How to Identify First Editions of Books

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Is this the first printing or not? Learn how to identify first editions in this free book collecting video from a longtime bookstore buyer.

Part of the Video Series: Guide to Collecting Rare Books
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Erik Bosse. I'm with the Aldredge Bookstore. First editions. This is the sort of thing that drives people insane when they first get into book collecting. Certainly there are any numbers of books out there that tell you how to recognize a first edition. Even little pamphlets that you can put in your pocket when you go to book stores so can put them up and see what the criteria is. Because just about every publisher has their own way of identifying a first edition. First off. What is a first edition? A first edition is the first time that that book has been laid out in type and printed. Now for a lot of 20th century books you're looking not just for the first edition but you're looking for the first printing of the first edition. Because if there's a demand for this book and if they publisher has already printed X number of copies of that first printing of the first edition and the demand exceeds that first printing then they'll do a second printing. And most, but not all, most publishers identify a subsequent printing as a second printing, third printing, etc. And it comes down to another question of different publishers often designate different printings in a different way. So as you can see the confusion can mount quite a bit. So when it comes down to books that identify first editions I would recommend going to one of the larger new bookstores. In their collectible sections usually you'll find books about books and there should be something there as far as something to help you with identifying first editions. Even people who have been collecting for years often times turn to these books. Or even very common publishers because publishers will change the way that they identify first editions and first printings over time. Which can create all sorts of problems? Something you'll often see is a series of numbers. And the number 1, usually, but not always, indicates the first printing. If the number 1 has been removed and the first number you see is the number 2 that usually indicates the second printing.

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