Many of the earliest accounts of North America are not in English because explorers from around the globe documented them. Back then, these explorers had very few resources with which to record their findings, so the chances of even uncovering these journals is highly unlikely. However, The North American Journals of Prince Maximillian of Wied, from Germany have been discovered and the final volume has just been translated. Professional translators have been meticulously chipping away at the third and final volume for years now. The other two volumes have already been released, and in 2008 the first was named the Outstanding Nonfiction Book of the Year.
Journal is One of the Most Comprehensive Depictions of Native Americans
Prince Alexander Phillip Maximillian was an explorer, an ethnologist, and a naturalist. Therefore, he knew exactly what to look for in his exploration of Native American culture. He traveled deep into the interior of North America, which at the time was largely unexplored. In the journal, he described the Native peoples, the topography of the country, the natural history he saw at the time and the inner workings of the fur trade in the High Plains. The technical translation of the series of journals into English is invaluable to North American historians. They provide a clear window into what North America was like in 1832 from an outsiders’ perspective.
Original Illustrations Accompany the Translations
The translations of Prince Alexander Phillip Maximillian’s journals also contain all of the original notes, annotations and asides that he included in his own writing. In addition to these notes, the translation service also took the time to redo the illustrations by Maximillian’s travel companion, Karl Bodmer. During the journey, Bodmer made more than 350 watercolor illustrations of what the pair was seeing. The images are compelling, and the translated volumes of the journals contain enhanced depictions of these drawings, which make them even more valuable to history.
Sometimes, the importance of translation goes beyond a general understanding of someone from another culture. Business, literary and legal translations are all certainly important in the modern world, but translations such as that of these journals give anthropologist an entirely new set of information to work with. Knowing the history of the world gives us a better understand of the future. The translation goes beyond modern convenience and is more a cultural necessity to understanding the foundations and history of North America.