“Polyglot Encounters in Early Modern English Narratives of Distant Travels” –

In an age of geographic discoveries and colonisation, easier communication, and international trade growing steadily from the mid-16th century, England gradually established itself as an Atlantic and global power, as a prelude to the formation of the British empire. English records of this era of expansion offer multiple examples of linguistic contacts with the wider world, with translations, lexical borrowings, and records of multilingual exchanges between travellers and the peoples they encountered. 

These two online evening seminar sessions, jointly organised by TIDE (University of Oxford, ERC) and LARCA (University of Paris, CNRS), aim at exploring some of the practices and strategies underpinning polyglot encounters in travel accounts produced or read in England. Drawing on linguistic, lexicographic, literary and historical methodologies, they will look into some of the contexts and significances of these textual contact zones. Particular attention will be paid to uses of polyglossia in processes of identity construction, defining and promoting national or imperial agendas, appropriating and assimilating foreign linguistic capital, or meeting resistance and limits from linguistic and cultural others refusing to lend themselves to subaltern status. 

The event is supported by ERC-TIDE (Oxford), the “Early Modernities” seminar of LARCA (UMR 8225, CNRS, University of Paris), the “Translation and Polyglossia” project (Université Paris Nanterre & Institut Universitaire de France), IHRIM (UMR 5317, CNRS, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon), and the EMRC (University of Reading). 


On November 11, Session 2, “Communications and Miscommunications“, Donatella Montini (University of Sapienza Rome) will discuss “Travel and Translation in John Florio’s Two Navigations“:

Just returned to England by the mid-1570s after achieving his intellectual and linguistic education on the continent, the well-known Anglo-Italian lexicographer and translator John Florio spent several years at Oxford as a language teacher, around the time of the publication of his famous didactic dialogues, Firste Fruites, in 1578. In this period of his early career, Florio also developed a collaboration with the English geographer Richard Hakluyt (1553-1616) (Divers Voyages 1582, Principall Navigations 1589, 1598-1600), a translator himself, a go-between, a key figure in promoting English colonial and commercial expansion in the early modern period. Hakluyt commissioned and paid Florio’s translation of the account of the first two voyages of the French explorer and geographer Jacques Cartier (1494-1554), concerning the 1530s French exploration of Canada. However, Florio – Montaigne’s future translator! – did not work on Cartier’s reports, but on the Italian version translated from French by the Italian humanist Giovan Battista Ramusio. Two Navigations is clearly another typical example of transit and translation in early modern Europe: the focus is on the geographical triangle France–Italy–England this time, and the story of Two Navigations is a story of multiple authors/translators, of multiple and multilingual voices. The aim of my presentation will be to build a case of this less known translation by the young Florio, firstly describing the book and its intertextual connections, that are intercultural as well. As a second step, I will draw on the model of the early modern translations/communications circuit proposed by Brenda Hosington and Marie-Alice Belle in 2017, and try to visualize the interrelated connections of Florio’s translation.


  • Andrew Hadfield (University of Sussex): “The Madoc Legend, Language and Race at the Dawn of The First British Empire”
  • Sarah Knight (University of Leicester): “‘Their Garments variegate like ye fishes in ye Euxine sea’: fashion, languages and perceptions of the Ottoman world at the early modern English universities”
  • Donatella Montini (University of Sapienza Rome): Travel and Translation in John Florio’s Two Navigations
  • Matthew Dimmock (University of Sussex): “Ylyaoute! English Engagements with the ‘Strange Tongues’ of the Far North


[jetpack_subscription_form show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”false” submit_button_text=”Subscribe to John Florio’s Newsletter” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]

Giovanni Florio, known as John Florio, is recognised as the most important humanist in Renaissance's England.

Leave a Reply