When I was a history student (see About Me on the right) I had already read H. G. Wells’ The Outline of History, subtitled "The Whole Story of Man", chronicling the history of the world from the origin of the Earth to the First World War. Then I read chunks of Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History, which was much in fashion in the late 1940s. Toynbee was an admirer of another universalist historian, Ibn Khaldun, part of whose Muqaddima (Preface) I had to read in my Arabic programme. I learned from these to admire their explicative power while remaining suspicious of their generalisations. Anyway I learned that whatever the drawbacks, an enlightening universal history could be attempted by great minds.
This brings me to one of the latest developments in translatology, namely an explosion of interest in the history of translation. There have been studies of that history in the past. My first acquaintance came from a book by my erstwhile colleague at the University of Ottawa, Louis G. Kelly. His The True Interpreter is still worth reading. It's as much a history of ideas about translation, i.e. translatology, as it is about its practices. It makes no claim to being universal; on the contrary, as its subtitle says, it’s only a history of translation “in the West”. Nonetheless it covers a large slice of universal history. From it some of the recurring themes can be adduced; for instance the eternal opposition of free and literal, summed up in the famous saying of St Jerome,
“For I myself not only admit but freely proclaim that in translating from the Greek I render sense for sense and not word for word, except in the case of the Holy Scriptures, where even the order of the words is a mystery.”