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First Editions Imprints Publishers References Reprints
A. L. Burt Grosset & Dunlap Dating Books Dating Series Books


About Reprint Publishers:

Many publishers during the 1910s, 1920s & 1930s reprinted earlier 1st editions by other publishers. At the forefront of reprint publishing houses, both Grosset & Dunlap and A.L. Burt established a regular practice of contracting with first edition publishers to reissue their best selling popular fiction. 


While the first editions of publishing houses such as Harper & Bros., Lippincott, E.P. Dutton, Dodd, Mead and Scribners would sell for $1.00 to $2.00 from the 1900s through the 1930s, the reprint editions issued by publishers such as Grosset & Dunlap and A. L. Burt would sell for 40c to 75c during the same time period. 


In order to achieve a reasonable profit margin, some cost-cutting practices were common for the reprint publishing houses -- these typically included:

  1. Obtaining rights to reuse the original printing plates (which eliminated expensive typesetting costs);

  2. Reducing author royalties (from 15c to 30c per copy for first editions down to 2.5c to 5c per copy for reprint editions);

  3. Using lower grade, more economic book bindings;

  4. Using slightly thinner paper;

  5. Reducing or removing illustrations;

  6. Obtaining all remainder stock (extra cloth bindings, extra pages, etc -- see Mixed Editions)


This cost-cutting factor alone significantly reduced printing costs, and was further reduced by using more economic book bindings, thinner paper and often reducing or removing illustrations to further minimize printing & binding expenses. In the end, this allowed these reprint publishers to mass market these reprint editions often at the 50c price level as compared to the $1.50 to $2.00 price range of the higher grade, more fully illustrated 1st edition issues.


In fact, in most cases, since these reprint editions re-used the original printing plates, the copyright pages were often left unchanged leaving the previous publisher imprint and original copyright date.  For most of these reprint editions, the only distinction would be the updating of the publisher imprint.  This imprint change would most commonly be found:  (1) at the base of the title page itself [often with the addition of the phrase "by arrangement with" [noting the previous publisher]; (2) at the base of the book spine; & (3) at the base of the dustjacket spine.



Identifying Reprint Editions:

Although online sellers are quick to claim their books are first editions, it is important to be wary and keep in mind the timeless and always important phrase, caveat emptor.


Here are some important tips to help buyers and sellers alike in differentiating reprint editions from first editions.


If the book has one of the publisher imprints from the list below be very careful, it is most likely a reprint.
Most (but not all) of the books issued by Grosset & Dunlap and A. L Burt (both of New York) were reprints -- the most notable exceptions include juvenile series books; PhotoPlay (movie) editions; and StagePlay (theatre) editions.


The copyright date is often not the publication date of a book.
Using the copyright page date solely as a means of identifying a 1st edition is a common, albeit BIG MISTAKE.  Be aware that the copyright date is only an indicator of when the original copyright was secured, and is NOT an indicator of when a particular edition was PRINTED.  In most cases, the copyright date will NOT be useful in identifying a book as a first edition, particularly with books prior to 1960.  Therefore, do not rely on the copyright to date a book.


Reprint editions often used the same printing plates as the first editions.

Different publisher advertisements on dustjackets and at end of book text.



About Series Book Editions & Printings:

Although both Grosset & Dunlap and A.L Burt are widely recognized as reprint publishers among knowledgeable collectors, they did in fact produce some first editions.  The most notable exceptions are the ubiquitous childrens' series books which were very popular as well as the movie tie-ins, commonly referred to as photoplay editions among collectors. 


With boys & girls series books, it is important to keep in mind that new titles were added to such widely popular series as the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Tom Swift -- usually on an annual basis and sometimes more frequently.  Therefore, once again, the copyright date cannot be used to identify a first edition. 


With series books, one must rely on the list of titles found in the rear advertisements after the book text in addition to the book titles listed on the rear panel and both end flaps of the dustjacket.  Common sense would dictate that a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew book copyrighted in 1930 would not be a first edition if, for example, it listed a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew  title which was copyrighted in 1940.  For example,  The Hardy Boys - The Great Airport Mystery (1930) could not possibly be a first edition if it listed 19 titles up to The Disappearing Floor (1940) on the dustjacket or in the rear advertisements.  Similarly, an edition of Nancy Drew The Secret of the Old Clock (1930) could not possibly be a first edition if it listed 17 titles up to Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk (1940) on the dustjacket.


