Literary Translation Data and Statistics Sources

Data on published translations, globally collected by UNESCO from national sources, are listed in the Index Translationum database and made available on UNESCO’s website. Index is the only database that allows for international comparison of information on books published in translation, but its reliability is sometimes disputed, even in cases when information is regularly provided by the designated national partner.  However, as this is the only existing global source of comparative data, we have analysed the data provided by Index Translationum for a period of years to obtain a comparative overview of publishing of literary translations in Europe.

Data collection the UK and Ireland 

In March 2013 we published a feasibility study which looked at the mechanism for collecting data on translated literature in the UK. Three Percent? Publishing Data and Statistics on Translated Literature in the United Kingdom and Ireland  and its accompanying bibliography include the first ever accurate figures for the number of translated titles published in the British Isles and recommends a mechanism to collect further data.

This study was kindly supported by Arts Council England, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Culture Programme of the European Union.

The purpose of the report was to recommend a solution to current problems in the form of a proposal to improve the mechanism by means of which information on the publishing of literary translation is collected and shared, in order to facilitate research and assessment of trends in the future.

Statistics derived from analysis of data provided by the British Library for three sample years — 2000, 2005 and 2008 — bring us the first ever accurate figures regarding the publishing of translated literature in the British Isles.

These figures reveal a steady growth of translated titles, showing that published translations stood at:

  • 1,721 in 2000, with 529 titles representing translated poetry, fiction and drama;
  • 2,014 in 2005 with 605 titles representing translated poetry, fiction and drama;
  • 2,207 in 2008 with 753 titles representing translated poetry, fiction and drama.

This corresponds with the following percentages: approximately 2.5% of all publications and 4.5% of fiction, poetry, drama (literature) are translations.

Download the study and bibliography below