Thursday, June 24, 2010

Collecting First Editions 101 - Part 2

I have a list of definitions of condition and book collecting terms on a special "custom" page in my eBay store. The page has a list of
terms on it. You can visit and look through it at will - no obligation and all that. It will help you with some of the more "professional" sellers on eBay or Amazon or anywhere.

Here's part 2 of figuring out if a book is truly a First Edition or not:

Publishers used a variety of methods to note that this book was their First Edition - not always consistent and not anyway consistent across the industry so here's a list of the things I've seem (but you have to buy the McBride book I talks about on the previous post to see who used what method.
Here is a list of some additional designations that were used:
  1. Colophon - on the page of information at the back of the book... some designation that it was the first edition - typically in my experience a sentence to that effect.
  2. Copyright page (will have a notation FIRST EDITION) - sometimes FIRST AMERICAN EDITION - which means the REAL first edition was published in some other country. A lot of mine are published first in the UK.
  3. FIRST PUBLISHED - same as First Edition as long as there's no list there of additional editions
  4. First Impression or First Printing  - on the back of the title page with no additional printings listed.  For instance, the edition of THE CAINE MUTINY that I have listed on eBay right now says 14th Printing. Because some folks want the FIRST of everything, they also want not just the First Edition but the First Printing (or impression) so some publishers will say 2nd printing or 3rd printing. Not all do this though. (a whole OTHER blog post)
  5. Letter Line  - a sequence of Alphabetic letters. Typically starts at A and works up (usually about 10). The first letter denotes the First Edition so if the A is missing, you don't have a first edition in your hands.
  6. Number line - same concept starts with 1 goes to 10 normally and if the 1 is missing and the line starts with 2, you have a SECOND edition not a first on your hands.
  7. Same Date - early on in the 20th century some publishers put dates on title pages (some still do) but a First edition was denoted by the SAME date being put in the back of the title page. So if it said 1887 on the title page (mine have all be at the bottom of the page or right above or below the publisher's name), then the First Edition said 1887 on the back of the page too.  If it says 1888 or 1901 then it's not a first edition.

Now the main problem I have with this system is, it ain't really a system. Each publisher just does what they want. So if they want to join the 21st century I think the ABBA or the Copyright Office of the Government is going to have to enforce some standardization so "we" the buying public, many of whom are fascinated by First Editions, even obsessed with them can figure it out easier. So companies like eBay & Amazon & Biblio, who use standardized catalogs for booksellers to list with, can set up some filtering in the catalogs and stop all the carp from being listed as a First Edition when it's really a 2nd,3rd or 25th edition.

And BTW there are companies like "THE FIRST EDITION LIBRARY" which is NOT a library but a publishing company who produce a FACSIMILE copy of First Edition books... it's not a real first edition folks. It's a copy.  And it says so right on it in multiple places. So if you buy one of them, and it said in the listing FACSIMILE COPY, don't you dare ding the seller cause YOU made a mistake. Hear me??


  1. Beth,

    Great Post filled with information for any book buyer. This is a page to bookmark for reference.

  2. Thanks for this great blog about a confusing subject!! Hard to be an expert in this gray area of book collecting.