Samuel Putnam

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Samuel Putnam
Born October 10, 1892
Rossville, Illinois
Died January 15, 1950
Lambertville, New Jersey

Samuel Putnam (October 10, 1892 – January 15, 1950) was an American translator and scholar of Romance languages.

His most famous work is his 1949 English translation of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote. It is the first version of the work in what would today be considered contemporary English; although there is still use of archaic language, it is more restricted than in earlier English versions of the work.

The language is formal when spoken by educated characters, but seldom old-fashioned, while the peasant characters speak in colloquial modern English. Putnam worked on the translation for twelve years before he published it. He also published a companion volume, The Portable Cervantes, which included an abridged version of his translation, in addition to English versions of two of the Novelas ejemplares of Cervantes.

Putnam's complete translation, originally published by Viking Press, was reprinted in the Modern Library, and has seldom been out of print since its publication more than sixty years ago. He was also a noted translator of Rabelais. He was known for his leftist leanings (he was a columnist for the Daily Worker).

Putnam is the father of noted American philosopher Hilary Putnam. Hilary Putnam made his first published appearance in his father's Don Quixote translation, in a footnote explaining a joke from the text in terms of logic.


  • Don Quixote de la Mancha translated by Samuel Putnam, especially the "Translator's Introduction" by Mr. Putnam (1998, Modern Library)

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