3. The Authority of Translators: Vendors, Manufacturers, and Materiality in the Transfer of Barlaam and Josaphat along the Silk Road
Reframing Authority - The Role of Media and Materiality - Laura Feldt
Christian Høgel [+]
University of Southern Denmark
Texts – and the stories and teachings they contained – travelled far along the Silk Road in the hands of merchants, missionaries, monastic communities etc. The intricate itineraries and the many languages and scripts used on the way have received much attention, and we can therefore document some of the stages of development and transformation that a story like the Barlaam and Josaphat story went through in its long journey from Sanskrit India to Norse-writing Norway. But in studies of such transfers of texts, translation has mainly been seen as a linguistic enterprise. The present contribution argues that material aspects of this process also need to be taken into account. It analyses the material conditions into which texts were embedded on the way. The transformation from stringed palm leaves, to single parchment leaves or rolls, and then to bound codices also had an impact on the structure, presentation and symbolic value of the texts. Layout, the place and possibility of illuminations, as well as the portability and physical resilience of the written text all depended on the traditional manners of book production, and these varied immensely over the expanse of the Silk Road. Being authoritative to various degrees in themselves, texts entered, when translated and re-circulated, into a universe of multiple authority holders where translators (in a broad sense) would have to reinvent authoritative presentations of the new text, acting in many ways as vendors of it.