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Are you looking for the answer to such questions as
Are there unmarked first editions?and others of the same ilk.
Well, Glenn Larsen's Guide to First Editions was one of the first internet documents I ran across about first editions and book club editions and reprint publishers and other items in the following article. So, when we got our own website, it was just natural for me to link to the article at http://www.rarebooks.org/firsted.htm. Well, "a couple" of years pass and I find the page has disappeared. It must be me - no one would remove Glenn Larsen's Guide to First Editions! Would they???? Sadly, yes they had. It turned out that I had a copy on my machine. Although some of the material is out of date (see the entry on Random House for example) I've put the copy here because I think it can be of use to a lot of people like it was and is to me. I have, however, left a few added comments of my own when I was making notes on exceptions and I will continue to add to them as I come across exceptions and time to add them. I will also add publishers every once in a while on no fixed schedule.
Please note that this is meant to serve as an introduction and not as a definative text about first editions. As an example, consider the statement and correction for Harcourt, Brace and Company below. In addition, I have found some mistakes here according to both First Editions: A Guide To Identification by Edward N. Zempel and Linda A. Verkler (Z&V) and A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions by Bill McBride (McBride). Both of the books should, IMO, be in any book collector or book dealers set of references. But, even with the mistakes (which I have generally tried to note and correct), the Glenn Larsen article still has some very good information.
We invite and appreciate your comments. Please note that I had some computer trouble and lost several updates sent in by people who were kind enough to notify me about some aspect of First Editions. If you are one of those people and don't see your name here, please re-send your comments.
Guide To First Editions
The Reprint Publishers (They Don't Usually Publish First Editions)
Book Club Editions
Numbers On Books Help Identify First Editions
Publishers' Identifying Characteristics
More Reading -DW
Publishers using the term First Edition often place it on the books copyright page. It is only a first if you don't find indications of additional printings. Compare dates on the title page with those found on the copyright page. Some publishers use the words First Edition in conjunction with a number system. In such cases the number system should always take precedence and you should look for the 1.
Collectors use the term first edition to mean "first edition, 1st state". Many publishers use the term "first edition" to mean a book reprinted without changes. Thus you could see the words "First Edition" on a book with the number starting at 4 or D. In this example, the book is technically a first edition but fourth printing or fourth state. Book collectors in general would not accept that reprinted book as a first for their collections as it would probably have only negligible value. I doubt any reputable collector or dealer would sell, list, or post this example as a first edition book.
TOP The Reprint Publishers (They Usually Don't Publish First Editions)
Reprints are rarely worth much and are generally not collectible. A list of reprint publishers whose collectible books you should highly question include:
Use the above list only as guidance, since there are a few valuable books from reprint houses. For example, G&D reprints with dust jackets from early books by Edgar Rice Burroughs can have value. First editions in dust jacket on the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Dracula, and a few others also have value.
TOP Book Club Editions
Book Club (BC) editions are not first editions and generally have little collectible value. New collectors are often trapped thinking that they have a first edition when they really have a BC copy. Books clubs copies often appear to be first edition books but are often worthless. Beware if your book does not have a price on the dust jacket. That is the first sign that close inspection is needed. Book club editions often have a depression on the bottom of the right-hand corner of the back cover. It could be a circle, dot, square, maple leaf, or similar mark. Watch out for the BOMC acronym that stands for Book of the Month Club. You'll often find it on the flaps of book club dust jackets.
Also watch out for FEL on books and covers that stand for the First Edition Library, a club that makes facsimile first edition books. FEL books usually come in slip cases and are reprints of famous books. First editions library editions are worth about $20-$25 each. They can be purchased as new books for $42.
Heritage Press books are book club editions that have a little bit of value. They usually list for about $12 to $18 each. There are about a dozen titles that can exceed $50 but for the most part they have minimal collecting value.
The Limited Edition Club (LEC) books are an exception to the above warning as they are highly collectible. LEC books are printed in limited quantities, are signed and individually numbered, and can be of considerable value. For example, several of the LEC titles that are signed and illustrated by great artists and illustrators can run several thousand dollars.
