Skip to main content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Translations and Translation Studies in the Russian, Eastern European & Eurasian Context: Translations at UIUC

A Brief Overview of the Field, and A Guide to Resources for Identifying Translated Works

Treatment of translations in library catalogs

In an ideal world, the catalog records for all items in a library that have been translated from one language to another would include what is called a "uniform title."  This is a line in the catalog record that (quite apart from the "Title" line that transcribes whatever the title is on the actual title page of the book in question) provides the title of the item in its original language of publication (or, in the case of certain works that are problematic in terms of metadata, such as the Christian Bible or the epic of Gilgamesh, provides a conventionally-agreed-upon English-language title for the work).  This means that all versions of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, for example, should in theory be retrievable by a single "Title" search for Prestuplenie i nakazanie, with the various translations showing up as "Prestuplenie i nakazanie.  English.", "Prestuplenie i nakazanie.  Polish.", "Prestuplenie i nakazanie. Catalan.", etc.  In practice, even in the University of Illinois' own catalog, this directive is not always followed, as can be seen in this record for a Telugu translation of Crime and punishment, where "Prestuplenie i nakazanie" shows up as a particular work under Dostoevsky, who is included in the record as a person "associated" with the work in question.

A matter of policy

From time to time the Slavic Reference Service (SRS) is asked whether it can translate short (or long) texts from or into REEE languages.  Although the SRS relies heavily on the linguistic expertise of its staff, we are librarians, not translators, and therefore we cannot offer this as a service.  Patrons with a need for translation services are usually directed to lists of freelance translators maintained by various professional associations in REEE Studies.

A focus on the vernacular

Slavic, East European and Eurasian collections at the University of Illinois Library began in earnest soon after the establishment of what was then the University's Russian and East European Center in 1959.  At the time, linguistic expertise in the languages of the REEE region was far from widespread in the U.S.  From the beginning, therefore, along with building a comprehensive collection of scholarly materials in the vernacular languages of the region, considerable effort was expended in acquiring translations of all kinds -- literary, scientific, journalistic, scholarly, and otherwise.  As one of the world's largest libraries, the University of Illinois holds tens of thousands of translations from (and to) SEEE languages.  These are not only of a literary nature, but also fall within the social sciences, hard sciences, bi- or tri-lingual volumes with parallel text, etc.  Some idea of the diversity of translations in the collection can be gained from the sample results below, part of a list of 6,732 items in the Illinois catalog that include the search terms "english", "transl?" and "russ?" (i.e., some approximation of the total number of items in the collection that have been translated from Russian to English  For more information on why this is an effective search in English-based library catalogs, please see the box at left).

Similar searches are possible for Czech (1,008 items), Polish (958 items), Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Kazakh and other languages of the REEE region.

Translate globally, publish locally

Subject Guide

Slavic Reference Service's picture
Slavic Reference Service
International & Area Studies Library
319a Main Library
University of Illinois
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, Illinois 61801