Friday, 4 January 2008

What is a first edition?

The information provided here is at a basic level, but is essential knowledge to anyone wishing to collect modern books. Unless a book is exceptionally rare or valuable, later editions (or printings) have very little financial value. A collector will only be interested in the first printing of the first edition. Unfortunately, some sellers are not aware of this, or use terminology loosely – a particular problem with inexperienced sellers on Ebay. However, even dealers can make a mistake sometimes!

"An edition" refers to the copies of a book printed from the same setting of type. An edition may go through several press runs, or "printings". The common meaning of the term "first edition” is the first printing of the first edition of a book. Though technically the first edition of a book may go through additional printings, book collectors consider only the first printing of the first edition to be a true first edition.

"Second (or later) edition" refers to a book which has been, revised, updated, or for which the type has been reset from that of the first edition.

You may also encounter some related terms. A books may be described as "First thus", which generally means the first edition published in the present form, and is often used to denote a book that was published previously by a different publisher.

If a book is described as a "Limited edition", the book's publication was limited to a certain number of copies. The statement of how many copies were published usually appears at the beginning or the book, or occasionally at the end. Often each copy of a limited edition will be numbered. Some limited editions are also signed by the author.

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