NOTE: This version of Carl von Clausewitz’s On War is the long-obsolete J.J. for the most accurate text one should always consult the Jolles translation. The Jolles translation is owned by Random House, though it was done for military [Strachan, Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography (Grove/Atlantic, ), p.x .]. Otto Jolle Matthijs Jolles (–) performed a major service to strategic studies in the United States by providing the first American translation of Carl von Clausewitz’s magnum opus, On War.
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Which translation of Clausewitz’s On War do you have? Clausewitz’s magnum opus, On Warhas been translated into virtually every major language.
The Clausewitz Homepage strives to report information about the study of Clausewitz in any field of study and any language in which we find the subject discussed. All of our bibliographies are listed HERE.
Books in print by or about Clausewitz in various languages are available from the Clausewitz Bookstore. Any translation from one language to another necessarily involves interpretation not only of the language but of the conceptual content. Even the most honest and competent translation inevitably includes both technical errors and arguable or controversial—if not flatly wrong—conceptual interpretations.
Further, even editors working in the original language have been known to take liberties with the writer’s original jollee, sometimes because the writer like most authors genuinely needed editorial assistance. Other editorial interventions are prompted by political fear or ambition, conceptual confusion, or contrary conviction of either a technical or ideological nature.
Changes in the native version obviously can be reflected in translations. All of these factors have certainly had an impact on the clausewiz of Clausewitz, so which edition you get can be important.
The most useful general bibliography for Clausewitz studies in German can be found in the 19th German edition of Clausewitz’s Vom Kriegeedited by Werner Hahlweg: Hahlweg researched the history of the text and unscrambled Clausewitz’s original wording as much as possible from the interventions of later editors. Although there are numerous other versions available, clausewits strongly recommend Hahlweg’s. Jolle list of Clausewitz’s editors and editions of Vom Kriege can be found in our German bibliography.
A complete German text of Vom Kriege is on-line here and can be searched electronically. There have been four more-or-less complete and a few partial English translations of On War. These have been published in significantly different forms—eight of which are listed and described below. Oxford University Press, —the c,ausewitz text of which is on-line. Carl von Clausewitz, On Wareds. Michael Howard and Peter Paret Princeton: Princeton University Press,revised This is the complete, standard though not the bestmodern English translation of On War.
This edition grew out of an academic “Clausewitz Project” launched by Paret at Princeton inbut the underlying translation was done by an obscure British foreign service officer named Angus Malcolm. The Paret translation has also been licensed wr Knopf’s ” Everyman’s Library ” series in an excellent and inexpensive hardcover edition the image at right. Note, however, that the Everyman’s edition is paginated differently from the Princeton edition—therefore, our on-line Word Index will not at present be helpful to those readers who purchase it though the excellent Sumida concordance does include it.
Citations to it will not be useful to readers looking for the quotations in the standard Princeton edition. Despite its many qualities, the Paret translation has been criticized for presenting Clausewitz in too dry and rationalistic a tone, and there are a great many places where the wording is oddly casual or shallow, awkward, or otherwise arguable—translating Clausewitz’s important extended metaphor of a wrestling match as a “duel,” etc.
The translation of the critical ” Trinity ” section is remarkably imprecise and error-laden. The editors’ decision not to be bound by too literal a translation is both a strength and a weakness: Paret is a native German speaker, but he left Germany in his very early teens, whereas Otto Jolles see discussion of his translation, above was an accomplished academic in Germany and a literary specialist on Clausewitz’s era before emigrating.
Added belatedly init covers only the names of individuals and places—hardly what the reader looks for in On War. However, a computer-generated word-index to this translation is available here.
Sumida’s concordance is available here. British Army Colonel James John Graham was an exceptionally earnest, honest, and self-effacing translator, so there are no particular distortions or biases in his version. Unfortunately, his German was not particularly fluent, his translation was excessively dense and literal, his English was Victorian, and the sources for the background information he offered were weak.
His original edition, printed in a single volume the complete text of which is on-line HEREwas clasuewitz a commercial success. It is now quite obsolete, though it has historical importance. However, the original Graham translation had a conceptual index which, though idiosyncratic, was far superior to any subsequent index especially the useless one provided by Peter Paret in The pure Graham version is not often found outside of special collections, but many later publications are modifications or abridgements of it.
Maude’s edition jokles the Graham translation All subsequent versions of the Graham translation are derived from the 3-volume editing by Colonel F. Maudewhich was very successful commercially and was reprinted in, and Most editions retain Graham’s useful index.
Carl von Clausewitz: ON WAR. Notes On This Translation.
Because of copyright issues rather than its intrinsic merits, it provides the basis for most subsequent condensations and abridgments of On Ware. Clausewitz, Karl von, War, Politics, and Power: Henry Regnery Company, This is a partial translation containing, in addition to pieces of On Wara short essay on patriotism and the value of the state, labeled “I Believe and Profess.
Rapoport was a biologist and musician—indeed, he was something of a renaissance man and later made some interesting contributions to game theory.
However, he was outraged by the Vietnam War and extremely hostile to the state system and to the alleged “neo-Clausewitzian,” Henry Kissinger. He severely and misleadingly abridged Clausewitz’s own writings, partly, of course, for reasons of space in a small paperback. Nonetheless — for reasons that surpasseth understanding —he jolpes Maude’s extraneous introduction, commentary, and notes, then used Maude’s errors to condemn Clausewitzian theory.
Between Graham’s awkward and obsolete translation, Maude’s sometimes bizarre imperialist and social Darwinist intrusions, and Rapoport’s hostility aimed more at the world in general and at Kissinger in particular than at Clausewitz personally—for whom Rappoport seems to have had a great deal of respectthe Penguin edition is badly misleading as to Clausewitz’s own ideas.
William Clowes and Sons, Limited, If by some odd chance you have it, put it in a glass case, onn it bronzed, or burn it—but READ something else. Find that idea or quote you’re looking for in your paper copy.
Read the Graham translation of On War on-line. Read On War in the original German: Read On War in French: Clausewitz, Theorie de la grande guerre, trans.
O. J. Matthijs Jolles
Lt-Colonel de Vatry, 3 vols. Be careful what you’re buying—the on-line bookstores including Amazon frequently confuse the different editions and translations! You wouldn’t want to end up with the atrocious Penguin edition, edited in by Anatol Rapoport. Vom Kriegevon Carl von Clausewitz, ed. This is by far the most accurate treanslation of On War available in English. Strachan agrees with us on this point: The Modern Library, Peter Paret was also a native German speaker, but he left Germany in his very early teens, whereas Jolles became an accomplished academic in Germany and a literary specialist on Clausewitz’s era before emigrating.
Thus Jolles had no theoretical ax of his own to grind. The main problem with the Jolles edition is simply that it is not the standard version—and all that this implies in terms of locating quotations, checking citations, etc. The version of Sun Tzu included in The Book of War is also excellent—this is the most modern translation, based on complete ancient texts found by archaeologists, by Roger Ames.
The most accurate version. The Paret version is available from Princeton University Press image at left in both hardcover and paperback editions. Also recommended, but rather specialized, is Carl von Clausewitz, Clausewitz on Strategy: Inspiration and Insight from a Master Strategisteds.
This is a sophisticated business -oriented translation of On Warhighly abridged and focusing on Clausewitz’s theoretical approach to strategy in particular rather than on broader issues like the nature of war, politics, etc. It has already been translated into several languages.
It was put together by the famous Boston Consulting Group.