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If we were to do a survey on what is the image of Charles Darwin that first comes to people’s minds, the obvious choice would most certainly be the picture of a septuagenarian gentleman, with a long white beard, as if he were the impersonation of a Victorian Diogenes. But what about the young man who, at 22 years of age, embarked upon a voyage that would have unseen repercussions for all humanity? By focusing on The Voyage of the Beagle, the first book by Charles Darwin, we will bring to the foreground a lesser known image of the young scientist, an image that has been left aside and outshone by the controversy and revolution of ideas that came with the theory of evolution postulated by a more mature Darwin.

Darwin’s ideas had such a wide and strong impact that they were conveyed in many languages. Undoubtedly, translations played a pivotal role in the dissemination of that new information and even ruffled some feathers, as we have seen in the case of Clemence Royer[1]. Translations not only spread information by removing the language barrier but also contribute, in their own way, to construct or add to the image of the original communicator of that information. How relevant it is now to quote Maria Tymoczko, who has so aptly phrased that “translations form images of whole cultures and peoples, as well as of individual authors or texts, images that in turn come to function as reality” (1999, p. 18). Consequently, the translations of The Voyage of the Beagle contributed to the shaping of Darwin’s image. It is worth analyzing then how some of the translations into Spanish achieved this.

Why Darwin? Almost 150 years have elapsed since the publication of The Origin of Species and the legacy of Charles Darwin remains very topical. Not only are many books that revolve around his main postulate being written continuously but the debate arouses back then is far from abating. Recently, an article featured in The New York Times (Johnson, 2006) reminded us that Darwin’s critics are very much alive by challenging the theory of evolution in the school curriculum in conservative places like Utah and encouraging the teaching of intelligent design instead.

Why The Voyage of the Beagle? Published for the first time in 1839, it was an instant success as a travel account. Despite having been overshadowed by The Origin of Species, which appeared in 1859, Darwin’s travel book is being constantly republished not only in English but in many other languages, showing that publishers, translators and, most of all readers, are drawn to its literary, scientific and historical interest.

Why the translations into Spanish? Countless volumes by and about Darwin occupy innumerable shelves in libraries around the world so one would think that every topic has been covered. In order to support this assumption, Šajkevič (1992, p. 73) counts Darwin among the few big scientists included in his bibliometric analysis of the 1,000 most translated authors as per the Index Translationum. Surprisingly no attention seems to have been devoted to the translations of Darwin into Spanish. The translations of The Voyage of the Beagle are particularly relevant if one takes into account that a considerable part of Darwin’s journal is dedicated to South America and it seems only “natural” that the people of the regions visited would show an interest in it and would bring that account into their own language. Ironically, it was first in Spain, the former colonizer of the Spanish-speaking regions visited, where the first translations were published. We will see that in fact the place of publication plays a very important role in the translation projects analyzed. The place of publication will dictate if the publishers take a “seer” approach, as if they were also visitors, or if they will adopt a “seen” point of view, embodying the visited.[2]

On the “origin” of Darwin’s travel journal[3]

In the late 18th century and early 19th century, England played a predominant role in sea travelling and exploration, and many travel journals resulted from those voyages, whose purpose was mainly scientific.

The Beagle had carried out its first scientific expedition together with a bigger vessel, the Adventure, under the command of Captain Philip Parker King,[4] from 1826 to 1830. Their mission was to improve the knowledge about Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. In this trip, the Beagle Channel was discovered, allowing a connection between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans without having to go through Cape Horn.

Upon the return of the Beagle in 1830, the British Admiralty entrusted Captain Robert Fitz Roy[5] with a new scientific expedition whose objective was to complete the survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, survey the shores of Chile, Peru and some islands in the Pacific and perform a series of chronometrical measurements around the world.[6]

At the time, there was a young fellow by the name of Charles Robert Darwin, who was attending Cambridge to become a clergyman to fulfill his father’s wish. By a serendipitous turn of events, the prestigious scholars Darwin frequented in Cambridge acknowledged his insight and zeal for research and recommended him to Captain Fitz Roy to fill the position as the naturalist on board H.M.S. Beagle.

