Heretofore all English editions have stemmed, with some modifications, from the original Thomas Nugent translation of 1750, the sole exception being the translation by Anne M. Cohler, Basia Carolyn Miller and Harold Samuel Stone, published by Cambridge in 1989. The advantages of this new translation seem, over time, to have been uncertain enough to its users, particularly those in the teaching profession, for it not to have fully replaced Nugent.
Nugent’s prose, which has an agreeable flow to it, is overly expansive, treating Montesquieu’s often rigorous syntax as if it constantly needed elaboration. In short, accuracy was not his first priority. The Cohler et al. translation is more like what I am attempting to produce, but rather too constrained, for my taste, by its notions of literal accuracy. In both translations, one encounters terminological choices that are, to say the least, open to dispute.
A collaborative project
My proposal is to post on this site, and open for comment, progressive portions of a new translation which I have begun to draft. This blog will allow readers not to modify the text itself on screen but rather to post remarks which can be taken into account as the draft proceeds. It is not my intention to annotate this text but simply, in time, to provide an open text which others (ideally) may freely use and annotate; there might ultimately be constituted competitive or collective commentaries, on line or in print, that could answer to the pedagogical needs of teachers and students as well as to non-specialist readers.
The reference edition
I am using the somewhat amplified edition of 1750 published as Genève: Barrillot & Fils but actually by Paris: Huart et Moreau. This base text in three volumes can be found on the web via the following links:
Some of the substantial passages added to the edition of 1758 will be found in the annexes.
Feel free to comment directly on this blog or to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any commentary on general choices or particular passages.