Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Description of the Coast of Guinea", Fransisco de Lemos Coelho (1684) republished

"Description of the Coast of Guinea" republished: Introduction The Portuguese text here presented in an English translation was written in or a little before 1684, survives in a manuscript copy written just after 1700, but was only published in the present century. A French translation of the first chapter was published in 1973 but no translation of the whole text has previously appeared. The present English translation was undertaken as part of a project to publish a series of annotated Portuguese texts on Guinea, a project initiated by the distinguished Portuguese scholar, Admiral Avelino Teixeira da Mota; but only, one volume in the series had been published when Teixeira da Mota died in 1982. My English translation would have appeared side by side with the Portuguese text, as re-transcribed by Teixeira da Mota, who would also have supplied original scholarly apparatus and would himself have checked the translation. Instead I can only here offer, first, the translation, less reliable than it would otherwise have been (and therefore to be used in conjunction with the published Portuguese text, against which it should be checked); and, secondly, as much scholarly apparatus as I have been able to generate from the limited sources available to me.

In 1953 Academician DamiĆ£o Peres published the 1684 text, together with a 1669 text, which he proved to be by the same author, being an earlier and shorter version of the same account. He further proved that the author’s name was Francisco de Lemos Coelho, and he briefly discussed Lemos Coelho’s life and career. Three long notes on the Portuguese administration of Guinea in the seventeenth century concluded this edition, no attempt being made to annotate the text in detail. But the 1973 French translation of the first chapter of the 1684 text, by Nize Izabel de Moraes, was accompanied by full annotation and some useful comments on the author’s life. The texts published in 1953 were transcribed from manuscripts preserved in the Biblioteca Nacional in Lisbon. The 1669 text exists in autograph, the 1684 text, which is - as I shall shortly demonstrate - an extended more often than an updated version, exists only in a copy made, a little after 1700, by a writer who occasionally interpolated comments of his own. As the fuller text, the 1684 version has been chosen for the translation; but differences between the two versions will be detailed in the present edition.

P.E.H. Hair, editor (1985)