J. M. Cohen, born in London in 1903 and a Cambridge graduate, was the author of many Penguin translations, including versions of Cervantes, Rabelais and Montaigne. For some years he assisted E. V. Rieu in editing the Penguin Classics. He collected the three books of Comic and Curious Verse and anthologies of Latin American and Cuban writing. He frequently visited Spain and made several visits to Mexico, Cuba and other Spanish American countries. With his son Mark he edited the Penguin Dictionary of Quotations and its companion Dictionary of Modern Quotations.
J. M. Cohen died in 1989. The Times’ obituary described him as ‘the translator of the foreign prose classics for our times’ and ‘one of the last great English men of letters’, while the Independent wrote that ‘his influence will be felt for generations to come’.