…, Iaşi, vol. I (1800), vol. II (1795) [Histoire des différents peuples de monde…, vol. V, Paris, 1770-1771];
Patrick Gordon, Gheógrafie noao…, Iaşi, 1780 [Geography Anatomized, or a Compleat Geographical Grammer…, London, 1693, translated via Grammatikí gheografikí…, version by Gheorghios Fatzéa] etc.