What is a first book edition? Why are they valuable? How do you know if you own one?
Learn how to identify first edition books and what makes them valuable.
A first edition book is a copy that was printed in the first print run, when the book was originally published. If the books sell out, the publisher will authorize the printing of a new batch, called the second edition. When that stock is depleted, the next print run is called the third edition, and so on.
How do you identify a first edition?
Here’s how to know what edition you have of any trade published book:
Check the copyright page.
* Older books often contain a list of dates that might look like this, each line centered on the page:
First Printing, July 1944
Second Printing, December 1944
Third Printing, February 1945
Fourth Printing, August 1945
* Newer books contain a sort of coding. It might look like one of these, also centered:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
J I H G F E D C B A
A B C D E F g H I J
All of the above indicate a first edition book.
When the publisher is going to do a second edition print run, the printer has only to remove the numeral 1 or the letter A. So, a second print run would look like one of these:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
J I H G F E D C B
B C D E F g H I J
The purpose of this system is to make it less confusing and very easy for the printer to make the change before doing a new print run.
Sometimes a publisher will write First Edition on the copyright page and then eliminate the numeral 1 or the letter A in one of the letter or numbered sequences. Then when it is time to do a second edition, all the printer has to do is to eliminate the words “First Edition.”
Collectors value first editions, especially when the book goes on to become a bestseller. The first edition of a bestselling author’s very first published book is usually the most valuable of all.
Why are first editions more valuable than subsequent editions?
Fewer copies exist of a first edition, fewer still of an author’s first published book. Publishers exercise caution in investing in a lot of book stock that may never sell, so limit the print run. In addition, owners may have disposed of first edition copies before the book and/or the author went on to become famous.
Autographed first editions, the most valuable of all!
If you happen to have an autographed copy of the first edition of a bestselling author’s first book, lucky you! You own something of increasing value.
Copyright 2007 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.