Translation project

DUTCH TRANSLATION OFThe Dream of Poliphile

This translation gives the students, scientists and the public an opportunity to explore the beauty, meaning and mysteries in the text and images of the book.

Dr. Jelle Koopmans, University of Amsterdam

The translators of this edition are indebted to Ms. Ike Cialona who translated the story into our common speech from Italian (Colonna) for the first time. She translated the original 1499 work from Italian mixed with Greek and Latin.  Very admirable, because this source text has been brought together in such a muddled manner that even Italians, if they are not well educated, cannot make anything of it. Her extensive notes to her 2009 translation, with many historical, mythological, allegorical, geographic and architectural references, have been eagerly used.

Translation team: Anne-Bregtje Schelfhout, Wamel. Tom Idema, Leiden. Lizet Penson, Amersfoort. Jan Daneels, Antwerp. Johan Bruynincks, Hoegaarden. Charlotte Busselen, Genk.

After almost five centuries, there is now a Dutch translation of the book so beloved by William of Orange. The translation – on behalf of the current owner – was carried out by a team of six translators edited by Dr. Jelle Koopmans, Associate Professor at the UvA in the field of Romance language and literature.

Over the centuries, a lot has changed in the Dutch language and for many people, especially young people, the Hypnerotomachia is difficult to read and difficult to understand. This translation of the Poliphile is intended to be read and above all understood by a new generation of readers.
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili was published in 1499 by the well-known printer Aldus Manutius, a Venetian humanist. The Dutch translation is based on Jean Martin’s French translation from 1546. The prince owned the 2nd translation from 1554.

Jean Martin did not claim in his 1546 translation that he produced an exact translation. It is truly an adaptation: translating the Hypnerotomachia’s overflowing sentences into the desired “French brevity” was not possible without reducing or condensing the text, as the translator believed the passages were transposable to the French spirit. All this also results in a slightly different book in Dutch than the original that was presented to William of Orange and his contemporaries.

The Dutch translation of this text is not a literal translation of Jean Martin. Martin’s word order could not be maintained. This would produce crooked sentence constructions in Dutch.
The translation of the Poliphile is based on the standards and possibilities of Dutch. The translation is in contemporary language wherever possible, but it remains a meandering Renaissance text, strongly influenced by the interest in all things classical. In the translation all possibilities of Dutch are used to represent the characteristics and the layering of the source text.

The initials of each of the 38 chapters of the book form an Achrosticon. POLIAM FRATER FRANCISCVS COLVMNA PERAMAVIT. All translations leave this Latin sentence untouched. In the Dutch translation, however, this sentence is translated as “VAN POLIA HEEFT FRANCISCUS COLONNA GEHOUDEN”. The initials “U”, “H” and “G” do not exist in the original. These have been specially designed for the Dutch translation by the graphic team.
The first sentence of each chapter has been adapted based on the new initial, without losing meaning compared to French.

While the translation also leaves intact the originality and intensity of the lavish original graphic design. Some translation decisions and hyphenation take into account the typography of the source text. An attempt was made not to obstruct the accessibility of the text by foreign language. Text features that could not possibly be maintained due to the language difference (for example sound playing) have been compensated where possible by comparable Dutch language resources.

The book is celebrated for its beautiful woodcuts. The inclusion of woodcut illustrations in printed books was still a relatively new phenomenon when it was produced in 1499 (Colonna).
Different pages have sequential illustrations or illustrations over duplicate pages. This gives a visual dimension to the story’s progression and acts as an early form of the comic book.
There is an obsession with movement in the story, supported by the illustrations, which results in the impression that figures move from one page to the next.
Other typographic innovations include playing with the traditional layout of the text. The text in the left page shown here is formed as a challis.

In the book, the inconsolable Poliphile is tormented by insomnia. Thinking about his unrequited love for Polia, he falls asleep and then apparently wakes up in a dark forest where his adventures begin.
In a somewhat labyrinthine story, he travels through many strange places where he encounters dragons, wolves and virgins, against an ever-changing backdrop of mysterious ruins, monuments, orchards, gardens and fountains.
Eventually he meets a nymph who resembles Polia and with whom he falls in love. After triumphant processions and further spectacles, the nymph reveals that she is in fact Polia “who you love so much”. After a ceremony resembling a wedding, they go on a hunt for Cythera in Cupid’s boat.

Polia then takes over the story, telling how Poliphile fell in love with her when he first saw her combing her hair by a window in Treviso. Not only does she reject his advances, but to fulfill a promise of surviving the plague, she dedicates herself to a life of eternal chastity.
Poliphile secretly visits her at Diana’s temple, and when he falls at her feet in a deadly swoon, she drags his body away and hides it. But Cupid appears in a vision and forces her to return and bring Poliphile back to life. Venus blesses their love and the lovers are finally united.