What is a First Edition?
quite simply, it is the first ever print of a book (after the book
book 'Elegance' by Kathleen Tessaro, for instance, had a first
printing of 50,000 copies - so there were 50,000 First Edition/First
Printings (commonly referred to as a first/first or 1st/1st) of
Why a First Edition?
almost all book collectors are only interested in the First Edition
and First Printing (first/first) of a title because it is the first
state that the book becomes available in and it will be more difficult
to come by as time goes on (many first edition printings are in smaller
quantities than subsequent printings). This is especially true when
there are many more reprints/editions of the book in publication/circulation.
A fine example would be...
of Terry Pratchett's 'The Colour of Magic' can fetch up to £5,000
a copy, but you cannot buy these in the usual high street book stores...
you will be offered a later printing at the cover price (currently
It should also be noted that Hardback books are
much, much more sought after and more valuable than paperback books.
Paperback first edition values are usually a small fraction of corresponding
How do you identify a First Edition?
There are a few methods you can use to determine the edition of a book
(but, remember that it is wise to double check by confirming true dates
of first editions by consulting an author's bibliography, many of which
are available online and can be found by using a search tool/engine
- remember that there are unscrupulous dealers out there who inaccurately
describe books as first editions/first printings - see Note).
The usual methods of identification are as follows.....
a) Firstly, and
most common - publishers usually use a numeric system for identifying
the Edition of the book. On
and Dedication Pages, you will usually find a string of numbers
(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - see image on right) which indicate the edition
number. For instance, if the numbers from 1 to 9 are shown, you have
a First Edition (1 represents the First, 2 represents the 2nd, 3 represents
the 3rd and so on, some books will show edition numbers nearing 100,
but not starting from 1). Whereas a second edition would show 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9
(the number 1 has gone). Some publishers show the numbers in a different
form (such as 987654321 or even 135798642) or use letters (such as
abcdefghi). There are other rare exceptions to this rule (such as Random
House who instead state that it is a First Edition and start the number
line at 23456789). However, some publishers do not use the number/letter
line method at all, and there are some publishers who use the number
line to indicate a first by their own publishing company, and not a
true first of the title being described (you should consult an author's
bibliography to confirm this, many of which are freely available on
the internet and can be found by using a search tool/engine).
b) - many publishers
simply state that it is a 'First Edition', or 'First Impression', or
'First Printing', and do not include the edition numbers as above (see Note).
c) - some publishers
simply state 'First Published' followed by the year (e.g. 'First Published
1983'), and if there are no further printings indicated with subsequent
dates, then you may well have the first edition (see Note).
d) - a few publishers
make no distinction at all and further information or verification
would need to be found by searching through an author's bibliography
(freely available around the internet or in your local library) which
will state the true first edition date and publisher of the book. Let's
face it, it is always worth checking, and the internet is awash with
free bibliographic listings, so take that extra few minutes to check,
and check again (you wouldn't want to be mistaking a Book Club Edition
for a true First Edition, would you?)
e) - some
publishers quite simply state that there were no further printings,
in some cases the letters 'NAP' will be present ('NAP' is an abbreviation
of 'No Additonal Printings').
f) - there are
some rare exceptions to all the above rules, where there is absolutely
no distinction made whatsoever by the publisher. In this case, further
investigation of the author's bibliographies is an absolute must together
with any points of issue (particular points in or about the book that
distinguish its edition - typographical errors would be one example).
A bibliography lists an author's books with the dates and publishers
details (and often some personal history of the author).
Note: there are
some unscrupulous book sellers that state a book as a First Edition,
when in actual fact it really is not (for example Book Club Editions/Pulp
Editions which are budget reprints even though they may say 'first printed').
Any reputable book seller will always include at least the Publishers
name and the date of publication, as shown on the Copyright Page.
You can verify this with corresponding information in bibliographies,
plenty of which is freely available around the internet or in your local
library. You may also wish to consult a first edition
buying guide to confirm the true edition and ascertain a reasonable
buy or sell price.
Look into the dedicated books that are
which help in identifying First Editions and usually detail their market
values, such as .....
Note: to view further information
on the books detailed below, click on their title link (results will
be opened in a new window) which will also give you the option to
buy (most at discounted prices).
First Edition Price Guides .....
to First Edition Prices: 2004/5' by Ray B. Russell -
With over 33,000 books by more than 500 authors, this invaluable
gives an indication of values for the most collectable books in both British
and American first editions.
This volume may help you spot a rarity nobody else has noticed, or save you
from paying more than you need to for a book you are uncertain about. Probably
the biggest compilation at such a low price.
First Editions: Their Value to Collectors' by Joseph Connolly
- Written by a London Book seller, this guide is aimed at the British
Trader Book Collector's Price Guide' by Richard Russell - This
resource lists collectible books written in English organized into
12 categories, including Americana, banned and mystery. Each category
begins with an explanation of which books and authors are collectible
and why. Prices are given in US dollars.
Guide to Modern First Editions' edited by Martin Breese
- lists nearly 2,000 modern first edition titles by over 200 of the
world's most collectable authors.
Rare Book Prices: Modern First Editions' by Michael Cole.
Modern First Editions' by Joseph Connolly.
Books: The Guide to Values (Collected Books: The Guide to Values)' by
Allen Ahearn, Patricia Ahearn.
Official Price Guide to Collecting Books (Official Price Guide to
Collecting Old Books)' by Marie Tedford, Pat Goudey.
For Book Collecting in general consider.....
Collecting Books' by Catherine Porter (currently available at
Book Collecting' by John Chidley (currently available at 20%
For selling or dealing in collectable or any
books online then consider.....
Used Books Online: The Complete Guide to Bookselling at Amazon's
Marketplace and Other Online Sites' by Stephen Windwalker.
Finds: How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books' by Ian