The second voyage of the Beagle lasted from December 27, 1831 to October 2, 1836. Darwin, among his many scientific occupations on the ship and on shore, dedicated time to write down his acute observations not only about nature but also about cultural aspects prevailing in the regions visited:

During some part of the day I wrote my Journal, and took much pains describing carefully and vividly all that I had seen; and this was good practice. My Journal served also, in part, as letters to my home, and portions were sent to England whenever there was an opportunity.

1950, pp. 38-39

From what we read in Darwin’s autobiography, we may infer that he was not thinking seriously about publication while taking down notes during the voyage. It seems that the first time he considered publishing his Journal was when Captain Fitz Roy insinuated it. He had suggested that Darwin publish his Journal in the third volume of the account of the Beagle expedition: “the first [volume] would contain Captain King’s description of the first voyage of the Beagle, ... the second would be Fitz Roy’s own narrative of the second voyage, and the third would be entirely Darwin’s, writing as the official ship’s naturalist” (Ralling, 1979, p. 9).

Darwin accepted and when he arrived back in England, he stayed for some time in London and started preparing the Journal for publication. The Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle under the Command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N., from 1832[7] to 1836 was published in London in 1839. Today, after its lengthy Victorian title was shortened, it is widely known as The Voyage of the Beagle.

The polished manuscript of The Voyage of the Beagle that first appeared in 1839 had undergone a series of modifications, starting from scribbled note-books during Darwin’s expeditions, turning into letters and a personal diary, to become a book of travels, revised by its author for publication.

The success it obtained was immediate and even Darwin was gladly surprised:

The success of this, my first literary child always tickles my vanity more than that of any of my other books. Even to this day [sometime in 1876-81] it sells steadily in England and the United States, and has been translated for the second time into German, and into French and other languages. This success of a book of travels, especially of a scientific one, so many years after its first publication, is surprising. Ten thousand copies have been sold in England of the second edition.

1950, p. 51

The interest has not subsided at all. Tallmadge wrote that by 1980 “it ha[d] gone through 159 editions in English and been translated into 22 other languages” (1980, p. 325). In order to update this data, it should be mentioned that the latest publications in French and Spanish date from as recently as 2003.

After the publication of the first edition in 1839, Darwin’s confidence in what was becoming obvious to him—the idea of the mutability of species superseding the tenet of fixity—grew stronger and he decided to introduce changes in his book, leading to a second edition in 1845. This second edition is the one where he first introduced his evolutionary ideas, particularly in the chapter on the Galapagos archipelago, and they were kindled by the subsequent study he made of the collections of specimens gathered on those islands.

The relevance of Darwin’s voyage and the publications that it engendered should be underscored. He explicitly stated in his autobiography that “The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life, and has determined my whole career” (1950, p. 38).

Darwin’s voyage into Spanish

Unlike what had been the case in England, Darwin did not first become widely known in Spanish-speaking countries for the account of his travel around the world but was controversially introduced by the impact his Origin of the Species was having everywhere else. It is true, however, that his name was already familiar among scientists and intellectuals but it was The Origin of the Species and its translations that made him a household name.[8]

Darwin’s introduction to a broader Spanish-speaking public was achieved by means of a translation that appeared in Spain in 1872. It was the first but incomplete translation of The Origin of Species[9] (Pratt, 2001, p. 29). The Spanish translation of The Descent of Man (1871) was published in 1876, but in an abridged and anonymous version, which José Antonio Zabalbeascoa (1968, p. 270) attributes to Joaquín María Bartrina. The full authorized version of The Origin of Species was finally translated in 1877 by Enrique Godínez. It had Darwin’s endorsement and it was published with a letter from him, where he expressed being glad to have the book translated into Spanish because that would mean that it might be known not only “in the large kingdom of Spain” but also “in the widest extended regions where spanish [sic] is spoken” (Zabalbeascoa, 1968, p. 275).

