I always see tutorials on Harvard referencing saying things like:

Last name, First initial. (Year published). Title. Edition. City published: Publisher, Page(s).

What do I need to put for year published?

Is that the year of the book's first publication, or the year that the copy I have was published.

Specifically, I am trying to cite a translation of A Doll's House.

It was originally published (in its original language) in 1879.

This translation was first published in Great Britain in 1994. Reprinted 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 (twice)

Its ISBN number is 978 1 85459 236 1

  • As always, I highly encourage anyone looking to manually create a citation to instead consider investing in a (free) reference manager like Zotero. Let the software figure out the fancy formatting so you can focus on the content :)
    – tonysdg
    Mar 27, 2017 at 22:57
  • Cite the copyright year
    – Sverre
    Mar 27, 2017 at 23:26
  • It is a literary piece, not a reference. In many cases you do not even need to cite it, but if you do you either refer to specific translation or the book itself. If the later, original publishing year is good.
    – Greg
    Mar 27, 2017 at 23:57
  • Originally published is not translation published is not reprinted. What do you think is important?
    – Karl
    Mar 28, 2017 at 6:01
  • @tonysdg but those will still always ask you for the "year" (whatever that means,) unless it's an automatic one that does it by ISBN for example, but using this ISBN number in different generators yields different results.
    – minseong
    Mar 28, 2017 at 6:40

1 Answer 1


You write down the year in which the particular book that you are holding in your hands was published -- not any earlier or later reprints, not the first publication.

Since you are citing a literary work, and since that work has been republished many times, the date of its publication is not very meaningful. You may be better off using an author-title format (MLA) rather than an author-date format (Harvard).

  • Why does Sverre say "cite the copyright year"?
    – minseong
    Mar 28, 2017 at 8:07
  • @theonlygusti I don't know and I wouldn't do it. The copyright year does not always equal the publication year. Mar 28, 2017 at 8:28
  • 1
    @theonlygusti The most important reason is that it is the copyright year that will normally appear in library databases. And because it is the most common practice. Henning's answer is a good example of how tricky it gets when you try to apply some other practice. "Cite the year it was published, not later reprints". Well, uh - aren't reprints published? Just cite the copyright year and don't worry about it any further.
    – Sverre
    Mar 28, 2017 at 15:18
  • @Sverre "the copyright year that will normally appear in library databases" - how do you know library databases don't show the year when the book was published? After all, that's what "publication year" literally means. "aren't reprints published?" - yes, and therefore they have a different publication year. Being able to distinguish between reprints is another reason to stick to the publication year. Mar 30, 2017 at 12:13
  • I think I'm at a loss at understanding now what you mean by "publication year". But I don't think it's worth while to keep this discussion going.
    – Sverre
    Mar 30, 2017 at 19:03

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