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René Moreau’s use of translation as a French Imperialist Tactic

Detail of Title Page 1643

(con't. from 6/20) To prove his translating trustworthiness, René Moreau decided to add “clarification with some annotations.” These annotations are quite extensive and show his respect for the knowledge of the doctors’ generations before him as well as the advancement in medical expertise. They also demonstrate that Moreau not only wanted to use the power of translation for the sake of conquest, but also for the pursuit of knowledge. However, to indulge the desires of the ruling class, Moreau focuses on the movement of this knowledge from the Spanish to the French as a transfer of power as it shows that the French are the new authority on the subject.

Additionally, while the French gain foreign knowledge, they take the opposing language as prisoner. They conquer the people by replacing their language, and by extension, their culture. This manner of transferring of power is what Moreau seeks to accomplish through his own translation. He observes that after the Castilians are conquered by the French troops, they adopt the language of the conquerors. By using French to rid the Castilian language from the land, he also hopes to “receive like a tribute all the monuments that they have composed in their language.” All of these monuments, the culture and loyalties to other monarchies, would be forgotten and replaced with French tenets and subjugation. This transfer of power is a repetition of the way in which the first knowledge of chocolate came into the hands of the Spanish. Furthermore, in Moreau’s hands, Marradon’s “Interlocutores” (Dialogue) becomes an allegory for this cultural translation.

Moreau's translation of Marradon

The “Dialogue” among a doctor, a bourgeois (an urbanite and consumer of chocolate), and an “Indian” (a man of Mesoamerican origin) stands as the earliest print evidence of Spanish debates about chocolate in the early 17th century, as it precedes the discussions of chocolate by both Turices and Colmenero by several years (see 6/12 blog post). In the beginning of Marradon’s piece the Indian gives a general description of the cacao tree and the final product of hot chocolate. By the end of the conversation about chocolate, the Indian rebukes the drink, gives an account of women using the beverage to learn sorcery from the devil, and blames a rising murder rate on the consumption of chocolate. In this setting, the Indian has been removed from his origins and is put into conversation with the Spanish doctor and the bourgeois.

The Indian has also been robbed of his native tongue. By adopting the Spanish language in the dialogue, he lost not only his own language, but also all of his cultural heritage/knowledge to a European viewpoint. The cultural roots of language are reflective of the collective perspective nuances and integral to a person’s identity. The Indian’s transition from his native tongue to Spanish is characterized by conversion to Catholic values and Spanish culture. In the dialogue, he demonizes his own cultural practices as sorcery and condemns the use of chocolate during sacraments as heretical and blasphemous. This erasure of the Indian’s language and culture is representative of the new/old world intercourse.

This cultural transformation can be seen in the first documents regarding chocolate as well. The Codex Mendoza and Sahagú n’s Historia general (see 5/30 & 6/5 blog posts) are the earliest examples of chocolate culture being appropriated through translation. The first European documentation of chocolate constituted an important transfer of knowledge from the new world to the old. While the commodity—the bean—was being shipped, the knowledge of how to prepare it also had to cross the Atlantic. While the knowledge could have been transferred without the substance, the bean could not meaningfully be shipped without knowledge of how to prepare it. In this way, the translation of cultural knowledge allowed for the chocolatical conquest of the Mesoamerica.

The Book as Object

Figure 1 above is the printer’s device of Sebastien Cramoisy (his initials can be found in the bottom crest of the image). The storks (cicognes) in the image represent the name of his family’s printing shop, Les Trois Cigognes (The Three Storks). Cramoisy had a close relationship with Cardinal Richelieu and as such, became a powerful force for unionizing the printing trade. He became the first director of the royal press at the Louvre in the 1640’s and was later given the opportunity to publish the king’s library. Just like the intermingling storks in the insignia, Cramoisy and the monarchy became intertwined and his power as a publisher was a strong tool for Moreau to use to give his book a solid foundation and credibility in the eyes of the monarchy. The writing in the image, “Honora patrem tuum et matrem tuum ut sis longevus super terram” or “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days be long upon the earth” shows religious connections and the importance of familial bonds in the Cramoisy printing presses. This copy of the book is bound in ¼” vellum, a fine binding for the mid-17th century.

Ex Libis, 1643

Figure 2 is a bookplate found on the first page of the 1643 edition of Moreau’s treatise. The circular inscription, Beatus homo quem tu erudieris domine or “Blessed is he who teaches” comes from Psalms 93:12 and may tell us something about the owner of this copy. The imagery of a grape vine in both the image and the plate complimented by the Roman appearance of the woman and child are suggestive of a classical education. The four books, including the one with the fleur-de-lis, symbol of the French monarchy, also point to learning practices. ALS are likely the initials of the book’s owner, whose ex libris paints him as a very learned man.

Works Cited

Moreau, René. Of chocolate: a curious discourse divided into four parts. [Du chocolate: discours curieux divise en quatre parties. Par Antoine Colmenero de Ledesma medecin & chirurgien de la ville de Ecija de l’Andalouzie. Traduit d’espagnol en françois sur l’impression faite a madrid l’an 1631. & esclaircy de quelques annotations. Par René Moreau…Plus est adjouste un dialogue touchante le mesme chocolate] Paris: Chez Sebastien Cramoisy, imprimeur ordinaire du Roy, 1643.

Marradón, Bartholomé. Dialogo del vso del tabaco, los daños y provechos que el tiempo y experiencia en descubietto de sus efectos, y del chocolate y otras bevidas que en estos tiempos se vsan: interlocutores vn medico con vn indiano y vn ciudadano / compuesto por Bartolomé Marradón. Seville: Gabriele Ramos Vejarano, 1618.

O'Connell, Daniel Patrick. "Armand-Jean Du Plessis, Cardinal Et Duc De Richelieu." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

"Diversité Des Marques D’imprimeurs: L’exemple Des Cramoisy." BiblioMab: Le Monde Autour Des Livres Anciens Et Des Bibliothèques. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.

"Richelieu, Alphonse-louis Du Plessis De from the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia." McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia Online. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

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