Penck’s Black Forest Paper

Penck’s paper on the Black Forest

This paper, published in German in 1925, was of great importance in understanding Penck’s theories. After I had read his book (see the comments on another page here) I realised I would have to get to grips with this article. My knowledge of the language was  poor; a little picked up when I was in Germany with the RAF and more acquired through assiduous study of German books about gliding!

When I set out to read the Black Forest article I discovered I could understand most of it because the technical terms, found in the dictionary, were not very hard to understand and were often close to the English equivalent. In any case I usually had a shrewd notion of what he was going to say. I was, however, a very long way from being able to do a full translation by myself.

My wife Jean had learned German and we sat down together for many evenings with dictionary and grammar books, sentence by sentence making sense of it. Jean provided the grammar and I could usually fill in the technical things. Gradually we produced a text. When this was done I employed a young German student who was studying at the university in Newcastle upon Tyne, to go through it, line by line, with me. He made a few corrections but at the end of the afternoon assured me that the translation was good.

Having seen my paper on Penck published, I typed the translated Black Forest paper and had mutliple copies made on the Kenton Lodge college duplicator. Lacking any assistance in drawing the diagrams I sketched these as best I could directly on the duplicator stencils. I then sent a copy to every geomorphologist I knew in Britain and a few overseas. The only person who I know did read it, was Dr George Dury, later Professor Dury, who had taught me geomorphology when I was a student at Birkbeck. George was an enthusiastic supporter of the parallel slope retreat theory and his own PhD thesis had shown that this, or something like it, was responsible for some of the landscape features in the British Midlands. My article on Penck together with this translation, gave him some food for thought.

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