It took almost twenty years to have Darwin’s best known work translated into Spanish while the German, French and Italian-speaking readership had had their own versions of The Origin of Species since 1860, 1862 and 1875 respectively (Núñez, 1969, p.27). We know it was not due to the author’s unwillingness. Brisset states that after the success of The Origin of Species he communicated to his publisher that he wished his ideas be known abroad (2002, p. 178). This gap reveals that Spain was definitely lagging behind in spreading Darwin’s ideas. We could attribute this tardiness to the “governmental and ecclesiastical pressure” that Dale J. Pratt mentions when he states that “open discussion was all but impossible” (2001, p. 26). It all changed after the Revolution of September 1868, which brought more openness to new ideas and the secularization of education.

The situation in other Spanish-speaking countries was no different as regards the delay in the dissemination of Darwin’s theory. Most of them were under a very strong Catholic influence and the idea of man descending from monkeys, as it was shallowly communicated, was as hard to swallow as when other visionaries had dared to say that the Earth was round or that the planets revolved around the Sun. Even today, almost 150 years after the publication of The Origin of Species, the debate is no less controversial and very much alive when some conservative groups in certain parts of the United States aim at having the theory of evolution banished from the school curriculum to have the idea of intelligent design taught instead, as mentioned previously.

We should say that in the 1860s those who were interested in the evolution debate, mostly academics and intellectuals in Spain and in countries like Argentina[10] and Uruguay[11], did not wait for the translations into Spanish. Many read The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man in French[12] rather than in English and spread the thesis of natural selection and evolution using the books on transformism they had available translating passages in class (Glick, 2001, p. 42).

The first translation into Spanish of The Voyage of the Beagle that could be traced dates back to 1890, 51 years after the first edition had appeared in English. The reception was completely different from that in England. In his home country, Darwin’s journal was an instant success because at the time, travel writing enjoyed an avid readership and Darwin’s style in retelling his adventures and observations won him an incredible popularity. Tallmadge observes that, “[t]hroughout the 1830s and 1840s travel books were appearing with great frequency” and that “Darwin found himself writing in a well-established tradition” (1980, pp. 328, 329). Twenty years later he would publish The Origin of Species and the English readership already knew who he was. The total opposite happened for the Spanish-speaking public because they received the rendering of the journal in their language after the publication of The Origin of Species so they certainly knew who Darwin was, through fame or notoriety, depending on the side they took on the evolution debate.

Why was the journal not translated sooner, judging from the popularity it enjoyed in England? That is a question quite difficult to answer. We know for a fact that, in mid-19th-century England, books of travel “comprised a genre second only to novels in popularity” (Tallmadge, 1980, p. 328). Spain, however, was at the time immersed in Romanticism and Salvador García, in his analysis of literary ideas in Spain between 1840 and 1850, claims that there certainly was an interest in travel literature in this period, especially in those accounts by English globetrotters (1971, p. 158). It was also later in that century that novelists like Benito Pérez Galdós and Emilia Pardo Bazán, outstanding figures of Spanish Realism, would write about travels to Italy and France (Menéndez Peláez, 2005, p. 485). We could then conclude that this lag was not due to the fact that the genre did not exist in the target literary system.

Another contributing factor to the delay could be that more Spaniards knew French better than English and on many occasions they read an English book after it had been translated into French first (García, 1971, p. 158). It is pertinent to mention here that one of the first translations into French of The Voyage of the Beagle dates from 1875,[13] so it seems that the French did not hasten to publish Darwin’s journal either.

Regardless of the reasons, it is hardly out of question that the reception of Darwin into Spanish was very much shaped by the ideas poured in The Origin of Species and in The Descent of Man. Even in England, despite having appeared first, The Voyage has been treated throughout the years “primarily as a sourcebook for Darwin’s developing ideas on natural selection and geologic time” (Tallmadge, 1980, p. 235). The translations of The Voyage of the Beagle appeared after the Spanish-speaking readership had already shaped an image of Darwin. We will see in the following paragraphs what their contributions were in furthering the construction of that image.

