Once sheep raiser, now sheep treatise translator

Paul Fattig / Medford Mail Tribune /

EAGLE POINT — If Lois Wilson still raised sheep on the family’s Eagle Point farm, she figures she could flip through a 14th-century French book on sheep husbandry for advice.

“The interesting thing, except for antibiotics, you could raise sheep by it today,” said Wilson, 86, a retired sheep farmer.

Perhaps just as interesting, although not surprising to those who know her, Wilson collaborated with a longtime language professor at Oregon State University to translate the book published in 1379 from old French into English.

Written by Jean de Brie as “Le Bon Berger,” the book, dubbed “The Medieval Shepherd” in English, was edited and translated by Wilson and Carleton Carroll, Oregon State University emeritus professor of French.

Considered one of the original “how to” books in French, the book was chock full of practical information for the medieval shepherd, Wilson said.

In the translated book, which came out late last year, the reader can pore over what is known as middle French on one page and sneak a peek at the English translation on the facing page.

The publication includes a detailed index with proper names found in both the text and the translation, and lists the names of plants and diseases used in the 14th century.

Wilson also has collaborated with Carroll to edit and translate Olivier de La Marche’s 1483 book, “Le Chevalier Deliber’E” into English with the title “The Resolute Knight.”

“It’s fun, just great fun,” said Wilson of making the translations. “My head lives in words.

“The spelling is a different, the verbs are slightly different,” she adds of today’s French versus middle French. “It’s a little like translating olde English into modern English.”