Translators’ Professionalism and the Status of Translation as a Profession in the Mid- and late-nineteenth Century Iran
Keywords:Naser al-Din Shah, Qajar, Iran, profession, translators
The nineteenth century was the era of reform and gradual move to modernization in Iran. In such a milieu, translation provided an efficient means to access the knowledge and science of Europe, which was the epitome of success and prosperity for the Iranian intellectuals. In the mid-nineteenth century, when Naser al-Din Shah (r. 1848-1896) ascended the Qajar throne, his deep absorption in the West and his strong passion for learning about Europe and for modernization of the country brought about a dramatic increase in translation activity. In the fifty-year ruling period of Naser al-Din Shah, i.e., the mid- and late-nineteenth century Iran, translation offices were established and translators were widely employed in different institutions by the government. Using primary sources and documents, this archival research first examines the role of Naser al-Din Shah in production and publication of translations, then it explores whether translation was a profession in Iran in the mid- and late-nineteenth century or not and finally, it tries to find out if translators of the Naseri era can be considered professionals or not. Adopting two definitions as a yardstick, the study concludes that translation activity in the mid- and late-nineteenth century Iran had some characteristics that allow us to call it a profession. The study also argues that given the historical context of Iran in that era, the translators held the basic qualifications to be considered semi-professionals, while among them some were highly professional.
ʿALĪ BAKHSH MĪRZĀ : ʿElm-e Tashrīḥ [Anatomy]. Manuscript in the Library, Muse-um and Document Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
Document Number 1408665, page 291. “Tarjumeh-ye ketāb-e ḥālāt-e Bīsmārk tavasuṭ-e Baron Norman (mutarjem-e Shah), ḥasab-e dastūr-e vey va tarjumeh-ye ketāb-e Dīyālug” [Translation of the life of Bīsmārk by Baron Norman on his order and trans-lation of Dialogue]. The National Library and Archives of Iran. http://opac.nlai.ir/opac-prod/bibliographic/1408665.
Document Number 3847204, page 54. “Mukātebāt va guzāreshhāye ersālī be Naser al-Din Shah” [Letters and Reports sent to Naser al-Din Shah]. The National Library and Archives of Iran. http://opac.nlai.ir/opac-prod/bibliographic/3847204.
Document Number 4399145, “Mukātebāt, guzāreshha, vaqāyeʿnāmehha va dīgar asnād-e marbūṭ be vezārat-e umūr-e khārejeh va darbār-e Naseri” [Correspondence, Reports, Chronicle and Other Documents Related to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Court of Naser al-Din Shah]. The National Library and Archives of Iran. http://opac.nlai.ir/opac-prod/bibliographic/4399145.
Document Number 4415646, “Dastkhat-e Shah, nāmehhā va telegrāfhaye maqāmāt-e ḥukūmatī, shāhzādehgān, neẓāmīyān va ruʿāyā az shahrhāye mukhtalef be valīʿahd, Amīn al-Sultān va sāyerīn” [The Handwritten Notes of Shah, Letters and Telegraphs of Authorities, Princes, Military Officials and Peasants from Different Cities to Prince Amīn al-Sultān and Others]. The National Library and Archives of Iran. http://opac.nlai.ir/opac-prod/bibliographic/4415646.
Document Number 4563128, page 148. “Mukātebāt va guzāreshhāye mutefareqeh-ye ṣāḥebmanṣabān va darbār-e humāyūnī dar durehye Naser al-Din Shah va Mozaffar al-Din Shah” [Miscellaneous Letters and Reports of Authorities and Court Officials dur-ing the Reign of Naser al-Din Shah and Mozaffar al-Din Shah]. The National Library and Archives of Iran. http://opac.nlai.ir/opac-prod/bibliographic/4563128.
EṢFAHĀNĪ, MĪRZĀ ʿABD AL-GHAFFĀR : Uṣūl-e Hendeseh [Principles of Geometry]. Manuscript in the Library, Museum and Document Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
EṢFAHĀNĪ, MĪRZĀ ʿABD AL-GHAFFĀR : Āsemān [The Sky]. Manuscript in the Library, Museum and Document Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
EʿTEMĀD AL-ṢALṬANEH : Merʾāt al-boldān [Mirror of Cities]. Manuscript in the Li-brary, Museum and Document Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
EʿTEMĀD AL-ṢALṬANEH : Rūznāme-ye khāterāt-e Eʿtemād al-Ṣalṭaneh [Journal of the memories of E’temad al-Saltaneh].
GARRŪSĪ, ʿISĀ KHĀN : Jang-e Farānse va Perūs [War of France and Prussia], Trans-lator’s note on the last page of translation. MS in The National Library and Archives of Iran.
KĀSHĀNĪ, MĪRZĀ TAQĪ : Tarbīyat: Nāmeh-īst dar Qavāʿed -e Taʿlīm va Tarbīyat-e Aṭfāl [Education: A book on education and training of children]. Isfahan.
MĀZANDARĀNĪ, MĪRZĀ ZAKĪ : Tārīkh-e Salāṭīn-e ʿOsmānī [History of Ottoman Sul-tans]. MS in the Library, Museum and Document Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
MUḤAMMAD ṬĀHER MĪRZĀ : Heyʾat-e Jadīd [New Astronomy]. Manuscript in The National Library and Archives of Iran.
MUHANDES, ĀQĀ KHĀN : Uṣūl-e ʿElm-e Jabr [Principles of Algebra].
NORMAN, BARON : Tārīkh-e Ḥālāt-e Bīsmārk [Life of Bismarck], Volume II. MS in The National Library and Archives of Iran.
TABRĪZĪ, YŪSEF :ʿElm-e Ṭabaqāt al-Arż [Geology]. Manuscript in the Library, Mu-seum and Document Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
Tarjome-ye Rūznāme-hā-ye Farang [Translation of European Newspapers], published on November 18, 1883.
ABRAHAMIAN, Ervand (1983): Iran Between Two Revolutions. New Jersey & Princeton: Princeton University Press.
AFSHAR, Iraj (2003): “Book Translations as a Cultural Activity in Iran 1806–1896”. Iran, 41, 279-289.
ALIPOUR, Ehsan (2021): “Translation and Culture Planning in Nineteenth-Century Iran”. In AGUILAR, R. P & GUÉNETTE, M. F [eds.], Situatedness and Performativity: Translation and Interpreting Practice Revisited [pp. 169-186]. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
AMANAT, Abbas (1997): Pivot of the Universe: Nasir Al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831–1896. Berkeley: University of California Press.
AMANAT, Abbas (2012): “Legend, Legitimacy and Making a National Narrative in the Historiography of Qajar Iran [1785–1925]”. In MELVILLE, C [ed.], A History of Persian Literature: Persian Historiography [Vol. X, pp. 292-366]. London & New York: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.
ATEFMEHR, Zahra & FARAHZAD, Farzaneh (2021a): “A Microhistorical Study of the First Translators of Dār al-Funūn”, Translation Studies Quarterly, 19 , 81-95.
ATEFMEHR, Zahra & FARAHZAD, Farzaneh (2021b): “Microhistorical Research in Translator Studies: An Archival Methodology”, The Translator, 28 , 251-262. doi:10.1080/13556509.2021.1944022.
ATEFMEHR, Zahra & FARAHZAD, Farzaneh (2021c): “A Method for Microhistorical Translation/Translator Research: With a Focus on the Iranian Context”, Translation Studies Quarterly, 19 , 55-71.
BAKHTIYĀRĪ, Amīr Hūshang (2003): “Qarārnāmehā-ye estekhdām-e Atbāʿ-e khārejī dar doreh-ye Qājāriyyeh” [Contracts of Employment of Foreigners in Qajar era], Nashriyeh Tārikh-e Ravābet-e Khāreji. 14, 141-166.
BECKER, Adam H (2015): Revival and Awakening: American Evangelical Missionaries in Iran and the Origins of Assyrian Nationalism. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
BIGDELOO, Milad (2022): “An Old Treatise on Translation: Introduction to & Critical Edition of ‘An Introduction to the Laws of Translation’”, Translation Studies Quarterly, 20 (77), 109-137.
CÁCERES-WÜRSIG, Ingrid (2012): “The jeunes de langues in the Eighteenth Century: Spain’s First Diplomatic Interpreters on the European Model”, Interpreting 14 (2), 127-144.
DELZENDEHROOY, Somaye, KHAZAEE FARID, Ali & KHOSHSALIGHEH, Masood (2019): “Despotism and Translation in Iran: The Case of Naseri House of Translation as the First State Translation Institution”, InTRAlinea 21.
FARAHZAD, Farzaneh & ADILI, Somayeh (2019): “Translation, Modernization and Enlightenment: The Qajar Translation Movement”, Translation Studies Quarterly 17 66), 8-23.
GOMEZ, Hannelore (2017): “A Closer Look into the Life of Ordinary Translators through Unordinary Sources: The Use of Obituaries as a Microhistory Tool to Study Translators and Translation in Ohio”, New Voices in Translation Studies 16, 55–83.
KARIMI-HAKKAK, Ahmad (2009): “Persian Tradition”. In BAKER, M & SALDANHA, G [eds.], Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies [2nd ed., pp. 493-501]. London & New York: Routledge.
LEESE, Simon (2021): “Arabic Utterances in a Multilingual World: Shāh Walī-Allāh and Qur’anic Translatability in North India”, Translation Studies 14 (2), 242-261.
MARTIN, Vanessa (1996): “An Evaluation of Reform and Development of the State in the Early Qajar Period”, Die Welt des Islams 36 (1), 1-24.
MUNDAY, Jeremy (2014): “Using Primary Sources to Produce a Microhistory of Translation and Translators: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns”, The Translator 20 (1), 64-80. doi:10.1080/13556509.2014.899094.
PALOPOSKI, Outi (2016a): “In Search of an Ordinary Translator: Translator Histories, Working Practices and Translator–Publisher Relations in the Light of Archival Documents”, The Translator, 1-18. doi:10.1080/13556509.2016.1243997.
PALOPOSKI, Outi (2016b): “Translating and Translators Before the Professional Project”, The Journal of Specialised Translation 25, 15-32.
PYM, Anthony (2002): “Translator Training: A Global Overview”. Originally published as “Ausbildungssituation in aller Welt (Überblick)” in Handbuch Translation  by SNELL-HORNBY, M., HÖNIG, H. G., KUßMAUL, P., SCHMITT, P. A., & NARR, S. V. B. [eds.]. Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag, 33-36. Retrieved from:
PYM, Anthony (2014): Method in Translation History. New York: Routledge.
SHREVE, Gregory M (2020): “Professional Translator Development from an Expertise Perspective”. In ANGELONE, E., EHRENSBERGER-DOW, M. & MASSEY, G (eds.): The Bloomsbury Companion to Language Industry Studies [pp. 153–178]. London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Zahra Atefmehr
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
licence: CC BY-NC 4.0