The world is vast, but all cultures are united by a common humanity. The most popular literary hits in one culture can typically make a splash in others, leading some works to be translated time and time again and spread to more and more readers. Which books have been translated the most? Here is a list of the top X most-translated books in history.
1. The Bible
The most-widely translated piece of literature ever created is easily the Bible, outperforming the second-place book by nearly ten times. The Bible has been translated into 3384 languages, which is almost half of all currently living languages in 2021. The first printed Bible was released in 1454, although translated versions certainly existed before then. Translations of the Bible helped spread Christianity around the world, especially to indigenous populations in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
2. The Little Prince
The second-most widely translated book is The Little Prince, written by French author Antoine de Saint Exupéry in 1943. It has sold more than 110 million copies worldwide in 382 different languages. The story follows the journey of a young prince who travels to different planets, including Earth, each of which has a single, irrational inhabitant that serves as a critique of different elements of society.
3. What Can the Bible Teach Us?
Again falling into the category of religion, What Can the Bible Teach Us? is a heavily translated publication that lays out the primary beliefs and biblical interpretations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a prominent Christian denomination. Despite only being published in 2015 by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, What Can the Bible Teach Us? has been translated into 368 languages, indicating how widespread the Jehovah’s Witness faith is.
4. The Adventures of Pinocchio
The Adventures of Pinocchio, sometimes known as just Pinocchio, is a world-famous child’s novel penned by Italian writer Carlo Collodi in 1883. It quickly achieved fame and popularity in Italy and abroad and remains a staple in children’s literature, with an adapted Disney movie. It has even inspired commonplace ideas such as a liar’s nose being long. This revolutionary literary work, considered a metaphor of the human condition, has been translated into 260 languages. In it, a wooden puppet develops a will of its own and lives through the perils of youth, overcoming the temptations of hedonism to become a real boy.
5. Dao De Jing
Dao De Jing, sometimes transliterated as Tao Te Ching (pinyin: Dàodé Jīng) is the oldest work in the list of most translated literature, having been penned by Chinese sage Laozi in 400 BCE. Translated into more than 250 languages, the heavily philosophical work, whose title could be translated as “The Book of the Way and of Virtue,”inspired Taoism as well as parts of Legalism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. The teachings of Dao De Jing preach simplicity, humility, and “naturalness,” seeking the calm state of wu wei, or freedom from desire.