I’m reading a text book which was published in 1883. The material is very good but the writing is very hard to follow.By today’s standards for English writing, most teachers would give it back to the student for “re-write”.So, should old English books be “translated” to modern English ?
I’m of two minds on this question. I will admit, without hesitation, that the book I am reading would be a whole lot easier to understand if it were written in a more modern style. As a text book, I think “comprehension” and “transfer of knowledge” are high priorities. To make my point, here is one sentence.
If this can be managed with certainty, and without exposing the pendulum to some material variation of friction in the work of unlocking the escapement, wich it must perform, its motion and therefore its time must be absolutely constant, since there is nothing to disturb it.
Source: A Rudimentary Treatise on Clocks, Watches and Bells – by Edmund Beckett – pg 75
However, I could just as easily argue this is a historical text and should be preserved. The literary style of the late 1800′s impresses upon the reader a sense that the scientists, metallurgists and mathematicians described in the text, really were brilliant to have figured things out as they did. Add the fact the text was written by a rather famous person of his time and I’m convinced the text should be preserved.
If the style of the text conveys information as much as the text itself, then why are there so many English versions of the Bible? Wouldn’t the original King James be the best choice?
I think there is a case to be made for “re makes”. They do it in the movies all the time. “Oceans Eleven” was good when Frank Sinatra did it and it was good with George Clooney too.
If someone gave me an original print of “A Rudimentary Treatise on Clocks, Watches and Bells” by Edmund Beckett, I’d be delighted. But, if I could download a PDF of a modern English re-write, I’d probably read it and us it as a real reference (rather than treat it as a collectable).