Which English 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?

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.

Penguin, Robin Buss, 2003 paperback, 9780140449266, 1276 pages
Sometimes the cover has a lime-green band at the bottom instead of a black one.
1996 paperback, 9780140446159, 1136 pages (left)
2013 hardcover, 9780141392462, 1312 pages (right)

This translation was first published in 1996. The 2003 version includes a new chronology and suggestions for further reading.

Amazon:

Buy for Kindle Buy paperback Buy hardcover

BookDepository:

Buy paperback Buy hardcover

Abebooks:

Buy any new/used Penguin edition

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.

Oxford, David Coward, 2008 paperback, 9780199219650, COMPLETE/UNABRIDGED, 1108 pages (far right)
ebook (ISBN 9780199219650)
Also shown (left to right):
World’s Classics 1990/1991 paperback, 9780192827159, 1168 pages
Oxford World’s Classics 1998 paperback, 9780192833952, 1168 pages
Oxford World’s Classics 1998 paperback, 9780199209309, 1168 pages

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.

Amazon:

Buy for Kindle Buy paperback

BookDepository:

Buy paperback

Abebooks:

Buy any new/used Oxford edition

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.

Modern Library, 1996 hardcover, 9780679601999, 1488 pages
2005 paperback, 9780345483546, COMPLETE/UNABRIDGED, 1488 pages (left)
2002 paperback, 9780375760303, COMPLETE/UNABRIDGED, 1488 pages (right)

Amazon:

Buy hardcover Buy paperback

Book Depository:

Buy hardcover Buy paperback

Abebooks:

Buy any new/used Modern Library edition

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”.

Everyman’s Library, 2009 hardcover, 9780307271129, “STREAMLINED” 1240 pages

Buy from Amazon

Buy from BookDepository

Buy new/used from Abebooks

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.

Wordsworth Classics, 1998 paperback, 9781853267338, COMPLETE/UNABRIDGED, 928 pages

Buy for Kindle

Buy from Amazon

Buy from BookDepository

Buy new/used from Abebooks

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).

Vintage Classics, 2009 paperback, 9780099518945, COMPLETE/UNABRIDGED, 1400+ pages

Buy for Kindle

Buy from BookDepository

Buy new/used from Abebooks

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.

Harper Perennial 2008 paperback, 9780007275205, 1280 pages

Buy new/used from Abebooks

“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.

Free Project Gutenberg Edition download from Manybooks.net (COMPLETE/UNABRIDGED)

Download free from ManyBooks.net

Download free from Project Gutenberg

Sadly, there’s no StandardEBooks edition and no AmazonClassics edition.

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:

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”.

“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.

Barnes & Noble, 2004 paperback, 9781593081515, ABRIDGED, 640 pages
Four previous BNN editions also shown.
An ebook is also available (ISBN 9781411432000).
Bantam Classic, translated and abridged by Lowell Bair, 1984 paperback, 9780553213508, ABRIDGED, 441 pages
Dover 2007 paperback, 9780486456430, ABRIDGED, 448 pages. “This Dover edition, first published in 2007, is a republication of a standard abridged edition.”
Signet Classic, introduction by Roger Celestin, 2005 paperback, 9780451529701, ABRIDGED, 528 pages
Tor/Forge Classics, 1998 paperback, 9780812565683, ABRIDGED, 608 pages
Simon and Schuster Enriched Classics, 2004 paperback, 9780743487559, ABRIDGED, 688 pages

“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.

Puffin Classics, abridged by Robin H. Waterfield, 1996 paperback, 9780140373530, ABRIDGED, 400 pages, ages 10 and up

Buy from Amazon

Buy from BookDepository

Buy new/used from Abebooks

Illustrated Children’s Editions
Great Illustrated Classics, 2008 paperback, 9781603400473, 240 pages (older copies are shiny “textbook” style hardcovers)
Classics Illustrated, 1942 color paperback, 9781906814656, 48 pages (online comic also available for purchase)
Usborne, 2010 color hardcover, 9780746097007, 64 pages
Educational 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.

