Sietske Fransen

Visiting Scholar (Aug 2018)


My research focuses on translation of early modern science. By studying translators and their practices I try to analyze the role and function of translation as a form of circulation of knowledge. Textual translations from Latin to the vernaculars and vice versa are often understood as attempts to reach out to a wider readership. However, personal notebooks and marginal annotations in manuscript and printed books also seem to point towards mnemonic reasons for translating texts. Along the same line of this personal comprehension, I also look at visualizations of scientific knowledge in manuscripts and printed books—from list and diagrams to actual images. This visual material often seems to have a role in the author’s understanding, memorizing and application of the information in the text. The combined study of translating texts into other languages, and translating texts into practice will therefore give us a better understanding of the way in which early modern science was acquired, put into practice, and transmitted from one place to another.  

I received my PhD from the Warburg Institute in London in September 2014 and my second project here at the MPIWG is to turn my thesis into a book manuscript. In my thesis ‘"Exchange of Knowledge through Translation: Jan Baptista van Helmont and his Editors and Translators in the Seventeenth Century" I used Jan Baptista van Helmont (1579–1644) as a case study for examining the practice of scientific translation in the seventeenth century. Some of the main issues I addressed were: How did bilingual and multilingual physicians think about language and translation (and as a translator one is de facto bilingual)? And how did they translate texts that described new forms and subsequent terminology that had no earlier precedents in the vernacular languages? With my analysis of translations of Van Helmont’s texts I demonstrate the importance of the translator and his reasons for translating. At the same time I show how different branches of early modern science (for example of philosophy of the mind; Galenic medicine; and chemical medicine) had different traditions of translation.


No projects were found for this scholar.

Visualization as Translation of Scientific Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: The Personal Use of Tables and Images in Alchemy, Geomancy, and Medicine


Selected Publications


Premodern Conversations Series

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and His Images and Draughtsmen