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The principal object in writing this preface is to point out the chief difficulties I had to contend with while engaged in this truly laborious and exhaustive task. I do this not for the purpose of exciting sympathy on my behalf, but to convey to the reader an appropriate idea of the perplexing nature of the work that has engrossed my closest attention, and absorbed so much of my energy and care for nearly three years. The reader will thereby be prepared to view with greater leniency the unavoidable inconsistencies and other imperfections his critical eye may discover.
First of all, I will state, that the original is written in a language that has now been obsolete for many years; which proved a very great obstacle, since no dictionary obtainable could at all times give the desired information; hence the meaning of many words and phrases had to be ascertained by long and laborious research and comparison, which necessarily did not always preclude the possibility of an error, though I have taken great pains to give as correct a rendition as possible.
Another feature of the original that frequently proved very trying is, that it consists in great part of letters written by comparatively illiterate persons, in consequence of which the language used is very often ambiguous or obscure, necessitating an incalculable amount of weighing and comparing, without affording certainty of having apprehended the writer's true meaning.
Still another perplexing obstacle was the fact, that, many proper names occurring in the work, and foreign to the language of the original, having apparently been incorrectly transcribed, it was not always possible to determine the exact spelling of such names; which, though desirable, is, however, not of any material consequence.
But the greatest and most harassing difficulty of all was the circumstance that the version of the Bible used by the various authors of the work differed in many, and, sometimes, in very essential points from our English translation, making it 3n utter impossibility, to adopt an inflexible rule, without involving one's self in countless errors and misconstructions. The course I generally pursued was, that when the rendering of the passage, or passages, given or used in the original, almost coincided with, or at least did not materially differ from that of our English Bible, I would take the quotation in question verbatim from the latter; while, when the discrepancy was too considerable, or an argument depended on the exact rendition, I translated the phrase or passage to be quoted literally from the original. Hence the reader will perceive, that this made an absolute impossibility to adhere to one, invariable rule; and if he but knew the amount of careful thought, and anxiety, expended in drawing the line, when to quote from the English version, and when to translate literally, he could not but heartily sympathize with the translator, and kindly overlook any shortcomings he may discover.
With regard to the marginal notes or remarks, I would state that I have invariably translated them when they contained anything necessary for the complete understanding of the subject under consideration; but frequently they are simply a resume of a paragraph, or side remark of the compiler, without any information or value for the reader; in this case I have omitted them.
These are the chief points I would have the reader consider, for by bearing them in mind he will be enabled to judge understandingly, and also, charitably, of the manner in which the translator has performed his task. To claim that this translation contains no errors would be simply preposterous, when all circumstances are taken into consideration; but I can truthfully say that I have conscientiously striven to furnish the reader with as correct a translation as it was in my power to give. How I have succeeded I leave to the reader to judge. Trusting that the contemplation of the faith, the self sacrificing zeal, and the religious fervor of these martyrs of former ages will leave its imprint for good upon the hearts .of those who shall read this book, I now consign it to the hands of the printer.
JOSEPH F. SOHM.
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