Identifying First Editions

        (reading the copyright page correctly)

Identifying a first edition as such can be quite confusing, especially if you are just getting into collecting. But you want to be properly armed with the information you need regarding key identifying features for that particular edition you are seeking to acquire. You'd like to be able to ask the 'right' questions of the seller, and make a more informed purchasing decision. So how do you find out?

Most collectors and dealers use references compiled on the subject. Since there are thousands of different publishing houses in the world, and each one uses its own method of denoting first editions and first printings, often the only way for a collector or a dealer to be really sure is to make use of such references. Here are two of the more common currently in use. One is online and one is hard copy.

"Quill and Brush "  The Quill & Brush specializes in first editions of literature, mystery/detective fiction and poetry, as well as collectible books in all fields, focusing mainly on books published from the middle of the 19th century to the present. Their stock of over 15,000 books is housed in a beautiful library in the Ahearns' home in Maryland. The Quill & Brush issues catalogs, offers books on the internet and at book fairs, and invites customers to visit the library Monday through Saturday by appointment. Their content-heavy site offers the reader some excellent reference tools for correctly identifying first editions by publisher, as well as glossaries of book collecting terms and qualifiers.

"A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions " is compiled and published by Bill McBride. It is a wonderfully handy reference that travels easily in a shirt pocket. The information within was obtained from existing publishers from 1980 to the present and by checking thousands of copies of known first editions of the past and present publishers. Great pains were taken to both confirm and refute the publishers' statements and also to include publishers from whom no statement of method exists or can be obtained. There is a nice section in the front which discusses how to use the guide, the differences between 'Edition', 'Printing', and 'Impression', the importance of numbers and letters, a nice set of definitions regarding 'issue', 'state', 'point', 'debossing' and terms such as 'first thus', as well as discussions of multiple copyright dates and identifying book club editions. Publishers are listed alphabetically and the pocket guide makes use of a simple mnemonic code to keep the size as small as possible. The code is on the inside back cover. Copies may be purchased by calling 860-523-1622 between 12 & 8 PM Eastern time using a credit card, and cost $18.95. Alternatively, the most recent edition may also be acquired directly from the publishers website: