30 August 2009

Identifying First Editions

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at First Editions and how to identify them. If you thought this would be an easy process, think again. Identifying a First Edition can actually be quite a complicated process. The following information may help to clear up a little of the confusion surrounding the elusive First Edition.

What is an Edition?

An edition represents all printings of the book with one printing and with no significant text alterations between those printings.

What is a printing?

A printing is a single batch printing of an edition. For example the first print run of a book of 100,000 copies is a First Edition First Printing.

How can you identify a First Edition?

Have you ever wondered how you can tell if your book is a first edition? Most would think that the identification of a first edition would be a simple process. Well, think again! There is no set formula for working out if the book you have is a first edition. It actually can be quite a complicated process because different publishers employ different methods to indicate a first edition. Having said this, there are some straight-forward guidelines you can follow to help you identify that elusive first edition.

The following points to look for may help you in identifying a first edition:

The copyright page will contain the words 'First Edition', 'First Published', 'First Printing' or 'First Impression'
- you're in luck you have identified a first edition without any problems.

The date on the title page and the copyright page will be the same.
Take a look at the title page and the copyright page if the dates are the same - you've found a first edition.

On the copyright page there will be a number line (or in some cases letters) such as, 987654321 or 123456789
. If you have one of these number sequences, you are probably looking at a First Edition and a first printing. A second printing would have the '1' removed and the '2' would suggest a second printing and if the '2' was missing and '3' was the lowest number it would be a third printing and so on.

Sometimes, this number sequence will be accompanied by a date line. For example, 56789 80 81 82 83 84, in this case this would indicate a fifth printing, published in 1980.

Sound fairly straight-forward so far? Well, this is where it gets complicated. Some publishers, such as Random House don't usually use a '1' to indicate a first edition. Therefore, if you find a book which states 'First Edition' and also has a number line such as, 23456789, it is still a first edition and a first printing. However, sometimes this could also mean that it is a second printing and, due to an error, the 'First Edition' was not removed. Therefore, for accurate and up-to-date information on first editions it is always advisable to consult one of the many guides to first editions on the market.

Some books may appear to be First Editions, but are not!

Book Club Editions (BCE) -
these are usually promotional and will not have a price printed on the dustjacket. They are usually smaller and may appear lighter than other editions. A BCE which indicates a 'First Edition' is merely a First Edition of the book club version. So, how do you identify a BCE? It can get quite confusing, but the following may help a little:

As already mentioned, the BCE will not be priced. However, having said this, some small publishers do not price their books and, therefore, pricing is not an exact way to identify a BCE.

A BCE may have a blindstamp impression on the back cover, near the spine of the book. If there is a small shape impressed on this area of your book, it is a blindstamp and indicates that it is a BCE.

A BCE may actually note on the dustjacket flaps that it is a 'Book Club Edition'.

There may also be clues to a book being a BCE on the copyright page. For example, the name of the book club may appear in this area.

First Editions To Keep A Look Out For!

There are many valuable Agatha Christie titles, but here are just a few to be on the look out for:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)
The Secret Adversary (1922)
The Murder on the Links (1923)
The Man in the Brown Suit (1924)
Poirot Investigates (1924)

The following F. Scott Fitzgerald's titles have also become valuable:

This Side of Paradise (1920)
The Great Gatsby (1925)
Tender is the Night (1934)

The ever popular Beatrix Potter has many valuable titles to her name, here is a small selection:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901)
The Tailor of Gloucester (1902)
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903/4)

Ernest Hemingway
also makes the list with the following titles:

Three Stories & Ten Poems (1923)
In Our Time (1924)
The Sun Also Rises (1926)

Happy book hunting!
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