Curating Letourneur

This is a bibliographical post. In the following table, I’m going to list the rough contents of all twenty volumes of Pierre Letourneur’s translation of Shakespeare into French. I am also going to provide a link to the digital copy of each volume on Google Books. To find out why I think this is important, take a look at the bottom of the page.

Shakespeare Traduit De L’Anglais, Dédié Au Roi

1 (1776) Prospectus de gravures; Noms des souscripteurs; Epître au Roi; Critique de Marmontel; Jubilé de Shakespeare; Vie de Shakespeare; Discours extraits des différentes Préfaces; Avis sur cette traduction; Othello; Histoire d’Othello; Musique d’Othello Click
2 (1776) Idée de la Tempête; The Tempest; Julius Caesar; Extrait d’Euripide Click
3 (1778) Noms de nouveaux souscripteurs; Coriolanus; Macbeth; Notes sur Macbeth; Observations sur le caractère de Macbeth (Richardson) Click
4 (1778) Cymbeline; Romeo and Juliet Click
5 (1779) Noms de nouveaux souscripteurs; King Lear; Hamlet Click
6 (1779) Antony and Cleopatra; Timon of Athens Click
7 (1780) Remarques de Montagu, Richardson et Eschenberg sur Hamlet; Remarques sur Othello; Remarques sur la Tempête (et notes); Remarques sur la tragedie de Jules César (et notes); Remarques sur la tragedie de Coriolan (et notes); Remarques sur Macbeth (et notes); Remarques sur Cymbeline (et notes); Remarques sur Roméo et Juliet (et notes); Remarques sur le Roi Lear (et notes); Remarques sur Hamlet; Remarques sur Antony et Cléopatre; Remarques sur Timon d’Athènes; Drames Historiques; King John Click
8 (1780) Précis des sujets des pièces historiques; Richard II avec notes et retranchements Click
9 (1781) Souscription du Théâtre de Shakespeare; 1 Henry IV; 2 Henry IV Click
10 (1781) Notes sur Henri IV, première et deuxième parties; Opinion de M. Tollet sur les danseuses moresques; Anecdotes sur Shakespeare (Steevens); Ordre chronologique de ses pieces (Malone); Réflexions de Rowe sur Shakespeare; Note de M. Eschenburg sur les Femmes Joyeuses de Windsor; The Merry Wives of Windsor; Retranchements Click
11 (1781) Henry V; 1 Henry VI Click
12 (1781) 2 Henry VI; 3 Henry VI; Notes Click
13 (1781) Richard III; Henry VIII; Notes sur Henri VIII Click
14 (1781) Much Ado About Nothing; Remarques de M. Eschemburg sur Beaucoup de Bruit pour Rien; As You Like It; Remarques de M. Eschemburg sur Comme Vous Voulez; Réflexions de M. Richardson sur Jacques Click
15 (1782) The Merchant of Venice; Much Ado About Nothing Click
16 (1782) The Comedy of Errors; Remarques de M. Eschemburg sur Les Meprises; The Taming of the Shrew Click
17 (1782) Remarques de M. Eschemburg sur Troilus et Cresside, Troilus and Cressida; Remarques de M Eschemburg sur Tout est bien qui finit bien; All’s Well that Ends Well Click
18 (1782) Measure for Measure; Remarques de M. Eschemburg sur Mesure pour Mesure; Love’s Labours Lost Click
19 (1783) Twelfth Night; The Winter’s Tale Click
20 (1782) Remarques de M. Eschemburg sur les Deux Veronis, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Remarques de M. Eschemburg sut Titus Andronicus, Titus Andronicus Click


Pierre Letourneur produced the first copmlete version of Shakespeare’s plays in French. It filled twenty volumes and took up nearly a decade of his life. It was worth the effort, though. Letourneur’s text quickly supplanted the partial versions offered in De la Place’s Théâtre Anglois and meant that, for the first time, the French could actually make an informed judgment on Shakespeare. As well, therefore, as a rush of literary critical activity, Letourneur’s translation also provoked a great deal of theatrical creativity: it is, for example, with Letourneur’s translation that Jean-François Ducis undertook his adaptations of King Lear and Othello, as well as revised his Macbeth.

So Letourneur is important for all those who wish to understand how Shakespeare was introduced to France. The above summary and bibliography will, I hope, make using his translation a little easier. It also leads me to another observation about digital texts.

These copies of old books are fantastically useful, since they make works available to thousands that would otherwise be the preserve of a privileged few. Even the French national library doesn’t have all twenty volumes of Letourneur’s Shakespeare, for example. Yet while these online services offer greater access, you do need skills of your own to use them: it took me a few hours to find links to the facsimiles of all the first editions of Letourneur (published by Mérigot). While Google has done the brute labour of digitising millions of rare texts, you still need to be able to curate them to make them useful to others.

Here then, is my own attempt at that curation. Do let me know if this is useful, and whether more such work would be appreciated.

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