PARIS - The 23rd of April marks the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. It is also the date of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s celebration of World Book and Copyright Day whose aim it is to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright.
According to UNESCO, World Book and Copyright Day 2012 focuses on translation as UNESCO marks the 80th anniversary of Index Translationum, a database containing information about published translations provided by national libraries, translators, linguists, researchers and databases worldwide.
Established in 1932 by the League of Nations, the Index is the Organization’s oldest program. In fact, it is older than the UNESCO itself which was founded in 1946.
The electronic database of the Index Translationum numbers over two million entries concerning 500,000 authors and 78,000 publishers in 148 countries. Searching this unique database reveals, for example, that Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and William Shakespeare are the world’s most translated authors, according to data collected since 1979. The list of the world’s most translated authors is highly diverse as it features, for example, Lenin (5th position), Barbara Cartland (6th), John Paull II (22nd), Franz Kafka (40th), Plato (43rd) and Gabriel García Márquez (49th).
French, German and Spanish are the languages into which most books are translated. The Index also shows the growth of publishing in China: In the ten years from 1988 to 1999, Chinese ranked 30th of all target languages, but by 2008, it had shot up to 6th position. English ranks as 4th, Arabic as 29th and Russian as 7th.
As to languages of origin, English, French, German and Russian are the ones most translated, but the list also features Ancient Greek (in 12th position, ahead of Modern Greek which ranks 27th), Catalan (23rd), and Yiddish (41st). Spanish is in the 6th position, while Chinese ranks as the 16th most translated language, ahead of Arabic (17th).
UNESCO is organizing an experts’ debate that will be open to the public so as to commemorate the anniversary (23 April, Room XI, 3 to 6 p.m.). The event is designed to encourage countries to make relevant information available on the Index Translationum.
Also on 23April, UNESCO will launch festivities in Yerevan, designated as 2012 World Book Capital. The Armenian capital inherits the distinction from Buenos Aires while Bangkok has been selected as World Book Capital for 2013.
Yerevan was chosen for the “quality and variety of its program, which is very detailed, realistic and rooted in the social fabric of the city, focused on the universal and involving all the stakeholders of the book industry”, according to the members of the selection committee. The Committee is constituted by professionals from UNESCO, the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Booksellers Federation and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).
The label of World Book Capital City is awarded yearly in recognition of a city’s municipal programs promoting books and reading. Designated cities retain the distinction for 365 days, starting on 23 April.