The first English translation of Dei delitti e delle pene. A question of sources and modifications
Unlike the first French translation, which has received adequate scholarly attention, the first English translation, printed in London in 1767 for the Whig bookseller, journalist and advocate for the freedom of the press John Almon, has as yet been neglected by research. Following on from my previous essay, which investigated the editorial and political contexts, this study focuses on the translated text, enquiring about its sources and faithfulness to the original. Indeed, a collation with one of the two Italian sixth editions (1766) and with Morellet’s version (dated 1766, but printed on 28 December 1765) revealed that this text, which was the main channel for the dissemination of Beccaria’s ideas in the English speaking world, used both the Italian original and the French version as sources. In addition and most strikingly, the collation also showed that the translation contains modifications of significant passages, which appear in neither source. The present article interprets changes introduced in chapter II (“Of the Right to Punish”) and in chapter XXVIII (“Of the Punishment of Death”). They intervene surprisingly on passages whose interpretation is still debated among present day scholars.