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On the Art of War

not merely a question of downright blunders, from which none can
hope to be wholly exempt. Omissions were frequent; hard passages
were willfully distorted or slurred over. Such offenses are less
pardonable. They would not be tolerated in any edition of a Latin or
Greek classic, and a similar standard of honesty ought to be insisted
upon in translations from Chinese." In 1908 a new edition of Capt.
Calthrop's translation was published in London. It was an
improvement on the first — omissions filled up and numerous
mistakes corrected — but new errors were created in the process. Dr.
Giles, in justifying his translation, wrote: "It was not undertaken out of
any inflated estimate of my own powers; but I could not help feeling
that Sun Tzu deserved a better fate than had befallen him, and I
knew that, at any rate, I could hardly fail to improve on the work of my
predecessors." Clearly, Dr. Giles' work established much of the
groundwork for the work of later translators who published their own
editions. Of the later editions of the ART OF WAR I have examined;
two feature Giles' edited translation and notes, the other two present
the same basic information from the ancient Chinese commentators
found in the Giles edition. Of these four, Giles' 1910 edition is the
most scholarly and presents the reader an incredible amount of
information concerning Sun Tzu's text, much more than any other
translation. The Giles' edition of the ART OF WAR, as stated above,
was a scholarly work. Dr. Giles was a leading sinologue at the time
and an assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and
Manuscripts in the British Museum. Apparently he wanted to produce
a definitive edition, superior to anything else that existed and perhaps
something that would become a standard translation. It was the best
translation available for 50 years. But apparently there was not much
interest in Sun Tzu in English- speaking countries since it took the
start of the Second World War to renew interest in his work. Several
people published unsatisfactory English translations of Sun Tzu. In
1944, Dr. Giles' translation was edited and published in the United
States in a series of military science books. But it wasn't until 1963
that a good English translation (by Samuel B. Griffith and still in print)
was published that was an equal to Giles' translation. While this
translation is more lucid than Dr. Giles' translation, it lacks his
copious notes that make his so interesting. Dr. Giles produced a work
primarily intended for scholars of the Chinese civilization and
language. It contains the Chinese text of Sun Tzu, the English
translation, and voluminous notes along with numerous footnotes.