The first edition refers to a book's first printing run. For some blockbuster titles, this can be as many as 50,000 copies or more. But for older books, or books originally published by small imprints, the first run may have been as few as 100 copies. For books that have subsequently become desirable or prized for their place in literature, the first edition is almost always published in a smaller, and thus more collectible, print run.

Beyond sheer scarcity, first editions are also collected because they are considered to be the closest a reader can get to the author’s original intent for his or her work. Thus, first editions are sought if a book has been changed for the second printing. Changes include new prefaces, text corrections or edits, and changes to a book’s format or binding.

Especially collectible are first editions of books that went on to win any of the numerous literary prizes that the publishing world annually bestows upon itself. For example, “Where the Wild Things Are” earned Maurice Sendak a Caldecott Medal in 1964 for being a distinguished picture book for children, but it was published in 1963, so covers of the first edition do not feature the famous Caldecott seal like subsequent editions do. Similarly, Frank Herbert’s science-fiction masterpiece “Dune,” from 1965, won both a Hugo and a Nebula award in 1966, but the cover of the first edition reflects none of this.

In general, there are as many types of collectible first editions as there are collectible categories of books. After the 2009 film “Julie & Julia” revived interest in chef and author Julia Child, prices for first-edition copies of her 1961 cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” soared, although it’s a safe bet that the movie-fueled demand will not be long-lasting. Not all first editions need to be vintage to be collectible. For example, the success of the recent “Twilight” vampire movies has made first-edition copies of Stephanie Meyer’s 2005 novel of the same name quite collectible.

The other thing to consider when collecting first editions is the country where a book was originally published. First editions produced for readers in the writer’s home country are usually more collectible than those printed in foreign countries. The most famous example of this is probably J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” which was published by Bloomsbury in the U.K. in 1997 before being re-titled by Scholastic in 1998 for the U.S. market as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” That first Bloomsbury edition numbered around 1,000 copies, which is why copies of this edition routinely sell in the six figures.

Novels from the 19th century present the collector with a number of unique challenges. First, the paper and binding is obviously very old, so caring for a first edition from that time period requires attention and effort—it may not be wise to simply shove a first edition of “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens onto a crowded bookshelf. The other issue particular to Dickens is that many of his books were initially serialized, which means there is typically a first edition “bound from the parts” as well as a “first edition in book form.”

The other problem with 19th-century novels, especially the early ones, is that books were routinely rebound to make the covers more attractive than their originals. During rebind...

Modern first editions are books from the Edwardian era through contemporary times. The quality of the dust jackets of these editions can have a large impact on the value of modern books, in no small part because the artwork on them is sometimes as highly regarded as the writing within. Famous covers include those for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” (1925), John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939), and J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” (1951).

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Google Book Search

Google Book Search

Want to do one quick search and pull up the mother lode of vintage books? Try Google Book Search, a database filled… [read review or visit site]

Bookscans.com

Bookscans.com

Bruce Black's gallery of paperback book covers from the 1940s and 50s. With help from numerous contributors, he's a… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Cgc 9.8= Saga Of The Swamp Thing #37 @see All My Books@ 1st App John ConstantineSale! 1st Print Winnie The Pooh A A Milne Methuen 1926 Uk H/b 1st Issue WrapperAlice In Wonderland Antique 1st Edition Alice's Lewis Carroll Uk Adventures RareSale! Signed 1st Issue Ginger & Pickles Beatrix Potter F. Warne & Co 1909 UkSale! First Edition Wrapper Live And Let Die Ian Fleming Jonathan Cape 1954 UkA Game Of Thrones By George R.r. Martin ~ First Edition ~ 1st Printing HardcoverJohn D Batten Dante's Inferno Art Nouveau Occult 1st Pre-raphaelite Satan DevilIan Fleming 'from Russia With Love' 1st Uk Ed 1957 Original Dj James Bond Casino 1st Edition Animal Farm George Orwell Secker & Warburg Aug 1945 Uk H/bH Granville Fell The Book Of Job Art Nouveau 1st 1896 Arts & Crafts Occult BibleThe First Men In The Moon. H G Wells. 1st Edition 1st Issue 1901Rare Charles Dickens *1st* Dombey & Son *1848* Engravings Browne Phiz 1st Edition Live And Let Die Ian Fleming Jonathan Cape 1954 Uk H/b James BondSale! 1st Issue When We Were Very Young A A Milne 1924 Uk H/b Winnie The PoohW Russell Flint Greek Myths *limited* 1st 1922 Art Nouveau Pre-raphaelite NudesArthur Rackham 1st Edition 1st Issue 1928. The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. Jacket 1st Print For Your Eyes Only Ian Fleming Jonathan Cape 1960 UnclippedThe Silkworm By Robert Galbraith Aka Jk Rowling Signed Us 1st/1st Hb No Reserve!Incredible Hulk # 3 Vg+ Origin Retold - 1st Ringmaster - Glossy - 1962 - Key1809 Bradford, Sketches Of Costume In Spain & Portugal, 53 Aquatint Plates, 1st1894 The Jungle Book First Edition 1st Printing Disney Works Of Rudyard Kipling1850 Lives Queens Of Scotland English Princesses 1st Edition 8vl Set Royalty $$$ 1st Printing Dr. No Ian Fleming Jonathan Cape 1958 Uk H/b James BondArthur Rackham. 1st Edition 1st Issue. 1910. Richard Wagner. Extremely RareRare Tour Sweden Lapland Finland Denmark *1789* Consett 1st Bewick EngravingsThe Ocean At The End Of The Lane By Neil Gaiman Signed Ltd Hb 1st/1st No ReserveSilver Surfer # 3 Vfn (8.0) 1st Mephisto - High Grade - Giant- Glossy - CentsHarry Potter Complete 1-7 Hardcover Book Set Jk Rowling 1st Edition Dj Books Lot Sale! 1st Edition Casino Royal Ian Fleming Pan 1955 Uk P/b James Bond 11887 First Maine Cavalry Regiment Gettysburg Fredericksburg Union Confederate 1853 Memoirs Court Of King George Iii 1st Edition 4vl Set Lthr Royalty History $Thomas Mackenzie Aladdin Arabian Nights 1st 1920 Art Nouveau Deco Kay NielsenFranklin Library "slaughterhouse Five" Signed 1st Ed. Kurt Vonnegut Rare MintMein Kampf (my Battle~my Struggle) 1933 By Adolf Hitler.1st Edition,1st Print.Jules Verne Journey To The Centre Of The Earth Shepard 1874 1st Edition ThusWinnie The Pooh A A Milne 1926 1st Edition First Issue Ernest Shepard Methuen Vg Rare 1st Printing Blood Meridian Cormac Mccarthy Picador 1989 Uk H/b 1st Print The Man With The Golden Gun Ian Fleming Jonathan Cape 1965 Uk H/bCgc 9.8= Hellblazer #1 (see All My Books) 1st Constantine In Own Title! Hot! '88Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Signed Men From Earth Apollo 11 Flat Press Easton 1st1st Printing Moonraker Ian Fleming Pan 1956 Uk P/b James Bond1st Issue The Tale Of Timmy Tiptoes Beatrix Potter F Warne & Co 1911 Uk H/b 1st Print Octopussy And The Living Daylights Ian Fleming Cape 1966 Uk Fine/fineH Granville Fell Tom Thumb Fairy Tale 1st 1907 Art Nouveau Fairies King ArthurAstronaut Buzz Aldrin Signed Men From Earth Apollo 11 Flat Press Easton 1stHarry Potter Hardcover Books Complete Set 1-7 Some Are True First 1st Editions 1st Print Octopussy And The Living Daylights Ian Fleming Jonathan Cape 1966 Uk Sale! 1st Edition Casino Royal Ian Fleming Pan 1955 Uk P/b James Bond 2Charles Darwin-diary Of The Voyage Of Hms Beagle-1934-1st Edition/2nd PrintingJohn Bellairs Hardcover Book Collection Edward Gorey 1st Hb/djBlood Song By Anthony Ryan Signed Limited Edition 57/100 Uk 1st/1st No Reserve!1929 Ernest Hemingway A Farewell To Arms 1st Printing 1st State -no Disclaimer1774 1st Ed Voyages Atlas Dictionary Of Trade Commerce Banking Finance EconomicsA Beka Books First Grade CurriculumAntique 1804 Georgian British Leather-bound Books History England First EditionRare 1st Print The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner Alan Sillitoe 1959 UkMark Twain A Tramp Abroad First Edition Leather Illustrated 1880The Hound Of The Baskervilles By Arthur Conan Doyle-1st Ed. Fine CopyStephen King Carrie First Edition First Print P6 $5.95 1st Print No ReserveDeclaration Of Independence First Bound Printing Ever..excedeingly Rare