[The Village Voice recently reviewed English As She is Spoke here, calling the Collins Library “potentially the most exciting new imprint since the launch of New York Review Books.”]

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“Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect.”
— Mark Twain on English As She Is Spoke

We’re pleased to announce that English As She Is Spoke has arrived at the McSweeney’s store in Brooklyn, and will be made available through the McSweeney’s online store. It is the first volume in The Collins Library, a series by McSweeney’s Books of unusual out-of-print literary works. Unavailable in the U.S. for decades, English now returns in this newly selected and typeset hardcover, edited and introduced by Paul Collins. It has been produced in a small run of only 1000 copies — and our friends at Oddi Printing have made this a handsome edition indeed.

A traveler’s phrasebook of, as Twain described it, “miraculous stupidities,”_ English_ was originally published in 1855 by two Portuguese scholars who apparently could not speak any English. Even worse, they didn’t own an English-to-Portuguese dictionary. What they did have, though, was a Portuguese-to-French dictionary and a French-to-English dictionary. The result may be seen in two selections below from their “Dialogues” chapter.

by Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino

Dâ cáça.
The hunting.

There is it some game in this wood?

Another time there was plenty some black beasts and thin game, but the poachers have killed almost all.

Load ours guns.

Look a hare who run! let do him to pursue for the hounds! it go one’s self in the plonghed land.

Here that it rouse. Let aim it! let make fire him!

Let renounce to the high venison, we have some mean already.

Here certainly a very good hunting.

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Dâ Pésca.
The fishing.

That pond it seems me many multiplied of fishes. Let us amuse rather to the fishing.

Here, there is a wand and some hooks.

Silence! there is a superb perch! Give me quick the rod, Ah! there is, it is a lamprey.

You mistake you, it is a frog! dip again it in the water.

Perhaps I will do best to fish with the leap.

Try it! I desire that you may be more happy and more skilful who acertain fisher, what have fished all day without to can take nothing.