I do not know which edition of Han of Iceland, aka Hans of Iceland, is best, but I recommend you avoid the edition published by the Federal Book Company, New York (year of publication, I do not know). The translation is not well-done, it has numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes (out of place periods and commas; the use of “you” instead of “your”), it is not very “lyrical”/”poetic” (which it would need to be to do justice to Hugo) and it appears to be abridged: it seems to be missing passages that are in the edition published by, for example, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1894 (University Press, John Wilson and Son, Cambridge).
I found a few examples of the differences between the two editions really quick. (I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this; and the fact that I type slow will be tedious and time-consuming enough.) These are the first few examples I came upon in paging through the books.
Part of the story takes place in Drontheim, “one of the four principal cities of Norway.” (p. 13 of the Little edition.)
“At the time when the action of the story takes place, in 1699, the Kingdom of Norway was still united to Denmark.” (p. 13, ibid.)
Drontheim was a port city. “In the center of the harbor, within canon-shot of either shore, the solitary fortress of Munckholm reared its walls upon a mass of wave-washed rocks, — a gloomy prison-house, wherein, at the time of which we are writing, a prisoner [Schumacker] was confined, whose sudden disgrace, following upon a long period of prosperity, made his name famous.” (p. 14, ibid.)
In the first pair of excerpts, people are in a public charnel house in Drontheim, discussing the death of a Captain. Someone says the Captain was probably murdered by the demonic character Hans of Iceland. They then talk briefly about Hans.
I find the Little edition more efficient and flowing in this passage (p. 12):
“What sort of man is this Hans, pray?” some one inquired.
“He’s a giant,” said one.
“He’s a dwarf,” said another.
“Has no one seen him?”
“The first time that any one sees him is also the last.”
The Federal edition says (p. 12):
“What kind of man is Han?”
“He is a giant,” answered one.
“No, a dwarf,” contended another.
“Has nobody ever seen him?” cried a third.
“Those who see him for the first time may reckon it their last.”
The next pair of excerpts show a difference in translation style, as well as translation substance: in the Little edition, a sergeant in Munckholm said something to himself; in the Federal edition, the sergeant speaks to “those around him.”