Tips on how to identify a first edition book.

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Collecting first edition books is always an exciting thing to do. You will be able to go through all the great experiences offered by the first edition books when you collect them. However, it is important for you to have a clear understanding on how to identify the first edition books accordingly. You can use this as a comprehensive guide, which you can use in order to identify the first edition books.

Why do you need to go through a guide?

Identifying first edition books is not the easiest thing that you can do. It is a complex task. That’s because it differs from one publishing house to another. Different publishing companies have different identification methods. However, there are some basic rules, which you can keep in your mind and locate the first edition books with ease. Our objective in this article is to share more details about those rules and how you will be able to locate the first edition books.

What does a first edition mean?

According to the definition given by publishers, the first edition of a book is usually the very first version of a specific book. This version contains the book before any changes are made into it. For example, an afterword or a foreword is not added into a first edition book. Likewise, the typos of the book are not corrected. Areas of the book that require a new typeset are not made in the first edition book as well.

Assume that a book publisher goes ahead and publishes 5,000 copies of a book. All those books get sold out. Then the publisher will need to print some more copies of the book. This will be the second printing of the first edition. If you can take a look at the copyright page of such books, you will be able to see how they are being identified as “First Edition” as well.

Now let’s take a look at the same from the perspective of book collectors and booksellers. The book collectors and booksellers consider first edition books as the ones that come from the first typeset version. In addition to that, a book should belong to the very first printing to become a first edition book as well.

In case if the publisher runs out of the books and a new set of books are printed, those books will not belong to the first edition books. You will be able to see how the wordings “First Edition” are mentioned in the copyright page. However, those books are not first edition books at all.

You should keep these differences in your mind when you are spending your money to purchase the first edition books. Along with that, you can make sure that you are always getting genuine first edition copies of books.

How to look for the first edition books

Now you have a basic understanding about what the first edition books are all about. While keeping this in mind, you can take a look at the ways on how to locate first edition books as well.

Copyright date

Copyright date is the very first factor that you need to watch out when you are trying to purchase a first edition book from the market. You need to check and see if the copyright date of the book is the same as the year where the book was published. You can take it as a green light, which indicates that the book is a first edition book.

Check if “First Edition” is indicated within the copyright page

You should next take a look at the copyright page of the book. Shapero says that inside the copyright page of the book, you must see whether “First edition” is indicated or not. However, this is quite tricky because the indication varies from one book publisher to another. However, most of the book publishers tend to include this as a ground rule.

However, you should not entirely make a decision by taking a look at these words. That’s because it is not the most reliable method to determine whether a book is really a first edition book or not. In the meantime, you should also note that the first edition wordings give out different meanings to the publishers and book collectors as stated above.

The book collectors consider first edition as the very first version of book to be printed physically. The book collectors also expect it to be a version of the book that doesn’t have any significant revisions. However, most of the publishers tend to publish a hard cover version of the book. This version of the book is called as first edition as well. Then the book is printed in the same way within paperback. This book will be called as first edition as well. However, it will not actually be a first edition book to you. You need to keep the fact in your mind and get the book accordingly.

Take a look at the print run number

As the next thing, you must take a look at the print run number. Print runs can be considered as an excellent method available for the book collectors to understand whether a book is a first edition nor not. Print run will be the set number of the copies of a given book. This number is assigned when the copies of a book are being printed at a given time. You will be able to have a larger print run in some of the books, whereas a small print run is offered by the others. It is entirely up to the publisher to determine this.

Final words

Keep these tips in your mind and make sure that you locate the first edition books available out there. As a book collector, you would want to stick to the collection of first edition books at all times. These tips can deliver all the support and assistance to you with that.

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About the Author: Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont is a senior reporter on Daily Mid Time Global Development desk. He has reported extensively from conflict zones including Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East and is the author of The Secret Life of War: Journeys Through Modern Conflict. Email: