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Above is a photo of a hard bound book cover of the Dutch translation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best selling novel  Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852.

This Dutch translation with the title “The Negro Hut” was published by the brothers E. and M. Cohen, probably between 1880-1890, a socially engaged publishing company that started their venture in 1878 and was located at that time in Amsterdam. The subtitle translates as: A story about the life of slaves in North America. This translation was done after the twentieth American printing by C. M. Mensing and the engraved wood block illustrations were done by a popular Dutch illustrator Van Braakenziek and unnamed other illustrators, likely pirated images of an earlier American edition.

The E. M. Cohen Publishing Company published between 2,500 to 3,500 book titles up to the 1940 invasion of the Netherlands. The exact number is not known due to the loss of the company archives. An interview in Dutch with one of the heirs can be found here.

The earliest Dutch edition is likely the 1853 edition published by the Haarlem publisher A. C. Kruseman (bibliographic reference Sabin 92522).

Book collecting and book history takes on a different dimension when we look at the social aspects of book publishing and the distribution of ideas expressed in books on a larger scale, and that scale must include translated work. The limitations of the original language coupled with the native language of the new readers tells us important things about the spread of ideas and books and the development of society as a whole. Here is another one of those examples.

A Dutch wartime translation of John Steinbeck’s novel The Moon Is Down in the original paper wrapper with the title pasted on. The “unauthorized “ limited Dutch translation is Fly Catcher ( Vliegenvanger).

Printed in occupied Netherlands. The illustrations are by Michael Gurney (pseudonym)

The 122 page book measures 28 x 19 cms ( 11″x 7.5″) and as the colophon (justification) reads at the end of the book, it was published in 1026 copies printed with the Egmont letter type on old Dutch paper. Our copy is number 222. Twenty five copies were numbered with Roman numerals. The printing date is 1944 during the German occupation and obviously no printer is mentioned. The printer was Fokke Tamminga at the Busy Bee Printers from The Hague. The translation was done by Tjebbo Hemelrijk (pseudonym) and the book was printed for a special occasion in Occupied Holland according to the text. All the funds went to the Dutch Resistance as a subsidy for unemployed actors who had refused collaboration with the German occupiers and who had not joined the obligatory cultural association (Kultuur Kamer) instituted by the Germans. (bibliographic reference Anna E. C. SimoniPublish and Be Free, a catalogue of clandestine books printed in the Netherlands 1940-1945 in the British Library, Nijhoff 1975 The Hague)

The original Steinbeck title was published in New York in 1942, and it is not known how the real translator, the actor Ferdinand Sterneberg obtained his copy. The illustrator’s pseudonym Michael Gurney stands for Sariochmin Salim born in the Dutch East Indies on the Island of Medan in 1908. He had worked for 2 years in the studio of Fernand Leger in Paris before settling in Amsterdam in 1936. The book has a total of 8 full page pen and ink illustrations by the artist.

The first illustration before the title page.

The original novel The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck centers around the occupation of a Northern European town by an unnamed army fighting England and Russia. I am convinced Steinbeck would have loved this copy and that he did not mind not earning anything from this publication.

The above two books are fine examples of American literature translated into a foreign language, many other good examples with interesting backgrounds will be discussed in future posts.

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