** This article is updated regularly. It was last updated in March 2023 **
Book translation pre-dates the printing of books by more than 2,000 years. In fact, the first book printed in English was a translation. William Caxton, who introduced the printing press to England, printed The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye in 1473, a translation of the French original by Raoul Lefèvre.
Today, the most translated book in the world is the Bible, meaning the book translated into the most languages. At least one book of the Bible has been translated into 3,384 languages. You can find the New Testament in 2,191 languages, and the Old and New Testaments combined in 531 languages.
Other religious books and pamphlets also feature on the list of the world’s most translated publications, thanks to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the globe. Their free publication, Listen to God and Live Forever, exists in 698 different languages. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Hans Christian Andersen’s Andersen’s Fairy Tales have also been widely translated.
In the top 25 most translated literary works, you’ll encounter only one novel: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by French author Jules Verne. Publishers have translated it into 148 languages since its initial publication in serial format in 1869-1870. The adventure tale has struck a chord with readers around the world ever since. But, which books are in the top five? Let’s find out!
Everyone’s first guess remains at the top of the list: the Bible. Written by many authors at different times in history, the first parts of the Bible originally appeared in cuneiform and the proto-Semitic languages of the Fertile Crescent. Around 400 CE, the first complete Bible was compiled in Latin by St. Jerome and the Catholic Church in Rome.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, has also fared well. Since its 1943 publication in America, it has been translated from English and French into more than 500 languages. Over 80 years later, the story continues to spark the imagination of children and teaches readers both young and old the importance of curiosity, friendship, and love.
The industrious Jehovah’s Witnesses have shown the world how to scale the translation of a book in the most efficient manner. In 2014, the first edition of the work made its way to the American public. Since then, it has served as one of the organization’s best recruitment tools.
The fourth most translated book in the world is Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. Since its Italian publication in 1883, readers have enjoyed the beloved children’s tale of the little wooden boy in more than 260 languages. Its adaptation into an animated Disney film in 1940 only increased the story’s popularity.
Dao De Jing by Laozi slides into the final position at number five. Published in China around 400 BCE, the book encourages the reader to follow the “Way,” a life of natural restfulness. Well over 2,000 years later, the book continues to inspire readers interested in Taoism.
With new figures now available, we’d like to provide a June 2018 update to this article. The Bible remains the world’s most translated text, with at least one book now available in a staggering 3,312 languages. You’ll find the New Testament in 2,191 languages, while the combined Old and New Testaments exist in 670 languages.
For non-religious texts, The Little Prince has now overtaken Pinocchio as the world’s most translated work of fiction. The latest figures reveal that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic work sits on bookstore shelves in around 300 languages, while Pinocchio remains at the 260 mark.
There is a growing demand for accessible literature from all over the world, so it should come as no surprise that global publishers are turning to external book translation services in response. It will therefore be interesting to see which books and languages will rise in popularity over the upcoming years!
We regularly check in on this article and update it from time to time to ensure its contents remain current. For now, the Bible is entrenched as the most translated text in the world. At least one book of the Bible is available in 3,312 languages. That's approaching half of all the languages on the planet!
In terms of children's books, Pinocchio has reclaimed the top spot, making it the second most translated book in the world. With over 300 translations from the original Italian, Pinocchio has charmed young readers and Disney fans from around the world for generations.
In third place among the top five most frequently translated books sits The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with around 300 translations.
In fourth place, we see the Jehovah's Witnesses at work once more. Their work entitled, So What Does the Bible Really Teach? has been translated into 272 translations.
The final entrant in the top five world's most translated books is Dao De Jing. This Chinese tract, also known as Tao Te Ching, sprung forth from the mind of the sage Laozi in the 5th century BCE. It remains a fundamental text for Taoism, in both religious and philosophical terms.
Read more: What Is the World's Most Translated Website?
When we last updated this article, the Bible was at the top of the list, with at least one book available in 3,312 languages. Does it still top the list of the most translated books in the world in 2021? Yes, it most certainly does.
As of November 2021, at least one book of the Bible has been translated into 3,384 languages.
The number of translations of the New Testament also impresses, with a total of 2,191 languages available.
One of the most recent partial translations of the Bible is the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in Quechua, delivered by Jehovah's Witnesses in Bolivia. You can click the link below to discover more about the languages of South America.
Late 2021 has also seen the Jehovah's Witnesses release the first Bible books in Venezuelan Sign Language, as well as a translation of the Bible into the Lunda language in Zambia.
The second and third most translated books, The Adventures of Pinocchio and The Little Prince, continue to jockey for position. The latest estimates put The Little Prince back in second position, with a total of 382 translations, making Pinocchio third place.
As always, we'll keep monitoring these figures and update you again when the rankings change.
Read more: Languages of South America
The best candidates for translation are the books that enjoy the most popularity. Older books prove more likely to undergo several translations, as well. However, other factors weigh into the success of a translation besides popularity and age. Examples include simplicity, brevity, and re-readability. In any case, you can expect those classic books at the top of the list to remain there–unless the Jehovah’s Witnesses publish something new.
What is your favorite from our list of the most translated books? Do you ever read the same book in more than one language? Let us know in the comments section, and we will add your insight to the article during our next update.