Translating Schulz into English

Classic finds

AAUGH Blog reader David wrote me to ask about some odd lettering in a few of the strips that were reprinted in Charles M. Schulz: 40 Years of Life and Art, a big slipcased book that came out for the fortieth anniversary of Peanuts, so three decades ago. It’s just in a few strips, but the lettering is blatantly not Schulz.

But it’s not just the lettering that’s wrong – it’s the words themselves!

“Give him a cockie”??

It’s always with the first strip on the introducing-the-characters page, the strip showing the character as seen in the 1950s (in this case, the June 30, 1953 strip.) So what’s going on.

Well, part of it seems pretty obvious. This book was not originally created for the American market. The book was compiled by Giovanni Trimboli, an Italian photographer apparently living in Monaco at the time, and the introduction is by the great Italian author Umberto Ecco. It was published in Italian, French, and Dutch before the English edition. So what we’re looking at is a strip that has been translated back into English, after they had it in some foreign language.

It’s the “why” that still eludes me. Now, one thing that you have to realize is that the Peanuts Industrial Complex has not always had a complete set of Peanuts strips. That may sound strange, but it’s true; during the early days of putting together The Complete Peanuts, I helped Fantagraphics find sources for strips that they were unable to find in the archives… and even with a number of people on the hunt, they had to publish an early Sunday strip missing its original first tier (although they found it later and corrected it when that volume was reprinted.) So the thought opens up that the Italian editor had these strips in Italian and had included them, but there were no US sources to be found. However, there’s a big hole in that theory: these were not missing strips. All of the ones in question had been reprinted in the book More Peanuts, and right source one would look at for this specific era, and material that had been included in other reprint efforts over the years.

That’s Schulz’s German text, but not his English. The original had Schroeder scheduled to sing a song not about pigs, but about vision-impaired mice. And… “Did’nt”?

This is not the only time that Peanuts has been relettered in English. Way back in February of 2000, I mentioned (in what was then the email newsletter) having found the book Lucy Rules OK?, a British volume that was totally relettered, albeit with the original text. But it’s a weird thing to have happen… and given that Schulz was a great letterer, a sad thing as well.

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