Saturday, January 28, 2006

Cesar Fedrici's “Account of Pegu” (1563)

Published in the SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research (SBBR).

Cesar Frederici's description of Bayinnaung's capital at Pegu [in southern Burma near the coast] is valued as a historical source because, "it is not given to the hyperbole of the near-contemporary account of Mendez Pintoand because of its great attention to detail concerning the state, its administrators, and trade at Pegu."

The editor of the SBBR Dr. Michael Charney describes a process of historical distortion in the process of translation over the centuries:

" obstacle in making full use of Fedrici is the way in which his account was cut by different editors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and published in various extracts. Even the two earliest compilations that incorporated Hickock’s translation altered the text and unconsciously incorporated copyist’s errors. For example, those who questioned, as asserted by these later editions, whether Tenasserim did indeed supply nutmeg to the world market, will find that “nuts” in the Hickok original was transformed into “nutmeg.”

"...The account reproduced below attempts to provide as complete a version of Federici’s account of Pegu as possible, based on the Hakluyt and Purchas editions, but checked for major errors against the original Hickok translation."

Someone has surely given a name to this phenomenon whereby an inaccurate fact or interpretation of a fact is used once again, and again, and again, adding little additional inaccuracies along the way until a virtual snowball of inaccuracy results(see Geoffrey Pullum's "Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax" [long quote at an Urban Legends site, better explanation here]). Will have to take a look at David Hacker Fischer's Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought