What’s the best translation of The Count of Monte Cristo?

Which translation or edition of The Count of Monte Cristo should I read?

So you want to read Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure, The Count of Monte Cristo. And you don’t read French.

No problem. This massive novel has been available in English since the 1840s. You’ll find a copy in any decent library or bookstore, and if you like reading ebooks, you can download the novel for free because it’s not under copyright. That’s sorted, then.

Not so fast!

As soon as you visit the library or bookshop or click over to Amazon, you realize there are a host of publishers offering a myriad of paperback and hardcover editions and dozens of digital versions. What’s the difference?

If you’re not too concerned with the details, jump down to the conclusion.

The Count of Monte Cristo: Translations

There have been… three? It’s actually more complicated than that, but… according to Wikipedia, editions before the anonymous 1846 translation were abridged, and pretty much every edition after the anonymous 1846 translation was based on it, Bair and Buss being the exceptions.

  1. 1846 – Anonymous, published by Chapman and Hall
  2. ???? – Anonymous, abridged
  3. 1954 – Lowell Bair, abridged
  4. 1990 – Anonymous, revised by David Coward
  5. 1996 – Robin Buss

Apart from Robin Buss, I don’t know of any translator who re-did the whole thing from scratch.

Still, there are a TON of versions out there. Keep reading to learn how to choose one that’s right for you.

The Count of Monte Cristo: Abridged Translations

If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I get where you’re coming from. Dumas was paid by the word, and was therefore motivated to include words that were not, strictly speaking, necessary to the story. Moreover, serialized stories had to remind readers of what had already happened. Maybe that’s rationalization and maybe that’s logic, but either way, perhaps you’d be better served by a shorter version of this classic story.

The Abbreviated Monte Cristo has a ton of info on abridgements and children’s, comics, and manga adaptations. TAMC recommends the Lowell Bair abridgement.

Beware copycat ebooks!

Most ebooks that sell for $0.53 to $9.67 are no better than what you’d get for free and quite possibly worse. For example, someone was once charging $6.00 for a version set entirely in bold italics, and someone is still charging $2.99 for the Gutenberg version but with this hideous cover:

For some reason, there’s a nearly invisible hyphen between “Monte” and “Cristo, and the author is helpfully listed as “Alexandre Dumas: The famous French Writer”. (Gosh, thanks. Did he, like, write any other books, bro?)

The Count of Monte Cristo Best Translation Page History

This post, the seed from which WeLoveTranslations eventually sprouted, was originally a post I wrote for my blog, spjg.com, in December 2018. I copied it to welovetranslations.com in January 2021. I updated the images in May 2021. I did some major reformatting and content updates in December 2021. (In 2018, there was no AmazonClassics or Standard Ebooks edition, but now there is! Yay!)

1846 · Anonymous (Chapman and Hall) · The Count of Monte Cristo

About the Chapman and Hall translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Chapman and Hall are publishers, not translators. This original English translation has always been anonymous.

The publication history of this version is complicated. Wikipedia has some details, but basically: First, it was serialized starting in March 1846. Then, it was published as a book in May 1846. Ever since then, various publishers have been releasing edited versions. The text is no longer under copyright, so it’s fair game for anyone to reprint.

Excerpt from the Chapman and Hall translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Get the Modern Library Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Introduction by Italian-American author Lorenzo Carcaterra. Includes a Modern Library reading group guide. 1996.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780679601999, 1488 pages).

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Get the Modern Library Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Introduction by Italian-American author Lorenzo Carcaterra. Includes a Modern Library reading group guide. 2002.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780375760303, 1488 pages).

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Get the Modern Library Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Introduction by Italian-American author Lorenzo Carcaterra. Includes a Modern Library reading group guide. 2002.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9780593447789).

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Get the Everyman’s Library Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Revised by Peter Washington. Includes an introduction by Umberto Eco. This “slightly streamlined version of the original 1846 English translation speeds the narrative flow”.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780307271129, 1240 pages).

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Get the Wordsworth Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Includes an introduction and notes by Keith Wren, University of Kent at Canterbury.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781853267338, 928 pages).

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Get the Wordsworth Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Includes an introduction and notes by Keith Wren, University of Kent at Canterbury.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781848703483).

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Get the Word Cloud Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Cute size, foil stamping, “luxurious endpapers”.

Available as a flexi-bound book (ISBN 9781607107316, 1112 pages).