The “seer” and the “seen” in the translations

A chronology of publications of translations of The Voyage of the Beagle into Spanish helped to establish that there were twenty-five publications up to the year 2000 (Paoletti, 2001, pp. 45-46). Out of these, twenty were published in Spain and only five were printed in South America (3 in Argentina, 1 in Uruguay and 1 in Chile) but not all of them were translated there. We could say that this reflects what Cronin calls “the infrastructural dependency” of a postcolonial territory, where the first level of dependency involves “importing or reprinting translations that are produced by the imperial centre” (2000, pp. 47-48). But is this a case of cultural dependence or an instance of the reprint of established translations, works that are deemed to be well done and call for no retranslation? More light on this question will be shed in the analysis of our Spanish and Argentinian cases.

Most of the translations into Spanish were based on the English edition of 1845. This is somewhat echoed by Tallmadge, who says that after Darwin sold his rights to publisher John Murray, the second edition “came out in 1845 and is the one upon which all subsequent texts of the Voyage are based” (1980, p. 328). This is the text that had been revised by Darwin after “his speculations got bolder on the question of the origin of species” as stated by David Amigoni in his Introduction to a publication of Darwin’s journal by Wordsworth Editions in 1997 and he confirms that “the 1845 second edition of The Voyage of the Beagle … includes these more pointed speculations” (1997, pp. viii-ix).

Our analysis will revolve around three translations; their different translation projects[14] will be described case by case and will be finally studied either from a “seer” or a “seen” point of view. In travel literature, the narrator is usually considered a “seer,” the one who visits, who observes, describes and retells.[15] In the case in point, Darwin would be the “seer”, but for the purpose of this analysis, we will extrapolate this label to the Spanish translation project. In turn, the “seen” will be represented by an adaptation done in Argentina and a translation published in Uruguay.

Darwin, the “seer,” published by other “seers”

Diario del viaje de un naturalista alrededor del mundo in Spain

We will firstly analyze Diario del viaje de un naturalista alrededor del mundo, a translation done by a translator called Juan Mateos in Spain in 1921. This translation was based on the 1845 source-language text, as confirmed by means of a paratextual analysis, where it is shown that the preface of 1845 has been translated but the postcript with corrections of a later edition, that of 1860, is nowhere to be found.

Juan Mateos’ translation was first published by Calpe (now Espasa Calpe) in 1921 and was later reprinted in 1940, 1999, 2000 and 2003 in Spain.[16] It comprised two volumes, which were numbers 9 and 10 within a collection called “Viajes Clásicos.” This was a very careful edition judging from a note by the publishers where it is claimed that this is the only translation into Spanish offered complete and intact.

In order to make this delving into the translation project richer, it would be definitely interesting to know more about the translator. As Berman (1995, pp. 73-74) has suggested, facts like the translator’s working languages, whether he was also an author, the kind of works he usually translated and should all be interesting facts to add to the picture. This approach is also promoted by Pym (1998, pp. 171-172) when he suggests looking into the personal biographies of translators to find explanations for the “mark” they have left in the “public world of translations.” The information thus obtained could prove crucial to explain the reasoning behind the translators’ choices.

So, who was Juan Mateos? In the introduction to the latest edition of Diario del viaje de un naturalista alrededor del mundo, Jaume Josa Llorca states that Juan Mateos had written many entries for the Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada published by Espasa Calpe (2003, p. 16). We could find other references to a Juan Mateos who also translated books which were published in Barcelona between 1909 and 1932. These works appear mostly in catalogues consulted on Web sites listing antique and rare books and they are, like The Voyage, voluminous, ranging from 200 to close to 400 pages. The majority of these books were originally written in English, except for Jean de la Brète’s Mon oncle et mon curé, which Mateos could have translated from an English translation.[17] The topics varied considerably: from Milton’s Paradise Lost to many of Captain Charles Gilson’s adventure novels. We can infer that Mateos was quite a prolific translator judging from the short time frame during which he accomplished the translation of at least thirteen titles besides Darwin’s book. We could also probably say that he was very much in demand and recognized for his work if we are to base that claim on the fact that his name appears wherever the Spanish edition of these books is mentioned. It is a pity that we have not found any indication as to whether he was a scholar or a reputed scientist. Publishers like Gustavo Gili, who published many of his translations in the 1910s, say they have no records about their translators, especially when such a long time has elapsed.

In the case of this specific Spanish translation, not only did the publishers acknowledge who the translator was but they also mentioned that another collaborator had helped in the project: Juan Dantín Cereceda who was a well-known Spanish naturalist and geographer and, for this edition, was responsible for the revision and identification of species, scientific technicality, as well as maps and footnotes that were added besides those by Darwin, which were already numerous.

It should be underscored that the work Mateos and Dantín Cereceda produced was no small enterprise. Their visibility is mostly evident in the allographic footnotes.[18] Mateos, in line with the erudite translation envisioned by the publishers, intervened on many occasions by giving updated information on demographic figures, pointing out the occurrences of Spanish in the original or his own corrections if he had modified a “broken” Spanish in Darwin’s text. As regards Dantín Cereceda, his footnotes provide, for example, further information on animal and plants species, native tribes, geology, or on equivalences of linear measures, geographic places and historical facts, and bibliographical references.

Another fact that confirms the care and thoroughness devoted to this translation of Darwin’s journal into Spanish is that this edition kept the drawings, tables and graphics that appeared in the source-language text and even added two maps: one at the end of volume I showing the part of South America that Darwin visited and another at the end of volume II depicting a planisphere to show the places visited during the voyage of the Beagle.

It was possible to consult an original edition of 1921 and compare it to the reprint of 2000. This confirmed that the newer book was a close rendition of that older one: published in a cream-coloured textured paperback with flaps, the cover boasted the title and author’s name in black letters above a drawing of a ship engraved in sepia. It could be assumed that the publishers, by presenting the book in a very similar way to that of 1921, paratextually speaking, and reproducing the exact same Spanish text, fruit of a very careful translation project, considered the translation still suitable for the readership of these days,[19] strengthening the idea that it was an established translation worth being reinstated for a newer generation.

Darwin, the “seer,” published by the “seen”

Diario del viaje de un naturalista alrededor del mundo in Argentina

Secondly, we will analyze Diario del viaje de un naturalista alrededor del mundo, a 1998 partial adaptation[20] effected in Argentina of the translation produced by Juan Mateos in Spain in 1921.

The publishing house El Elefante Blanco decided to publish Darwin’s journal into Spanish as an attempt to rescue old and classic texts. Many of the books they have published deal with travel writing mostly in Argentina. Information from e-mail exchanges and an interview in Buenos Aires with one of the people responsible for this project revealed that this adaptation was based on the translation by Juan Mateos from 1921. This newer publication shows a striking feature: from the cover, the reader is welcomed by a portrait of a young Darwin, an image for the most part unknown since most of us relate him to the image of a mature, white-bearded gentleman. The book was presented in only one volume comprising the chapters about South America. The choice of shortening content and using Mateos’ translation, according to the publisher, was based on three different factors: firstly, the target readership; secondly, the publisher’s satisfaction with Mateos’ job; and thirdly, the more worldly fact that publishing two volumes of a completely new translation would considerably increase costs.

El Elefante Blanco, however, did not merely reprint Mateos’ translation. In order to suit the content to the target readers of Spanish-speaking Latin America, some elements were adapted. Traits of Spanish from Spain such as “leísmos”[21] were adjusted. For example, “el hedor le hacía [al río] de todo punto infranqueable” (from the version of 1921, reprinted in 2000, p. 191; my emphasis) was replaced by “el hedor lo hacía [al río] de todo punto infranqueable” (translation of 1998, p. 164; my emphasis). Incorrect spellings by Darwin that were not detected by Dantín Cereceda or Mateos, probably because the places or realities that were being talked about were so remote in space to theirs, were corrected by the Argentinian team. Corunda became Coronda, which is the correct name of the city in Santa Fe, and chilipa was corrected to chiripá to properly denominate a certain piece of clothing that the gauchos wear. Other changes, which could be classified as diachronic, were introduced as well: older spellings like the toponym Maypú were updated to Maipú; monosyllables that used to carry an accent before a new orthographic rule took effect in 1959 were also changed.

It was noticed, however, that the adaptations were not consistent. Some modifications seem to have been done randomly[22] and, in the case of footnotes, some were eliminated so as not to interrupt the reader’s train of thought. As it has been stated above, Darwin’s original teemed with footnotes and the number only increased after Mateos and Dantín Cereceda finished their work so it could be concluded that the choice of El Elefante Blanco of eliminating some would not make much of a difference. Wouldn’t this omission undermine Darwin’s interest in complementing his narration with extra information? Wouldn’t it deprive the readers of useful clarifications and additions by the Spanish collaborators?

Still, the project is commendable. It allows the Spanish-speaking public of the regions visited to travel in time through Darwin’s eyes. It presents them with a chance to explore this time capsule and learn more of their own past. It lets them rejoice in pride about the contribution that their own land and its richness made to Darwin’s work since it should not be forgotten that some of the observations gathered on the Pampas and on both sides of the Andes also played a starring role in Darwin’s reflections later on.

Un naturalista en el Plata in Uruguay

Thirdly, our analysis will dwell on Un naturalista en el Plata, a translation of The Voyage of the Beagle, published by Arca Editorial in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1968. The translation project of Arca Editorial is worth studying because we would place it at the opposite extreme of that undertaken by Espasa Calpe. Instead of offering an erudite, scholarly complete edition, complemented with additional information and research, Arca Editorial decided to offer a pocket-size book that would reach a wider readership. In the 1950s, the dissemination of culture held an important place in the Uruguayan society consequently lowering the illiteracy rate. We may assume that Arca Editorial’s project was framed within this continuing trend. The economical stagnation that affected the country from 1959 to 1985 may have also had an impact on the project by offering a cheaper edition available to a public who could not afford more expensive publications.

José Pedro Barrán and Benjamín Nahum are mentioned as the editors of the book. At the beginning, they forewarn their readers that the book only comprises Darwin’s visit to the river Plate region: Uruguay and some parts of Argentina. They explicitly state that they have eliminated the scientific passages of geology and mineralogy that, they claim, do not keep the interest of average readers due to their length and specificity. We could venture that the account offered to the Uruguayan public is thus a more dynamic, eventful narration.

As regards the translator, the name mentioned is Rafael Lasala. Lasala also translated for this same publisher Göran Lindahl’s Batlle: fundador de la democracia en el Uruguay,[23] which was published in 1971. For a different publisher, Barreiro y Ramos S.A., he had translated in 1967 John Street’s Artigas and the Emancipation of Uruguay. From this small sample, we could state that the common denominator in Lasala is a concern for his own country as seen by others. In Un naturalista en el Plata, Lasala’s attitude is visible in two allographic footnotes: on page 35, he clarifies that the people Darwin calls Spaniards during his visit to Bahía Blanca, Argentina, are in fact the Spanish-speaking inhabitants of the region he visited who were not necessarily from Spain–they could very well have been Argentinian since their country had been independent since 1816. Lasala also tells his readership on page 37 that the “Monte Verde” in Montevideo (the Green Mount Darwin makes reference to) is what they actually call “el Cerro de Montevideo.” He is less conspicuous in some of Darwin’s bibliographical footnotes by just adding the Spanish name next to the English name of a certain book. It is also worth mentioning that the nationalistic pride of the Uruguayan people is quite present when Lasala identifies with a “[sic]” the mistake Darwin made by calling the Banda Oriental[24] a province and not a country.

Lasala’s lexical choices were also in line with the goal of offering a translation that would sound familiar to the target readers: for example “peach trees” were translated as “durazneros” and not “melocotoneros,” as in Spain. The anachronic spelling of toponyms was updated and Darwin’s spelling mistakes were corrected without any indication that they were not written like that in the original.

Arca offered the reader a very particular outlook: the seen manipulate the seer’s lens by focusing it on what is most dear to them, i.e. their homeland. By the information Barrán and Nahum provide in their introduction, such as making explicit that they decided to omit many scientific passages, it is evident that they are not so much concerned about the implications Darwin’s visit to their region had for his theory but their interest is definitely in his perception of their society at the time. Even if his account could somehow be biased by his cultivated European view, it is nonetheless revealing of the difficulties that the country had to overcome to become a nation.[25] This account by none other than Charles Darwin is the vehicle that would help convey and strengthen the idea among the Uruguayan readership that they inhabit a great nation.

Don Carlos’ image as shaped by the translations of The Voyage of the Beagle into Spanish

When Darwin arrived in Argentina, he was given a passport to travel on land. In it, his name and position were recorded as “El Naturalista Don Carlos.” Don Carlos was also the treatment he received from the Spanish-speaking people he met in his expeditions. This Hispanization of his English name, a sort of “appropriation,” illustrates how the “seen,” the visited, in the narration actually saw him and helps to construct the image Darwin had as a visitor in these foreign lands. It is quite interesting to analyze these translations in terms of the “seer” and the “seen” dichotomy in order to gauge the representation of the young Darwin into Spanish.

The translation by Juan Mateos could be called “seminal” in the sense that it has served as a matrix for reprints and an adaptation until our very days. This translation from Spain is very focused on Darwin, the observer, the “seer”: the original source-language text is followed closely; the care taken by Darwin to give detailed descriptions is respected and even enlarged. The text is provided complete and the attitude towards all the regions visited could be described as detached. Eventually, both translator and readers become also “seers” of remote places and events.

On the other hand, the translations published in South America take a closer approach, showing more involvement: they manipulate content by only publishing what is more familiar and dear to them. The 1998 Argentinian adaptation by El Elefante Blanco acknowledges the “seen” in opting for more vernacular lexical choices, correcting spellings and shifting the lens to focus only on South America. The Uruguayan approach is even more daring. The “seer” is none other than Charles Darwin, the great naturalist, the father of the theory of evolution who had talked about them, the river Plate inhabitants, back in the 1830s. The “seen,” as represented by the publisher, editors and translator, hope that the passages Darwin devoted to describe his perception of the society inhabiting the river Plate region and the historic events that would have important repercussions in the shaping of Uruguay and Argentina as nations take the foreground while many of his most descriptive scientific sections are completely obliterated.

So who is the young Charles Darwin in his Spanish skin? We have mentioned before that there is no question that his image in the Spanish-speaking public’s mind was pretty much shaped by the reception of The Origin of Species. These readers already had a preconceived idea of who Darwin was, what he stood for, whether they were in favour of or against natural selection. It is true that none of the works consulted about the reception of Darwin in Spain, Argentina or Uruguay make a detailed reference to the travel journal, as if its retelling of Darwin’s observations were completely outshone by the controversy sparked by the ideas exposed in The Origin of Species. Would it be too outlandish to claim that having received The Voyage of the Beagle in Spanish after The Origin of Species may have worked in favour of Darwin? We could argue that this turn of events could have vindicated him from his detractors and strengthened the support of his advocates by finally offering them the account of a young, resolute observer of nature and its phenomena. However, that would depend on the Spanish version these people would choose to read. They should be warned that the approach and the information provided by the translation would vary depending on the place of publication.

In sum, the small sample of translations of The Voyage of the Beagle analyzed here follows two trends. On the one hand, the “seer” is embodied in the young Darwin of Mateos’ thorough and complete translation undertaken in Spain. On the other hand, the “seen” are the adaptors and translators of the young Darwin in familiar ground. And they will not remain impartial; they will not be mere observers of the “seer’s” descriptions. They will use Darwin’s spotlight as a mature researcher and scientist to serve their cause: spread knowledge about their native land, their history, their identity. They will even claim part of the credit for the theory of evolution by providing the reader with only selected passages. After all, Darwin himself said in the Introduction to The Origin of Species that it was when on board H.M.S. Beagle that he “was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to [him] to throw some light on the origin of species…” (2003, p. 95).

Is it undeniable that the most outstanding image of Darwin is that of the author of the theory of evolution but The Voyage of the Beagle keeps making waves. The above-mentioned translations can definitely be considered as contributors to Darwin’s image in the Spanish-speaking world. Some of them are being published once and again, reinforcing the fact that the interest in Darwin is still prevalent. They enrich the target system by presenting to its readership different versions of the same original text. However, each rendering will contain nuances that will emphasize different traits in that image of Darwin they are contributing to shape. It will ultimately be the readers’ choice to decide between the lens of the “seer” or that of the “seen.”