TOP Numbers on Books Help Identify First Editions
Many modern publishers use a number or letter system to designate first editions. Publishers using this system have numbers or letters similar to 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 or A B C D E where the 1 or the A indicates a first edition. If the 1 is missing as in 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 then that book is probably a second printing as designated by the remaining 2. Sometimes you'll find that numbers appear differently or in reverse as in 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1.
Regardless of the way the numbers look, you want to spot the 1 or the A. There are exceptions so check the list of publishers. For example, Random House will use the words First Edition in place of the number 1. Thus a Random House book stating "First Edition" starting at the number 2 is first edition, first state book. This has changed, see below - DW
TOP Publishers' Identifying Characteristics
ALFRED A. KNOPF, had the custom until 1934, to make no notation in the book referring to the fact that it is a first edition. However, when they reprinted a book, they would invariably place a notice on the copyright page, reading something like: 'Published January, 1933,' followed by 'Second Printing February, 1933'. Where the second printing occurs prior to the publication of the book, their note reads: 'First and Second Printings Before Publication,' followed by, 'Published January, 1933.' As regards their limited editions, it is almost invariably true that these are part of the first edition. Books published since 1934 have the term 'First Edition' or use a numbering scheme with the '1' indicating a first printing.
APPLETON-CENTURY-CROFTS. Firsts are distinguished when the same date on the title and copyright page are the same. Additionally, you will find the numeral one (1 or I) on the last page of the book in first printings. This practice was continued into the 1980s when they switched to a numeral system that lists the year followed by a numeral system such as "92 93 94/10 9 8 7 6". In our example, the 6 would indicate a sixth printing. Thus a first would require the number to continue and end in "1".
BREWER & WARREN, INC. has the practice of putting on the back of the title pages, 'First Printing,' followed by the date. Following that is an inscription with notations of the subsequent printings.
BOBBS-MERRILL. Most firsts by this publisher are designated with a first printing statement or with their bow-and-arrow symbol on the copyright page. They have been known to omit any statement of printing for some title which can lend itself to some degree of question as to their firsts.
BONI AND LIVERIGHT. There is no statement of printing on the copyright page of this publisher's first editions. Later printings are designated with such terms as 'second printing' and so on. A number system with the '1' indicating a first edition has been used since the 1970s.
CENTURY CO. , It is extremely difficult to distinguish between the first and later editions of their books in titles published prior to 1927. Since that year, however, they have usually made it a practice to give the date of the first printing on the copyright page, and that of each successive printing.
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, Has no regular method of designating a first edition. In many cases there will be found to be some sort of variation which is not intentional between the first and later editions, But this can only be found by investigation.
COSMOPOLITAN BOOK CORPORATION, has the line 'First Edition' run on the copyright page.
COVICI, MEDE INC. , first editions can be readily identified as our second editions always carry the line 'Second Printing.' Therefore, any edition not carrying the printing notice is automatically a first edition.
COVICI -FRIEDE, the first edition lacks any statement of printing but later editions always carry the state of that edition. For example, a 2nd printing states 'Second Printing' and so on.
D. APPLETON & COMPANY, has followed a custom of designating the printing with a numeral in parentheses immediately following the last line on the last printed page. Therefore. any publication issued since early 1902 that has a numeral one, you can accept as a first edition.
DAVID McKAY COMPANY, did not have any identification of first editions until the 1950s as of which point you would look for signs of no additional printings. A numbering system has been used for the last 25 years.
DIAL PRESS, The only means of identifying first editions of Dial Press books published until 1966 is by the dates on the title page. Subsequent printing dates are shown as new editions appear. The words "First Published" followed by a date appear after 1966.
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY the usual procedure in the case of a second printing of a book is to insert a notice on the copyright page giving the date of the first and second printings. If no such notice appears on the copyright page the book is usually a first edition. A numbering system has been used since 1976.
DORRANCE & COMPANY sometimes marks first editions as such, but usually if the edition is not indicated on the copyright page, then you may take it for granted that the book is a first edition, because subsequent editions are always indicated.
DOUBLEDAY, DORAN & COMPANY has been identifying its first editions by noting this fact above the copyright on the back of the title page. Any book which does not have first edition so indicated would, therefore, be a later printing.
DUELL, SLOAN AND PEARCE first editions either state "First Edition" or have the Roman numeral "I" on the copyright page. A second printing would show the Roman numeral II and so on.
E.P. DUTTON & COMPANY, INC. , there are two ways of identifying their first editions: 1, by the imprint, 'First Edition,' on the reverse side of the title page; 2, when there is no mention made of any printings or editions.
FARRAR AND COMPANY. A colophon of a circled R must appear on the copyright page.
FARRAR AND RINEHART. A colophon (logo) must appear on the copyright page. On occasion the words first edition were sometimes used.
FARRAR, STRAUS. Look for the words 'First Published' or 'First Edition' on the copyright page. Occasionally you'll also find a date added to this statement or a colophon (logo).
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY, Their only method of identifying various is that the first printing does not contain a note of any kind other than the mere copyright notice, all subsequent printings are noted either on the title page or on the back thereof, as 'Second,' Third,' 'Fourth' or whatever the number of printings may be. It is safe to assume any book bearing the Stokes imprint and which has the same publication date on the title page as is shown on the copyright notice, and no other note, to be a first edition book.
FREDERICK WARNE & CO., LTD. , has not adopted any special method of marking first editions. In cases they have dated the title page of the first editions, and omitted the date from all later impressions and reprints, and in some cases have marked subsequent editions 'Second Edition' or 'Second Impression' with no distinguishing mark or date on the first edition. Recently, the publisher started to use a number row system with the '1' indicating a first printing.
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY, has been using a copyright imprint which designates the edition of the work. When there is no further imprint beyond 'First Published,' it means that that particular book is of the first edition. When a first edition is reprinted they state that fact underneath the line 'First Published". A numbering system is often used on books published since 1970.
GEORGE H. DORAN first editions can be identified by a black oval colophon which contains a white 'GHD' script. About the year 1925 they began the general practice of printing 'First Edition' in their books or by placing the GHD symbol under the copyright notice.
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS, Occasionally, you will find the word 'First Edition' for the first printing, but generally put, any edition that lacks a statement of an additional printing is a first. The line 'Second Impression' is inserted on the copyright page for a second printing. You are safe in assuming also that when the date of copyrighting corresponds with the date on the title page it may be fairly assumed that the book is first edition.
HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY: Harcourt's first printings can be
identified from subsequent printings either by a small No. 1 which is
placed under the copyright notice on the copyright page, or by the
line, 'Published month & year". Since the 1930s, their trade
editions bear the line 'First Edition' on the copyright page. Bill
Hanshaw from Harcourt Brace reports in late 1982/early 1983 all trade
first printings are identified with the letter "A". If the row begins
with a "B" it signifies a second printing. A good example is the
collectible first of David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars. The true
first states "First Edition" on the copyright page and is followed by a
row of letters beginning with "A".
HARPER'S [Harper & Brothers], first editions published through 1911 have a single date on the copyright and title page. Editions from 1912 to 1922 use a key to the letters which stand for the date of the edition, that appears on the copyright page of every edition. An edition published in January, 1912, would bear the letters 'A-M'." Other characters used include: A-January; B-February, C-March, D-April, E-May, F-June, G-July, H-August, I-September, K-October, L-November, M-December, and M-1912, N-1913, 0-1914, P-1915, Q-1916, R-1917, S-1919, T-1919, U-1920, V-1921, W-1922. This code was discontinued after 1949. However, from 1922 to the 1970's, the words 'First Edition' should appeared on the copyright page. A number system that includes the year designation has been used since 1975. For example a first edition books might have "80 81 82 83 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1" on the copyright page.
HARPER COLLINS, see Harper's
HARPER & ROW, see Harper's
HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, first editions almost never are marked to enable collectors to identify them, but the words 'Second Edition.' 'Second Impression.' etc., usually are to be found in reprints.
