History of Editing in Iran (Part2)


Abdolhossein Azarang [Writer and researcher; Member of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia]

[…Continued from previous issue] Thus, it is clear that in those times, the method we now call “editing” was well known, although they did not have a naming system, nor did they establish or perpetuate a tradition in this field.

Another example is the Legend of One Thousand and One Nights, whose stories have Indian, Iranian, Greek, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian origins and were translated from Middle Persian into Arabic. In transferring stories from one cultural environment to another, what that is now called cultural adaptation was put into action. In the phenomenon of cultural adaptation, a type of editing is used, which is also called rewriting, that is, writing again, taking into account the effective variables of the cultural environment.

After Islam, according to the available evidence, in Iran, the translation of Qur’an into Persian began at the end of the first century and the at beginning of the second century AH. With the reference to the remaining translations, it is clear that the most accurate type of editing translation was applied in some of them.

Here I will mention only one more example: the translation of Tabari’s commentary, which belongs to the middle of the 4th century AH. A number of scholars have considered the position of this book in terms of linguistic values to be equal to Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. According to the narrations, more than 20 Arab and Persian scholars collaborated in translating this work, and a panel of translation experts carefully confronted the original text. The result of their work is a brilliant Transoxianian Persian text that may be considered as the first and most serious edited work in post-Islamist Iran.

Dastour-e-Dabiri is a work from the 6th century AH about secretaryship and its customs and conditions, with educational use.This work contains tips on calligraphy, grammar, font size, line spacing, and word spelling. There are other sources in the field of secretaryship in which you can also find points in the field of technical editing.

Mojmel-al-Hekma, a work probably from the 7th century AH, is a selection of Rasael-e-Ekhvan-al-Safa. Rasael-e-Ekhvan-al-Safa itself is a kind of encyclopedia. The editing instructions used in Mojmel-al-Hekma are as follows: selecting, summarizing, redundancy, deficiency, and annotating. So-called today, several editing variables were masterfully applied in this work.

In the Mongol and Timurid eras, because of the extent of the empire and court correspondence in several languages, editing translation was common. There is also a work from the Safavid era called Monshat-e-Soleimani in which the first attempt to discipline calligraphy is seen. According to Dastour-e-Dabiri and this work, it can be said that attributing calligraphy to the new period of Iranian history is a mistake, an error caused by the ancient and past heritages remaining unknown. Some types of editing were used in a number of Persian books in the Indian subcontinent in the Safavid era, which require a great deal of time to study and introduce, and I hope that young editors will make an effort to identify and introduce all the old works in which the types of editing had been applied.

The time of Mohammad Shah Qajar (1250-1263 AH / the middle of the 19th century AD) is important in terms of the history of editing in Iran .

Prior to this era, printing technology had arrived in Iran through the efforts of Abbas Mirza Qajar and his colleagues, and publishing had been formed based on that technology. During the reign of Mohammad Shah, the first Persian-language newspaper was published, and a few people, entitled “Writer”, or “Secretary” or “Corrector”, took on the duties of that newspaper, which we now call “linguistic editing” and “grammar editing”. In the Qajar era, the activity that we now call “editing” was called “correction”, “composition” and “writing”. The person we call “newspaper editor” today was called the “newsprint secretary.” News and reports were published in the newspaper with his corrections, changes and sometimes rewriting.

At the same time, one or two foreigners who did not know Persian well, but were fluent in the source language, translated the works into Persian, and writers and correctors rewrote their literal translations. If we are to set a starting point for the new editing in Iran, the period of Mohammad Shah Qajar can be defined as the beginning of the editing of the translation of foreign sources into Persian, that is, more than 170 years ago, which is in contrast with some sources in which the beginning of editing translation in Iran is in the 1950s, ie about 70 years ago. In fact, the difference between these two dates is a century.

After the establishment of the Dar-al-Tarjumah, Dar-al-Teba’e, and Dar-al-Fonun in the Nasiri era (1263-1313 AH / approximately from the middle to the end of the 19th century AD), a large number of books, about 1,000 books and pamphlets, were translated into Persian from several languages. As a result, the number of writers, whose job was editing the texts grammatically, linguistically, and sometimes rewriting them, increased in the same institutions. The most prominent was Mirza Mohammad Hossein Foroughi, Mohammad Ali Foroughi’s father, under whose supervision editing activities were carried out at the Naseri Translation Office, where he supervised the translators and secretaries.

Among prominent figures in the non-governmental sector and among Qajar dissidents, Mirza Aga Khan Kermani and Sheikh Ahmad Rouhi Kermani, who edited each other’s works, can be named; They even edited Mirza Habib Isfahani’s translations and writings, the translator of Haji Baba Isfahani. A few years before the Constitutional Revolution, a number of Qajar modernists and dissidents established a publishing house in Tehran called the Book Printing Company, with public investment and with the aim of publishing useful books for the evolving society of that day. Mohammad Ali Foroughi and Mohammad Qazvini (later Allameh), at a young age, read samples (printed correction) and did linguistic and grammatical editing at that institute. These two people should also be considered as the pioneers of the new edition in Iran, in its modern meaning.

[To be continue…]




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