Author talk:Pierre-Simon Laplace

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Translations of original works or new works?[edit]

Here is background:

  1. Between about 1796 and 1825, Pierre-Simon Laplace wrote the 5 volumes of Traité de mécanique céleste (Treatise on celestial mechanics) in French. There does not seem to be a direct English translation of this work.
  2. In 1829, Nathaniel Bowditch wrote the 4 volumes of Mécanique Céleste (Celestial Mechanics) in English. According to The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Bowditch, Nathaniel, more than half of this work is "elucidations and commentaries" on Laplace's Traité de mécanique céleste, though the work is considered a "translation" in The American Cyclopædia.
  3. In 1831, Mary Somerville wrote "Mechanism of the heavens" for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. It was written as a version of Mécanique Céleste intended for the general public. It's not clear whether her actual source was the original Traité de mécanique céleste or the "translation" Mécanique Céleste.

Here is where we need help:

  1. Zoeannl, AuFCL, and I do not know French, so we cannot see if "Mechanism of the heavens" is a version of Traité de mécanique céleste or a version of Mécanique Céleste. In other words, did she perform a translation or work from a "translation" (which is actually much more than a "translation").
  2. It's also unclear where to draw the line between a "translation" and a new work. Bowditch added a great deal to the original. Somerville apparently summarized the original Traité de mécanique céleste or the "translation" Mécanique Céleste.

So we're asking for help from someone who reads French to help clarify this. I would say Bowditch and Somerville both created some form of Derivative work, neither of which should be considered a "translation" in the modern sense of the word. But without an English translation of Traité de mécanique céleste, it's just a guess, based on when she wrote. I think also, it would be good if French wikisource and English wikisource are in agreement about how we label these. We don't want to claim to have English translations of Laplace's work where none exist.

@Billinghurst:, @EncycloPetey: can you help? Outlier59 (talk) 14:32, 26 April 2016 (UTC)

If you can provide links to the several works in question (so we can agree we're talking about the same works), then I may be able to assist. I know enough math and physical sciences to (probably) be able to handle the specialized French.
Even if the works differ significantly, they may still be a "version" of the earlier work, and we'd need guidelines for determining this. There are a number of well-known textbooks whose fifth "edition" features a different set of authors and significantly different content from the first edition. --EncycloPetey (talk) 16:38, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
@EncycloPetey: Thank you! The French and English works I know about are listed on this author page, plus "Mechanism of the heavens" (not yet listed).
About "versions", this might be the best way to get around the question of how much is translation and how much was modified by the later writers. The Raven (Poe) includes a translation, -- and also a work based on the The Raven but obviously much more extensive (The Raven; with literary and historical commentary). I could make a version page for Traité de mécanique céleste. Bowditch and Somerville could be noted as "editors" rather than "authors" on their works. Maybe also make Bowditch a "translator" on his work, since that is known for certain. What do you think? Outlier59 (talk) 20:18, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
@Outlier59: I'll try to take a look when I get home tonight, but may not have sufficient free time before the weekend. --EncycloPetey (talk) 21:05, 26 April 2016 (UTC)