Short: It's easy to find bibliographical info, but how to guess page numbers?

I'm writing a paper in English. I want to cite certain book, originally published in French. It is translated to English and Russian. I own a Russian translation. I'd like to reference English translation. I don't have access to other language versions and I'm not going to purchase them.

  • 4
    I also think sould cite the version you have read. But maybe you can put a note that this is a translation and give the original French title. Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 13:04
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    how to guess page numbers?Do not even try.
    – JeffE
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 22:26
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    Cite only the version that you have access to and you are reading.
    – enthu
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 15:10
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    You don't need to buy a book just to give a quick look at it. If you work/study in a university, ask your library for the possibility of interlibrary loans. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 9:25

4 Answers 4


Regarding your original question, if you have access to a Russian translation and you want to cite the English translation, but you do not have access to the English translation, then you really need to focus on citing what you have access to.

Now, I understand it turns out you do have access to the English version as stated in your answer but for future reference, you should not cite a version of a text you do not have acces to. The reasons are more than simply that you don't know the page numbers. It is possible that there is a problem in the Russian translation but the English version does not have that problem. Likewise the opposite could be true. Basically, the two versions could be slightly but meaningfully different. Because of this possibility, you should only cite what you have access to. Otherwise, cite through a third-party "Jones wrote in 2001 (cited in Simpson, 2005)."

  • You can even have bigger differences between the books. Occasionally a translator makes substantial changes with the author or publisher's blessing (rearranging material, adding commentary or recent references, replacing background references with ones in the target language, etc.). Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 13:25
  • @AnonymousMathematician And occasionally, the authors make two versions: Czech and English for instance, the titles match, not so quite the contents. I know one such example where the two books are substantially different.
    – yo'
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 13:31

You should cite the version you have available, since section numbering, pagination etc. can get shifted. The proper way to do it is to simply cite both, for instance:

[Doe06] John Doe. Prostory. Nakladatelsví XYZ, Prague, 2010, 512 pp. Translation of: John Doe. Spaces. Publisher ABC, New York, 2006, 480 pp.

This way, the citation contains the necessary information, and this is completely acceptable. Second option is to make it two citations:

[Doe06] John Doe. Spaces. Publisher ABC, New York, 2006, 480 pp.

[Doe10] John Doe. Prostory. Nakladatelsví XYZ, Prague, 2010, 512 pp. Translation of [Doe06].

  • Sorry, I didn't notice it's 3 versions. Of course, you cite them as translations of the original (in this case French) one, preferably.
    – yo'
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 21:24

After expressing my question, I understood that I can find the English translation in Google Books and look into contents with page numbers. So I can have references like (1998, 36-67). Actually I can even search within a book, so I can find exact page numbers for the passages referenced.

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    @earthling 's answer is correct: if you don't have the book, don't cite it. On the other hand, if you can verify that the (probably more accessible) English version says what you want to support with the citation, cite that, or even both. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 14:49

Don't cite page numbers, cite chapter and section numbers. They won't change irrespective of the translation. Also they are less likely to change after small corrections in reprints.

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    Theoretically they shouldn't change in a sufficiently faithful translation, but they actually can and do change sometimes in practice (since faithfulness to the original is not the most important goal). Sometimes the author suggests changes he/she thought of after the original book appeared, or the translator suggests adding, dropping, or moving something and the author or publisher agrees. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 13:36
  • @AnonymousMathematician Exactly. Citing sections/chapter/theorem numbers need not be sufficient, since some publishers apply rules that the original work need not have followed. (For instance: no solitaire sections, introduction obligatorily numbered or obligatorily unnumbered, etc.).
    – yo'
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 14:51

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