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From Paris to Moscow via Leipzig (1749–1787): Translational Metamorphoses of Buffon’s Histoire naturelle

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journal contribution
posted on 02.05.2019 by Stéphane Schmitt
This article explores the circulation of Buffon’s texts and ideas, in particular on animal species and their degenerations, from France to Germany and to Russia in the late eighteenth century. First, I outline the different agents of diffusion and their role in the biased transmission of Buffon’s conceptions. Second, I focus on the first German
translation of the Histoire naturelle and examine how, through its different features, it offered to the German audience a modified version of Buffon’s work, adapted to the
local demands and context. Third, I analyze a small German book on the degeneration of animals, almost wholly borrowed from that translation, published by a Russian student in Leipzig, and then translated into Russian. This case study shows the diversity of the vehicles for scientific texts and concepts, not only between two countries, but
at the European level, and the oversimplifications and alterations resulting from this process.