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY, since 1924 their publications carry the words 'First Printing' or 'First Edition' under the copyright notice in first editions. Several sources report that this method of designation had been consistent. A number system with the number row ending in "1" is used for modern editions.
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY. Early first editions bear the year of issue on the title page. Early subsequent editions carry no date on the title page unless reprinted, when the date of the new edition is placed on the title page. These reprinted editions may be distinguished from the first editions, however, by comparing the title page date with the copyright date. The early 1950s are times of publisher inconsistency in designating firsts. Look for either the designations mentioned earlier or for the words 'First Printing'. The words 'First Printing' are required for books published from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. From the 1970's to present, look for a number system similar to "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1" with the 1 indicating a first edition.
HORACE LIVERIGHT, claimed that if there are no markings on the copyright page, this indicates that it is the first edition. All succeeding editions are marked to this effect on the copyright page. Some editions do show the words 'First Edition'.
JOHNS HOPKINS PRESS, books are first editions unless otherwise indicated.
J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, prints the words, 'First Edition' on the copyright page of books that they felt were important. Novels and children's books were not so specified, but they used the words 'Second Printing,' 'Third Printing,' etc., on subsequent editions. Since 1925, they used the words 'First Edition' or a numbering scheme to designate their first printings.
LANTERN PRESS, designates later editions as such on the copyright page. When no such reference appears it is a first edition.
LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD COMPANY, uses either a numbering row system or lacks additional printing information to be a first.
LITTLE, BROWN. You should find the same date on the title and copyright pages on first editions for books published before the 1930. In that year, the publisher added the term 'Published ..." followed by the month and year without reference to additional printing to designate a first. In the 1940s, that designation was changed to 'First Printing' or 'First Edition'. A number system was used in books printed in the late 1970's similar to '10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1'. The presence of the '1' indicates a first edition.
MARSHALL JONES COMPANY, has pretty generally inserted on the copyright page the month and date that they first printed a book. They have also printed 'First Edition' on their books.
MACAUL CO., prints a logo using an elephant within a circle on the copyright page to indicate a first edition.
MACRAE SMITH COMPANY, You can nearly always tell a first edition either by the absence of any reference to its being a later edition or by the use of 'First Edition' on the reverse of the title page. There may be exceptions, especially among the early books first published and still in print during the 1930s.
MACMILLAN COMPANY, books before 1936 should have the same year on the title and copyright pages. From mid 1936 to 1979, the copyright page of books published by the Macmillan Company states the month and year of publication. Unless there is some statement below this, such as 'Second Printing' or 'Revised Edition,' the book in question is a first edition. Books after 1979 use a numbering system. The '1' must appear for a book to be a first.
McCLURE PHILLIPS, has used several designations over the years. The book is a first if you can find only a single date that is frequently in the form of the month and year of publication. This date is often preceded with the words 'First Published' or 'First Edition.'
McGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY, INC., prior to 1956, books are sometimes labeled 'First Edition' on the title page but all books should only have a single date to be firsts. 'First Edition' should appear on books from 1957-74. Books after that date use a number row system.
MINTON, BALCH & COMPANY, first editions may be identified by the fact that there is no notation whatsoever on the back of the title page. Subsequent editions are always marked as 'Second Printing,' 'Third Printing,' etc."
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, no evidence of an additional printing should be found.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY, no evidence of an additional printing should be found.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, does not designate first editions, but does designate second impressions or second editions or revised editions the title page or verso are so marked. Where special limited editions are concerned, a note as to number printed, etc., is printed in the books. Occasionally you'll find the words 'First Edition' appearing on the publication.
PERRY & NORTH PRESS, does not print 'First Edition' on their editions, but prints 'Second Edition' on the second editions on so on. Make sure the dates on the title page and copyright pages agree.
PRAGER lists 'Published' followed by the location and year to designate first editions.
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS, does not identify their first editions. However, if another edition is issued, they note the fact that it is such.
RANDOM HOUSE, early books published by Random House can be considered a first edition unless specifically stated otherwise. They changed to using the words 'First Printed' or 'First Edition' in 1968.
Don't get confused by the number row that they implemented in the 1970s as the '1' is never present. Consider the words First Edition as taking the place of that '1'.
REILLY & LEE COMPANY, books in the first edition do not bear particular marks identifying it as such, but the second or later printings of all book copyrighted by them are so specified on the copyright page. Occasionally you'll find the terms 'first printed' on their first editions.
RICHARD G. BADGER: Badger does not print the words 'First Edition' or make any specific distinction between the first and subsequent editions of any book. As a general rule, they print no date on the title page but on the rare occasions that they do, make sure it matches with the copyright page.
ST. MARTIN'S PRESS: Prior to 1983, books are first editions if there is no other indication of an additional printing. Since then books are marked as first editions with a corresponding numeric system.
SCRIBNER's [Charles Scribner's Sons, Ltd. (England) Look for a single date on books published through 1929. From 1930 to 1973 you'll want to see a capital A on a single line appearing on the copyright page. Books published after 1974 make use of the numeric system.
SEARS PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC. , There is no mark of identification on the first edition, but it can be easily identified in each book by the fact that second, third and other editions are always marked by a notice to that effect on the copyright page, which is back of the title page.
SIMON AND SCHUSTER, The only way to tell first editions that they publish is that you will find no printing notice on the copyright page. They usually make a note on the copyright page to the effect that it is the second printing, or else a notice to the effect that the first printing was done in 'November,' and the second in 'December.' In one or two rare cases their copyright page bears the legend 'First Printing'. Usually you can tell the first printing by the fact that the copyright and title page have the same date. The term 'First Edition' or 'First Printing' was used to designate first edition from 1952 to the early 1970s. A numbering system was then added where the '1' would indicate a first printing.
STERLING PUBLISHING, look for the ending 1 in their number system of 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
SULLY AND KLEINTEICH, A first should not have any designation of an additional printing.
THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY as a rule first editions contain only the copyright notice on the copyright page. The reprints bear legends under the copyright like, 'Third Printing,' 'Fourth Printing,' as the case may be. Modern editions bear a number row with the '1' indicating a first..
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA PRESS, no evidence must be found of an additional printing.
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA PRESS, Their procedure in the matter of first editions is that they do not state that it is a first. However, additional printings are indicated by that fact by a note on the copyright page.
VIKING PRESS, INC. , had no distinguishing marks on their first editions prior to 1937. Occasionally the words 'First Printing' are included, but this is the exception. However, they always indicated a second printing with the date. Therefore, if no such mark appears, a first printing is indicated. In 1937 Viking added the line 'First Published in ..." followed by the year. A numbering system was added in the 1980s to reprints but omits it for first editions.
WILDE & JOHNSON CO., look for the colophon, the letters WJ in a triangle, on the copyright page.
W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC., are always identified by the words 'First Edition' which appear on the copyright page. This phrase is dropped out for subsequent editions. Modern printings use a numbering system with the '1' in the row designating a first edition.
WILLIAM EDWIN RUDGE, it is not difficult to determine the edition of their books. Practically all of them give full information in the colophon at the end. Most of their editions are limited in that they rarely reprint. There are, of course, exceptions but they are clearly set forth either in the colophon or on the reverse of the title page.
WILLIAM MORROW AND COMPANY, Prior to 1973, any volume copyrighted and published by them not bearing on the copyright page either 'Second Printing' or 'Third Printing,' etc., or 'Second Edition,' etc., can be considered as the first printing of the first edition. Starting in 1973 the publisher used a number system with the '1' in a row of numbers as designating a first edition.
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, has the practice to state on the copyright page of a reprinted book the date of first publication, and to list the reprintings. Therefore any book containing such data would not be a first printing, and any book containing merely the copyright line would be a first printing. In the case of new revised editions, the copyright page always states the date of publication of the first edition and of any subsequent reprintings or editions. Their practice from 1930 to 1985 is to have the date of publication appear on the title page only in the case of a first printing. A numbering system has been used since 1985 to designate first editions.
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