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Determining First Editions

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First Editions Imprints Publishers References Reprints
Introduction Top 10 [1-10] Top 20 [11-20] Children's Books

 

Is it really a First Edition? -- Stop the First Edition Madness:

Out of sheer disbelief and frustration, we have decided to dedicate a few webpages to the Top 20 Most Commonly Mis-identified 1st Editions. What points to look for on the true 1st editions, and which books most certainly are not 1st editions of these well-known titles. The mistakes online -- particularly in auction listings -- are getting rampant & ridiculous.  Rather than referring to well-respected bibliographies, too many sellers are basing their descriptions on previous listings and the mistakes just perpetuate. Hopefully these webpages will assist in quelling these errors.

Are you an experienced collector or bibliographer that is frustrated and fed up with the plethora of first edition errors that abound in online auctions and even popular book search engines.  Can you stand the pain no longer.  Are you tired of emailing sellers with well-intentioned corrections, detailed attributions or bibliographical citations that go unheeded, ignored or even challenged.  Are you fed up with hearing the standard [albeit haphazard] disclaimer, well yes it may not be the TRUE 1st edition, but my [paperback] "Three Musketeers" is a "first edition thus" -- which, of course, leaves you ready and eager to wring their neck and perform your best "one of these days" Ralph Kramden "bang zoom, straight to the moon" impersonations  Do you just want people to get it right once and for all.  Do you realize the irony that many collectors are being confused and sellers are unwittingly perpetuating these mistakes to the point of making them practically urban legends.

Well, let's help stop the first edition madness and set the record straight.  Although this list was intended to be a Top 20 list of errors, we are willing to make it a Top 50 or even a Top 100 list if the support and interest is there.  If we build it, they will come.  Although there are hundreds of common mistakes out there -- even if we restrict this list to late 19th and early 20th century popular fiction -- perhaps this will be our "Field of Dreams" where visitors and enthusiasts can come for reliable and accurate answers so that collectors can find what they are truly looking for without being misled in a mire of confusion.  A place where we can direct the uninitiated and obstinate "well I was told", or "according to my [obtuse, online] research" naysayers to -- rather than spend the unappreciated time and effort of rewriting a detailed attribution, only to see the errors continue elsewhere again and again.

 

What is a First Edition?:

Essentially, the first printing of the first edition of a book.  Specifically, all of the copies printed from the first setting of type; can include multiple printings if all are from the same setting of type. Every printed book has a first edition, many never have later editions. A later edition would have substantial changes in the printing plates or type such as the addition of a new preface or new chapter or major changes throughout the text and often is printed from a complete resetting of the type. When book collectors use the term first edition, they are usually referring to the first printing and if there are different states or issues, the earliest of those. [R. Lucas, Essentials of Book Collecting, Part 2]

 

What is a First Printing?:

A first printing are the copies of a book or other printed material which originate from the same press run or from the same plates or setting of type at one time. In the example given for "Edition" above, the 500 copies would be the first printing and the 300 copies comprise the second printing. In the 19th century some publishers labeled later printings as if they were later editions, i.e. a second printing would be called a "second edition" on the copyright page.  [R. Lucas, Essentials of Book Collecting, Part 2]

 

What is an Issue?:

An  issue is a portion of an edition printed or published deliberately by the printer or publisher in a distinct form differing from the rest of the printing relative to paper, binding, format, etc. The distinction between "issue" and "state" is that the former relates to changes done on purpose by the publisher or printer and intentionally treated as a separate unit, i.e. a large paper issue or an issue in publisher's leather. [R. Lucas, Essentials of Book Collecting, Part 2]

 

What is a State?:

A state is the portion of a printing with changes such as minor alterations to the text either intentional or accidental; insertion of cancels, advertisements or other insertions; copies on different paper without intention of creating a separate issue; and changes other than folding or collating or binding. An example would be when a pressman discovers battered or broken type, stops the presses and resets that portion of the page by replacing the broken type and then resumes the printing, which would result in at least two states. [R. Lucas, Essentials of Book Collecting, Part 2]

 

What is a Variant?:

A variant usually refers to differences in bindings or endpapers (paper located just inside the front and rear covers, one half of which is glued to the cover). One variant may have a title stamped on the front cover in black and another may be stamped in red.  [R. Lucas, Essentials of Book Collecting, Part 2]

 

 

I recommend that all book collectors read Robert Lucas' excellent article:

The Essentials of Book Collecting

 

 

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Last Revision January 29, 2010 09:05 PM