Saddleback Classics 2001 paperback, 9781562542832, ABRIDGED, 77 pages, age 12 and up
Timeless Classics, 2010 paperback, 9781616510749, ABRIDGED, 88 pages, age 12 and up
Teaching resources from Saddleback Educational Publishing
Penguin Readers, 2001 paperback, 9780582427013, 50 pages
Pearson English Readers, 2008 paperback, 9781405881807, 64 pages
Teaching Resources from Pearson

“Is there a graphic novel?”

You betcha.

Campfire Graphic Novels, adapted by R Jay Nudds and illustrated by Sankha Banerjee, 2012 paperback, 9789380028675, 108 pages

Buy from Amazon

Buy from BookDepository

Buy new/used from Abebooks

“Is there manga?”

Absolutely. There are at least three manga versions.

The Count of Monte Cristo: Manga Classics
Manga Classics / Udon Entertainment, illustrated by Nokman Poon and Crystal Chan, 2017
paperback, 9781927925614, 404 pages
hardcover, 9781927925607, 404 pages

Amazon:

Buy paperback Buy hardcover

BookDepository:

Buy paperback Buy hardcover

Abebooks:

Buy any new/used Manga Classics edition

The Count of Monte Cristo: Seven Seas
Seven Seas, illustrated by Moriyama Ena, 2017 paperback, 9781626927353, 274 pages

Buy for Kindle

Buy from Amazon

Buy from BookDepository

Buy new/used from Abebooks

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

This three-volume manga series is based on an anime television show.

Del Rey, manga by Mahiro Maeda and scenario by Yura Ariwara, planning by Mahiro Maeda and GONZO
Vol I – 2008 paperback, 9780345505200, 224 pages
Vol II – 2009 paperback, 9780345505545, 208 pages
Vol III – 2009 paperback, 9780345516350, 240 pages

Buy new/used from Abebooks

“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.

The Count of Monte Cristo: Gankutsuo, The Complete Series, 2009 DVD, 600 minutes, Region 1, Japanese and English audio, English subtitles

Buy DVDs on Amazon

https://itunes.apple.com/us/tv-season/the-count-of-monte-cristo-gankutsuou/id312562637

“So, I like audiobooks…”

That makes one of us. But hey, some people juggle geese.

COMING SOON.

“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”

Macmillan Collector’s Library, 2017 hardcover, 9781509827978, ABRIDGED, 696 pages. Pocket-sized, cloth-bound, quality paper, ribbon, gilt edges.
Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics, 2011 hardcover, 9781435132115, 1080 pages. “Bonded leather” cover, ribbon bookmark, nice endpapers.
Barnes & Noble Collector’s Library, 2014 hardcover, 9781904633365, ABRIDGED, 696 pages. Gilded edges, ribbon bookmark.
Word Cloud Classics, 2013 bendy hardcover style, 9781607107316, 1112 pages. Cute size, foil stamping, “luxurious endpapers”.

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 Folio Society (1999, 2017)

Easton Press (2003)

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.

“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

1964 television series (starring Alan Badel, 12 episodes of 25 minutes)
1998 television series (starring Gérard Depardieu, French, 4 parts, 420 minutes total)

Buy 1998 television series

The Count of Monte Cristo Films

1934 movie starring Robert Donat
1975 movie starring Richard Chamberlain
2002 movie starring Jim Caviezel

Buy 2002 movie:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-count-of-monte-cristo/id310138094

This 2001 movie tie-in edition book (ISBN 9780142000731) has a Penguin logo on it, but it’s the ABRIDGED 1988 Signet Classics edition.

TLDR? Buy the Robin Buss translation!

Why? It has text that none of the other English editions have.

Penguin, 2003 paperback, 9780140449266, COMPLETE/UNABRIDGED, 1276 pages

Amazon:

Buy for Kindle Buy paperback Buy hardcover

BookDepository:

Buy paperback Buy hardcover

Abebooks:

Buy any new/used Penguin edition


FAQ:

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!