José Rosado and Romano Torres Publishing House: Some views on a collaboration made of invented translations

Medeiros, N. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This oral presentation tries to capture some of the ways editorial action and the intervention of the publisher in the making of books shape the published text, erecting reading formulations and proposals, even inventing books. The editorial creative formulation explored herein concerns the prescriptive role of a publishing house that publishes, among many others, translated books that in a few cases are fake translations, making those translations invented as such. That is the case of Livraria Romano Torres, a centennial Portuguese publishing house specialized in mass-market books often linked to a popular consumption, working in the Portuguese speaking world from the mid-1880s to the mid-1980s. One of the most prolific authors of Livraria Romano Torres was José Rosado, a Portuguese writer and translator with a collaboration that lasted 15 years, from 1942 to 1957. The bulk of Rosados’s production is related to adventure books and detective fiction, of which he would be the unidentified author. The authorship of those books was normally credited to Charles Hamond, Philip Barnner or Richard Young, all pseudonyms of José Rosado. This strategy is not new to publishing practices, corresponding to a tradition in countries such as Portugal that made almost mandatory to ascribe a British or American ambiance to any attempt to publish a detective fiction title authored by local writers. To comply with such commercial obligation, the editorial formulation of any detective fiction series aspiring to sell made the adoption of English or English-wise names and volume titles virtually inescapable. This tradition rested on the idea that only a quintessentially Anglo-American narrative and theme would sufficiently appeal to readers’ needs and expectations. José Rosado appeared as translator of his own work, being named inside his books as the translator of Charles Hamond, Philip Barnner or Richard Young. So, his books normally depicted in the copyright page both the alias (identified as the supposed author) and the name José Rosado (identified as the supposed translator or, at times, the author of an adapted version based on the supposed original manuscript). The appearances of both names in a given book intended to shape and filter the book’s reception by its potential readers and buyers. But they also produced an effect of circularity in which the translator is its own ghost writer. The very title in Portuguese was formulated as a translation. There was consistently an indication of the original title (obviously invented) inside the book, typically shown in English, not without the occasional grammar mistake, unveiling its fake character. Probing through the letters exchanged between José Rosado and his publishing house, Livraria Romano Torres, and analyzing the receipts signed by the author/translator for payments due by the publisher (that identified the works object of compensation), revealed that the copyright of the manuscripts was sold to Livraria Romano Torres, permitting the publisher to integrate them in series like the detective fiction assortment Grandes Mistérios, Grandes Aventuras (Great Mysteries, Great Adventures). The insertion in such series presented the works as translations of British and American original manuscripts. But those primary sources also shed light on another side of the intricate process inherent to build up a book series. In deed, it is very likely that, at least in some occasions, the texts presented by José Rosado to Livraria Romano Torres publishing house, for what he was paid, corresponded actually to pieces written by others than Rosado, true ghost writers, circumstance that didn’t prevent Rosado from claiming authorship before his publisher. To sum up things, in order to achieve the goals set forth as a publishing house with stakes in genres such as detective fiction, Livraria Romano Torres’ editorial prescription fostered a certain amount of circularity from invented translations it promoted in the first place, thus helping to create an author who acted like a ghost writer of his own works, sometimes presenting work that was produced by other ghost writers.
Period20 Jul 2016
Event title24th Annual Conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP): null
Event typeConference
Conference number24
LocationParis, France
Degree of RecognitionInternational