English Translations of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias have been freely available since 1793 when Thomas Taylor produced his translation.
In 1804 Taylor published the first English translation of the entire Platonic corpus. In 1871, Benjamin Jowett produced the most commonly quoted version of the Atlantis Dialogues, principally because his work is now out of copyright. Henry Davis produced a translation of Critias in the 19th century and John Alexander Stewart also offered a translation of Critias early in the 20th century.
1925 saw W.R.M. Lamb publish a translation of some of Plato’s works and today his rendering of both Timaeus and Critias is used by the Perseus Digital Library(a). In 1929, Lewis Spence included a composite version of the Atlantis texts in The History of Atlantis, using the English translations of Jowett and Archer-Hind for Timaeus and the French translations of Jolibois and Negris for Critias. Rev. R. G. Bury gave us what was arguably the best translation of the Dialogues (Loeb Classical Library, 1929) and is included at the beginning of this book. Francis M. Cornford (1874-1943) published his Timaeus (Bobbs-Merrill, 1937)
Sir Desmond Lee produced a new English translation in 1972 (Penguin)
Professor Diskin Clay delivered an acclaimed translation of Critias (Hackett Publishing, 1997). Professor Donald J. Zeyl offered a new translation of Timaeus (Hackett Publishing, 2000). Dr. Peter Kalkavage published a highly regarded translation of Timaeus (Focus Philosophical Library, 2001).
James Lewis Thomas Chalmers Spence (1874-1955) attended Edinburgh University, after which he began a career in journalism that included a stint as sub-editor of The Scotsman. His book publishing began in 1908 with the first English translation of the sacred Mayan book Popul Vuh, followed by A Dictionary of Mythology, so that eventually he had over forty works to his name. He was a keen Scottish Nationalist and stood for parliament in 1929. He was a founder member of the political movement that later evolved into today’s Scottish National Party (SNP).
Among his literary output, which included mythology, occultism and poetry, were five books relating to Atlantis[256,258,259,260 262]. In 1932 he was editor of the Atlantis Quarterly magazine. He corresponded with Percy Fawcett and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, advising the latter on the subject of Atlantis preceding the writing of The Maracot Deep and recently republished as Atlantis – Discovering the Lost City , another example of cynical publishing!
Spence at one point became the Chosen Chief of British Druidism and there is a claim that he was a member of at least one continental Rosicrucian organisation, although this report may be the result of confusion with H. Spencer Lewis, an American Rosicrucian. In 1941 he wrote about the occult and the war, then raging in Europe. In that book he argued that the war was the result of a satanic conspiracy centred in Munich and the Baltic States. The following year he wrote of his view that Atlantis had been destroyed as a form of divine retribution and that Europe was in danger of a similar fate.
His books were very popular with the general public but scorned by the scientific establishment, whom Spence mockingly referred to as “The Tape Measure School”. In truth his theories relating to Atlantis were highly speculative and often based on rather tenuous links. Spence believed that Atlantis was situated in the Atlantic and linked by a land bridge with the Yucatan Peninsula and that after the destruction of Atlantis, 13,000 years ago, the Atlantean refugees fled across this landbridge and are now recognised as the ancient Maya. A recent website(d) supports the idea of a landbridge from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula.
*In The Problem of Atlantis[258.205] Spence quoted a report that allegedly came from the Western Union Telegraph Company, which claimed that while searching in the Atlantic for a lost cable in 1923 that when taking soundings at the exact same spot where it had been laid twenty-five years before they found that the ocean bed had risen nearly two and a quarter miles. The account was quoted widely; however, not long afterwards, Robert B. Stacy-Judd made direct enquiries of his own to Western Union and the U.S. Navy, who denied knowledge of any such report[607.47]! It would be interesting to know the source of this ‘fake news’.*
Spence’s The History of Atlantis can now be downloaded or read online(c). In this book Spence offers his own composite translation of the Atlantis texts based on the English and French translation of Jowett, Archer-Hind, Jolibois and Negris.
A 2005 edition of the book from Barnes & Noble has an introduction by Professor Trevor Palmer.
It appears that among others Spence’s work inspired the backdrop to the a number of works by the pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard(e), who is perhaps best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian.