If I cite one edition as my primary text, how do I cite another edition?

If you are citing one edition of a text as your primary source, you might need to refer occasionally to another edition. In MLA style, the usual method of specifying which edition you are citing in an in-text citation is to provide the year of publication in brackets in every citation (see our post on citing multiple editions). But in this case, providing a date in every citation might be distracting to readers, since most of the citations will be keyed to one edition only.

One strategy to get around this problem is to provide a note after the first citation. The note would specify which edition you are citing unless you indicate otherwise. If you need to then refer to another edition, you could provide that edition’s publication date in brackets. The following provides an example:

When she first appears in Charles Dickens’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, Miss Trotwood introduces herself to David Copperfield’s mother in the third person. “Miss Trotwood . . . You have heard of her?” she asks. “Now you see her” (4).1 After David Copperfield is revealed to be a boy instead of, as Miss Trotwood anticipated, a girl, Miss Trotwood leaves as abruptly as she arrived. The narrator recounts that she “aimed a blow” at the head of the doctor and then “vanished like a discontented fairy” (9). Later editions of the novel often provided amusing running heads to help readers follow the action, such as the one for this scene, “My Aunt Lays About Her” ([1879] 7).


  1. All citations of David Copperfield are from the 1850 edition unless otherwise noted.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. The Personal History of David Copperfield. Bradbury and Evans, 1850.

———. The Personal History of David Copperfield. D. Appleton, 1879.