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Get the Vintage Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Contains endnotes.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780593081501, 1200 pages).

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Get the Vintage Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780099518945, 1472 pages).

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Get the Vintage Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Contains a reading group guide.

Available as an ebook.

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Get the Standard Ebooks Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Free! Available in epub, Kindle, Kobo, and Advanced epub formats. Standard Ebooks are professionally edited, professionally designed versions of the Project Gutenberg texts.

Available as an ebook.

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Get the Project Gutenberg Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Free! Available in html, epub, Kindle, and plain text formats.

Available as an ebook.

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Get the Amazon Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Available as an ebook.

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Get the Barnes & Noble Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Bonded-leather binding, gilt edging and a silk-ribbon bookmark.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781435132115, 1080 pages).

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???? · Anonymous · The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Who created the “standard abridged edition”? When?

I don’t know! But the truth is that a particular abridged version of the text is commonly reprinted. How do I know? I found this note in the Dover abridged edition:

“This Dover edition, first published in 2007, is a republication of a standard abridged edition.”

The Standard Abridged Edition page at The Abbreviated Monte Cristo says copies go back to 1928 at least and gives a listing of which contemporary editions contain the text and a useful explanation of how to identify a copy based on the table of contents or first page.

Another obvious sign of the standard abridged edition is this translator’s note:

The prevailing taste for brevity has made the spacious days of the stately three-volume novel seem very remote indeed. A distinct prejudice against length now exists: a feeling that there is a necessary antithesis between quantity and quality. One of the results is that those delightfully interminable romances which beguiled the nights and days of our ancestors in so pleasant a fashion are now given no more than a passing nod of recognition. Unfortunate as this is, one has to admit it with as much philosophy as may be available for the purpose. Life then had broader margins, and both opportunity and inclination are now lacking for such extensive indulgence in the printed page.

This, then, is felt to be sufficient apology for the present abridgement of one of the world’s masterpieces. It has been the object of the editor to provide the modern reader with a good translation and a moderately condensed version of Dumas’ narrative. This, while omitting, of necessity, some of the beauties of the original, has conserved the essentials of the story and condensed the incidents within what will be, from our point of view, more reasonable proportions. So the reader will miss no material part of that entertainment which the author, after his more leisurely fashion, intended him to enjoy.

The first page reproduced below is from the Dover edition.

Extract from the “standard abridged edition” of The Count of Monte Cristo

Get the Dover Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

“This Dover edition, first published in 2007, is a republication of a standard abridged edition.”

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780486456430, 448 pages).

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Get the Dover Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

“This Dover edition, first published in 2007, is a republication of a standard abridged edition.”

Available as an ebook.

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Get the Barnes & Noble Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Introduction and notes by Luc Sante. Also includes an author bio, a section on the world of Alexandre Dumas and The Count of Monte Cristo, footnotes, a few endnotes, a list of works inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo, comments and questions, and a list for further reading.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781593081515, 640 pages).

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Get the Signet Classic Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Includes an introduction by Roger Celestin.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780451529701, 528 pages).

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Get the Signet Classic Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Includes an introduction by Roger Celestin.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781101042519).

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Get the Simon and Schuster Enriched Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Supplementary material written by Margaret brantley. Includes an introduction, chronology of Alexandre Dumas's life and work, historical context of The Count of Monte Cristo, endnotes, interpretive ntoes, critical excerpts, questions for discussion, and suggestions for the interested reader.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780743487559, 688 pages).

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Get the Simon and Schuster Enriched Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Supplementary material written by Margaret brantley. Includes an introduction, chronology of Alexandre Dumas's life and work, historical context of The Count of Monte Cristo, endnotes, interpretive ntoes, critical excerpts, questions for discussion, and suggestions for the interested reader.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781416501800).

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Get the Tor Classics Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Includes a foreword, a list of characters, and an afterword. Cover art by Brad Schmehl and cover design by Joseph Curcio.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781429990134, 608 pages).

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Get the Macmillan Collector’s Library Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Pocket-sized, cloth-bound, quality paper, ribbon, gilt edges.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781509827978, 696 pages).

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Get the Macmillan Collector’s Library Anonymous translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781509847464).

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1956 · Lowell Bair · The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Who is Lowell Bair?

He has translated Madame Bovary, The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Cyrano de Bergerac, Candide, The Three Musketeers, and The Red and the Black, among other works in French.

About the Lowell Bair translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

It’s abridged. But it does seem to be a NEW translation, not an edited version of an existing translation.

The Abbreviated Monte Cristo: “Text abridgements meant for Teens and Adults”
Comparing it with about 10 other editions, TAMC calls this the “gold standard for shorter versions of the book”. It’s a version “in modern English that retains most of the characters, character interaction, plot, subplots AND witty dialogue, without the overly wordy, talky and meandering chapters.” It also retains some of the “more scandalous parts”.

Extract from the Lowell Bair translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Get the Bantam Classics Bair translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Translated and abridged by Lowell Bair.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780553213508, 441 pages).

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Get the Bantam Classics Bair translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged)

Translated and abridged by Lowell Bair.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9780553898156).

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1990 · Anonymous, revised by David Coward · The Count of Monte Cristo

Who is David Coward?

He is a translator and emeritus professor of French literature. He has translated works by Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Marquis de Sade, Georges Simenon, Gaston Leroux, and Denis Diderot.

Artellus Literary Agency: ” ‘How do you translate bread?’ An interview with Prof. David Coward”
In talking about his translation of A Maigret Christmas by Georges Simenon, Coward explains how he got into translation, what he likes, and what makes it hard.

About the Anonymous / Coward translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Oxford World’s Classics first published an edition of The Count of Monte Cristo edited and with an introduction by David Coward in 1990.

Regarding the 2008 version, Oxford says:

This revised unabridged edition thoroughly updates the classic translation based on the original serialization and includes a new bibliography and revised introduction and notes. The text is reset throughout.

Extract from the Anonymous / Coward translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Get the Oxford World's Classics Anonymous / Coward translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Includes an updated introduction and notes by David Coward; a new bibliography; a revised note on the text, chronology, explanatory notes; extensive revisions to the translation throughout, replacing old-fashioned terms and phraseology and improving narrative pace.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780199219650, 1108 pages).

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Get the Oxford World's Classics Anonymous / Coward translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Includes an updated introduction and notes by David Coward; a new bibliography; a revised note on the text, chronology, explanatory notes; extensive revisions to the translation throughout, replacing old-fashioned terms and phraseology and improving narrative pace.

Available as an ebook.

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1996 · Robin Buss · The Count of Monte Cristo

Who was Robin Buss?

He was a Francophile writer, translator, and film critic.

» The Independent: Obituary of Robin Buss

About the Buss translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

This is the only TRULY complete and unabridged version.

Early English editions were bowdlerized. That is, material thought to be offensive was removed for the good of child readers and the public in general. This edition restores the author’s original content.

English has changed a lot since Victorian times. We use different words, sentence structure, and punctuation. This version makes the author’s French less inaccessible to modern readers.

This edition includes a chronology, an introduction, 30+ pages of explanatory notes, and suggestions for further reading by Francophile writer, translator, and film critic Robin Buss.

Praise for the Buss translation:

Extract from the Buss translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Get the Penguin Clothbound Classics Buss translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Includes a new chronology and suggestions for further reading.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780141392462, 1312 pages).

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Get the Penguin Classics Buss translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Includes a new chronology and suggestions for further reading.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780140449266, 1276 pages).

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Get the Penguin Classics Buss translation of The Count of Monte Cristo

Includes a new chronology and suggestions for further reading.

Available as an ebook.

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Other Info and Resources

Study guides for The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo is seriously long. The images of unabridged editions are just the book covers; behind each one there are hundreds of pages! Try one of these study guides to preview or review the story.

Anime of The Count of Monte Cristo

Something about an alien parasite? You can learn more about it if you read the Wikipedia article on Gankutsuou.

The Count of Monte Cristo: Gankutsuo (English audio, English subtitles)

Watch on Amazon

The Count of Monte Cristo: Best Translation?

If you want a good quality, unabridged text…

Read the Penguin Classics Robin Buss translation of The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s the only TRULY complete and unabridged version. However, the language is modernized. You might prefer one with a more archaic flavor of English. Therefore, depending on which one sounds better to you when you read a sample of the text, you should choose the unexpurgated and modernized Robin Buss translation published by Penguin or the anonymous translation edited by David Coward and published by Oxford.

If you want a good quality abridgement…

Steer clear of the “standard abridged editions” and the cheap ebooks. Get the Bantam Classics edition translated and abridged by Lowell Bair.

Happy reading!

The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most popular books in all of Western literature. You’re going to love it!

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