Despite the obvious, experienced collectors find themselves pulling out their hair in frustration by the myriad of misidentified first editions advertised online.  Along with relying solely upon the copyright date, the next most common error to be found specifically in the case of series book misattributions is the usage of the title listings at the front of the book [opposite the title page].  Ignoring the other telltale indicators noted above, sellers will point out this list of "pre-text" titles as an indicator of a 1st edition.  Of course, it doesn't take an experienced bibliophile to realize that these "pre-text" lists were NOT updated with later printings and, in fact, were left unchanged making them of no value in identifying the printing of a particular series book.  Instead, particularly in the absence of the original dustjacket, a more experienced seller should rely on the title listings AFTER the book text as a much more reliable indicator of when a series book was printed, as the "post text" lists were updated regularly to advertise newly released titles from various boys & girls series.  By cross-referencing the copyright dates of the latest titles from these various "post text" listings, buyers and sellers alike can obtain a rather accurate approximation as to the year that a particular book was actually printed.



About PhotoPlay and StagePlay Editions:

Along with their leading position as the top 2 reprint publishers, both Grosset & Dunlap and A.L Burt enjoyed the same lucrative standings in the categories of childrens' series books and photoplay & stageplay editions.


Once again, Grosset & Dunlap led the way in this publishing sector -- first with StagePlay editions published in connection with the on-stage production of their Broadway theatrical counterparts, and a decade or so later with the PhotoPlay editions published in connection with the on-screen production of their Hollywood motion picture counterparts.  In the case of StagePlay editions, their peak occurred between 1900 and 1915, while the PhotoPlay editions enjoyed their greatest popularity from the early 1920s to the late 1930s, at which time Old Time Radio broadcasts had gained their ascendancy with many nationally broadcast shows across the airwaves.


Unfortunately, despite the apparently obvious, experienced collectors once again face the torment of misidentified first editions -- in this case with StagePlay and PhotoPlay editions.  One would think that even the less-initiated novices would note the obvious, but apparently based on online sales offerings that has been far from the case.  Of course, common sense would dictate that a PhotoPlay edition featuring movie stills taken from a movie production of 1915, for example, could leave one to date the book no earlier than the year the motion picture was filmed -- but unfortunately results have shown that the obvious is not too apparent to many fledgling online booksellers. 


A noteworthy example would be Thomas Dixon's "The Clansman" first published by Doubleday, Page & Co. in 1905 with illustrations by Arthur Keller.  Of course, based on the points previously noted, not only one should one realize that any book with a Wessels or Grosset & Dunlap imprint would be a REPRINT of the Doubleday, Page 1st edition, but it should also be more than apparent that any edition with movie stills from a 1915 motion picture [titled "The Birth of a Nation"] could not possibly have been present in a first edition which was printed a decade prior to that motion picture.


It is also important to consider that many of the most popular PhotoPlay editions were reissued.  These PhotoPlay editions require a sharp eye and closer scrutiny to distinguish which is truly the "first PhotoPlay edition".  Among the most notable of these were "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" [three distinct printings identified]; "The Phantom of the Opera" [three distinct printings identified] and "The Birth of a Nation" [two distinct printings identified].


Using our prior example, "The Birth of a Nation" premiered in Los Angeles on Feb 8, 1915 followed shortly by the Grosset & Dunlap 1st photoplay edition [with white lettering on red binding and 8 movie stills]. The film was later re-released in NYC beginning on Dec 18, 1930, followed shortly by the re-release of the 2nd Grosset & Dunlap photoplay edition [with black lettering on red binding and 4 movie stills].



Well Known Reprint Publishers:

The following list of publishers commonly held contractual agreements for reprint rights to books originally issued by other publishers.


A.L. Burt




Blue Ribbon Books [later div. of AL Burt]

Blue Star



Cupples & Leon

Dial Press


Greenwich House

Fiction Library


Grosset & Dunlap


Hutchinson [UK]

Little Blue Books

Modern Library


Street & Smith

Sun Dial Press

Tower Books

Triangle Books



Identifying Early Reprints:

There are several telltale indicators which can quickly identify a book as being a reprint rather than 1st edition:


(1) The publisher name at the base of the book spine and jacket spine will not match that noted on the copyright page.

(2) The publisher name at the base of the title page will not match that noted on the copyright page, and/or there will be more than one publisher name noted on the title page



Keep in mind that -- with the exception of many children's series -- almost all books with an AL Burt or Grosset & Dunlap imprint are in fact reprints of earlier 1st editions.




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Last Revision June 08, 2010 10:42 PM