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?
Unexpurgated, unabridged, abridged, children’s, illustrated, and film versions are available. Keep reading to learn how to choose an edition that’s right for you.
“I want the absolute BEST version that French literature scholars have to offer.”
You don’t care what it costs. It’s a long book! You might as well invest a bit of money along with your valuable time. Books are cheap entertainment, after all. Maybe you’re interested in the products of contemporary literary scholarship, such as new translations, and you want to support those who make them their life’s work. Maybe you’re curious to read the juicy bits that meddlesome censors cut from the original.
You should choose:
The Penguin Classics Robin Buss edition
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.
This translation was first published in 1996. The 2003 version includes a new chronology and suggestions for further reading.
Praise for the Penguin edition:
“I want to read the version people have been reading for a century!”
You read a lot. You are a traditionalist. You can do without the so-called juicy bits. If you want to read about sex, drugs, or torture, you can always just pick up something contemporary. You like classic English literature. You know that Dumas did not write in English, but you feel that Victorian English fits the age and style of the book. You find the idea of reading a version published after the turn of the millennium insidiously distasteful. Still, you want the BEST Victorian English edition out there.
You should choose:
The Oxford World’s Classics edition
This version is based on the “original” English translation, a popular anonymous translation published by Chapman and Hall in 1846.
This edition includes a chronology, an introduction, bibliography, and 30+ pages of explanatory notes by David Coward, Emeritus Professor of French Literature, University of Leeds and prize-winning translator.
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.
Other Anonymous / Chapman and Hall Editions
The Count of Monte Cristo: Modern Library
Introduction by New York author Lorenzo Carcaterra.
Includes a Modern Library reading group guide.
The Count of Monte Cristo: Everyman’s Library
Introduction by Umberto Eco, revised by Peter Washington. This “slightly streamlined version of the original 1846 English translation speeds the narrative flow”.
The Count of Monte Cristo: Wordsworth Classics
This is a complete and unabridged paperback with an introduction and notes by Keith Wren, University of Kent at Canterbury. An ebook (9781848703483) is available for quite a small fee.
The publisher says:
Our edition is based on the most popular and enduring translation first published by Chapman and Hall in 1846. The name of the translator was never revealed.
The Count of Monte Cristo: Vintage Classics
The number of pages is over 1470 but variously given as 1472, 1488, and 1492. There’s an ebook available (ISBN 9781409077688).
The Count of Monte Cristo: Harper Perennial (?)
This appears to be an alternate cover for the Oxford / David Coward edition, but it’s hard to tell for sure.
“Whatever. I just want a decent free ebook.”
You do not want to shell out for something that you can get for zero bucks online. You just want to make sure you don’t waste your time on absolute junk when you could have avoided it with a little research.
You should choose:
The Project Gutenberg Edition from ManyBooks.net
The Manybooks.net version is maybe a more user-friendly download than the one from Project Gutenberg itself.
Beware copycat ebooks!
Stay away from the “Amazon Digital Services” and “CreateSpace” sharks. Chances are, the ebooks they offer for $0.53 to $9.67 are no better than what you’d get for free and quite possibly worse. For example, someone is charging $6.00 for a version set entirely in bold italics, and someone is charging $2.99 for the Gutenberg version but with this hideous cover:
“I don’t want to read, like, 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, you’re happy with a shorter version of this classic story.
There is, in fact, a somewhat standard abridged English edition, which includes 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 Count of Monte Cristo: Abridged Editions
Barnes & Noble has tried a variety of packaging strategies!
“The present translation and abridgement, like many editions which first introduced English readers to Dumas’s work, remains anonymous.”
Introduction and Notes by Luc Sante.
“I’m looking for a children’s edition.”
If you want one that’s a good-length text, get the Puffin one. Scroll down to learn about illustrated editions and leveled readers for students and educators.
Illustrated Children’s Editions
There are a bunch of retellings under 200 pages for young readers, struggling readers, and ESL students, though sadly, there’s no RealReads edition.
“Is there a graphic novel?”
“Is there manga?”
Absolutely. There are at least three manga versions.
The Count of Monte Cristo: Manga Classics
The Count of Monte Cristo: Seven Seas
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
This three-volume manga series is based on an anime television show.
“You mentioned anime!”
Yeah, I haven’t watched it. Something about an alien parasite? You can learn more about it if you read the Wikipedia article on Gankutsuou.
“So, I like audiobooks…”
That makes one of us. But hey, some people juggle geese.
“I want a fancy hardcover book.”
Above I have already listed three quality hardcover editions:
- Penguin Classics
- Modern Library
- Everyman’s Library
Below are some other nicely published editions.
The Count of Monte Cristo: In-Print “Collector’s Editions”
The Count of Monte Cristo: Out-of-Print Collector’s Editions
Abebooks has many old and rare copies of The Count of Monte Cristo for sale (as well as many cheap abundant ones).
Here are links to searches for limited-edition modern hardcovers from two premium book publishers.
The Count of Monte Cristo Is Seriously Long
All the images above show only the book covers. Behind each cover there are hundreds of pages!
“I need a study guide!”
Try one of these.
- Shmoop Guide for The Count of Monte Cristo
- SparkNotes Guide for The Count of Monte Cristo
- CliffsNotes Guide for The Count of Monte Cristo
“Can I watch it?”
Sure! Just don’t go thinking that the film and television adaptations actually match the text. They change, add, and omit various chunks, bits, and pieces. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing: in fact, it’s necessary.
The Count of Monte Cristo Television Series
The Count of Monte Cristo Films
Buy 2002 movie:
TLDR? Buy the Robin Buss translation!
Why? It has text that none of the other English editions have.
How long did it take to compile this list?!
I have no idea.
Is this list complete?
No. Good heavens, how could it be?
You’re trying to make money with affiliate links?
It would be nice to receive a sales commission from time to time, but mostly I’m just trying to share useful information that I collected out of personal curiosity. Making book lists is satisfying for its own sake. This list was a lot more challenging than my list of Zits comics.
Do you have all these editions?
No. I read a paperback copy of the Oxford edition in 2003. I bought the Penguin ebook to read for the January 2019 meeting of the Singapore Hungry Hundred Book Club. I also have an ebook of the Oxford edition.
If you have additions or corrections to suggest, please let me know.
If you have found this guide useful, please share it with others who may benefit. Thanks!