Portrait of George Borrow


In 1835 George Borrow was in St. Petersburg, working on printing the Manchu New Testament with Schulz and Beneze, a German printing firm.  Towards the end of this time George Borrow selected a few of his own poetry/ballad translations, and sought permission to publish these at Schulz and Beneze’s press.  Permission from the censor was granted on 23 April 1835.  Borrow paid the 288 roubles cost of printing on 31 May 1835 and 29 June 1835.  He probably did the typesetting himself.  The printed sheets were sewn around late July 1835, and 100 copies of the book produced.

Among the pieces included in Targum is “Mystical Poem”, from the Tibetian [src: Targum, p. 13], which is a poetic version of the hymn George Borrow was asked to translate for the Bible Society, when they were considering sending him to print the Manchu New Testament.

A short review of Targum appeared in the Athenæum, in 1836, written by John Hasfeld:

“Just before completing this great work [the Manchu N. T.], Mr. Borrow published a small volume in the English language, entitled Targum, or Metrical Translations from Thirty Languages and Dialects.  The exquisite delicacy with which he has caught and rendered the beauties of his well-chosen originals, is a proof of his learning and genius.  The work is a pearl in literature, and, like pearls, it derives value from its scarcity, for the whole edition was limited to about a hundred copies.” [src: Life of George Borrow, Volume 1, p. 223]

Targum was a favourite with William Bodham Donne, who wrote (reported by Thomas Hake):

“Donne is greatly delighted with the Targum.  He says the language and rhythm are vastly superior to Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome, which created such a sensation.” [src: Life of George Borrow, Volume 1, p. 223]

When George Borrow left Russia he left presentation copies of Targum behind with John Hasfeld, one of which Hasfield present to Alexander Pushkin, some of whose poems George Borrow translated for Targum.

Associated with Targum is what was originally to be an appendex of 14 pages, printed by George Borrow in St. Peterbsburg after he returned from Moscow, in 1835.  This is often found bound into copies of Targum, never having been issued as a bound book in its own right.

In a letter to John Hasfield, dated April 1845, George Borrow was musing of printing a second edition:

I have long thought of reprinting it with additions and alterations.  Indeed I begin to see the necessity of doing so, if I dont somebody else wil bring out a shabby affair, a catch penny.” [src: George Borrow, A Bibliographic Study, p. 102]

According to A. Egmont Hake’s 1881 Athenæum article on Borrow:

Of this I may speak on some other occasion, having a copy of this rare book, which, after he became famous, the Russian Government was desirous of procuring for the Imperial Library, and sent an envoy to England for the purpose.  But the envoy was refused what he sought, and told that as the book was not worth notice when the author’s name was obscure and they had the opportunity of obtaining it themselves, they should not have it now.

In 1892 Jarrold & Sons of Norwich reprinted in facsimile both Targum and the Talisman.

source: George Borrow, A Bibliographic Study, pp. 101–109]

source: Life of George Borrow, Knapp