What is a First Edition?

A first edition book is the first appearance of a title by a specific publisher. Publishers have a few different ways to identify their first editions and these methods can change and vary depending on each publisher. This information, if available, can be found on the copyright page.

First Edition Example Page

Identifying a First Edition

First Printing Example

The easiest way to determine if you have a First Edition copy is to look for the words “First Edition” or “First Printing” This method is not always entirely reliable. Read on to find out why!

Another way to identify a First Edition book is by the number line, or printers key, also located on the copyright page. Usually towards the bottom, this number may ascend in order, descend or have no discernible order at all. If there is a 1 in anywhere in the sequence, this usually indicates that this is a First Edition.

Printers Key Example

Note: The printers key is a method of determining a books printing, and occasionally also the year of printing. This number could also be different than whats printed elsewhere on the copyright page. Beware, occasionally some publishers will leave the words “First Edition” on the copyright page and then add things like “Fourth Printing” therefore indicating that the book is in fact not a true First Edition.

Edited Edition Example

The final way to clearly identify a First Edition isn’t quite so clear at all. Occasionally publishers will not include any copyright information and there will be nothing to identify it from newer versions aside from edited text. In this case you will need to do a bit of research on your tome and find out what (if any) editing was done between printings.

Other Notes About First Editions

Book Club editions may have “First Edition” printed on them and may even look identical to one. However a Book Club edition is never a True First and can be identified by the lack of price on the dust jacket or cover, as well as oftentimes the words “Book Club Edition” printed where the price would normally be.

Book Club Example
First Thus Example

When purchasing books online a seller may list First Editions as First Thus or First First. Knowing the difference between these is crucial as a First Thus is a first edition of that particular printing by that particular publisher, not a first of the title. Whereas a First First is a true first edition of that title by original publisher.