The Last Word on First Editions

January 26th, 2010

Matthew Haley is a books and manuscripts specialist at Bonhams in London. Haley is not just in the book business, he’s an avid fan of books—from their physicality and design to the literature and poetry between their covers. Recently we spoke to Haley about first editions, the difference between first editions and first printings, and some of the most collectible titles and authors on the market today.

Strictly speaking, a book’s edition refers to the setting of the text. So the first time you set the text and print a book with it, and then sell a bound book that you’ve just printed, that’s the first edition, first printing. If you use the same setup of text and print it again, that would be the second printing—a printing is therefore a subclass of an edition. The printing is also called the impression, as in first or second impression.

The first edition in book form of "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens was published by Bradbury and Evans in 1850 and featured 38 engraved plates between its red Morocco gilt covers.

The first edition in book form of “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens was published by Bradbury and Evans in 1850 and featured 38 engraved plates between its red Morocco gilt covers.

In general, the first edition, first printing is known simply as the first edition, but I don’t think the nomenclature or the way an edition is identified in a book is entirely standard. Normally when a book is labeled as a first edition, it is accompanied on the copyright page with numbers from 10 to 1. Sometimes they are literally presented as 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Some publishers will order the numbers in slightly odd ways. But basically, the standard interpretation is that if a book is identified as the first edition and the numbers only go down to, say, two, then you are looking at the second printing or second impression; if they go down to three, then it’s a third printing; and so on.

With first editions, we are usually talking about the first publication of a book in the writer’s country of origin and language. Otherwise you have to qualify it by saying “first American edition” or “first edition in English.” In most cases, when a book is described as the first edition, then it usually means the first edition of that book in the author’s language.

It also nearly always means the first edition of that book in the country where the author resides, but there are exceptions. For example, a British author might not have had any success in the U.K. but then finds an American publisher. So you might get a British author who published first in America. That will vary author-by-author or even book-by-book.

Collectors Weekly: Are first editions in the country and language of the author typically more collectible than subsequent editions in different countries?

Haley: Yes. Essentially what the collector is looking for is the first public opportunity to buy this book anywhere. It’s always first, first, first, first, first. Even for U.S. collectors, if a book appeared in the U.K. first, then that’s the one that will be most sought after.

Collectors Weekly: How desirable are proofs and advance copies?

First editions of James Bond novels are highly prized, but this 1956 copy of "Diamonds Are Forever" also has a personalized inscription: "To Rica, who wrote it, from Ian Fleming."

First editions of James Bond novels are highly prized, but this 1956 copy of “Diamonds Are Forever” also has a personalized inscription: “To Rica, who wrote it, from Ian Fleming.”

Haley: For some reason they often don’t have as much value as the actual first published edition. I think it’s partly because it’s often difficult to know how many were issued—I think it’s often a lot more than one might assume.

Also, proofs and advance copies generally don’t have dust jackets, and they’re usually printed as paperbacks. Thus, they lack the iconic and visual appeal of a first edition. Generally speaking, they have maybe two-thirds to three-quarters of the value of a first edition. Unless, of course, it’s a proof with the author’s corrections on it. Then you are in a completely different ballpark.

Similarly, nearly all first editions are worth more if they’re signed, but this is probably less true of modern books. A lot of authors today do lengthy signing tours and appearances and that sort of thing, so the number of signed copies is not especially small.

Other authors are much less inclined to sign anything, so obviously their signatures are more sought after. Famously, Harper Lee, who wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird,” didn’t sign very much. The value of a signature may vary, but I can’t think of any situation in which an author’s signature has caused a book to be worth less.

Inscriptions can help or hurt the value of a first edition. I would say that “To Ben, Ray Bradbury” would perhaps be very slightly less desirable than just “Ray Bradbury.” But “To my dear friend Ben” is a little bit of an improvement, and “To my dear friend Ben, who inspired me to write this book” is much better!

Collectors Weekly: So the content of the inscription can affect a book’s value?

Haley: Yes, and the person’s relationship to the author. That relationship becomes part of the provenance. Such books are what we call association copies. If the person to whom a book is inscribed has some importance to the author, then it’s an association copy. It might be from one author to another author who was very influential in the first author’s writing, or from one author to a family member, or a friend from college, or something like that.

In part, an association copy helps give collectors peace of mind that the inscription is authentic, but it really just makes the book that little bit more unusual and curious than a regular signed copy.

Collectors Weekly: Which American classics are most sought after?

A first edition of Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale" from 1851 would be a cornerstone of any collection.

A first edition of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale” from 1851 would be a cornerstone of any collection.

Haley: We’ve already discussed “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and there’s “Moby Dick” and “The Great Gatsby.” Those are all five-figure books in first-edition form. Anything that’s a household name is going to be the most sought after, really. Books that have been turned into classic movies like “Gone With the Wind” are also desirable. Genres also have their followings. Crime, children’s books, and sci-fi are all their own collecting fields, and each has a subset of collectible authors within it.

This brings us to the different types of first-edition collectors. There are people who want the classics in first edition—in other words, the classic books regardless of who the author is. But there are also people known as completists who want the complete works of a given author in first edition, including rare juvenilia stuff published when they were children. The most obvious form of completist in book collecting is someone who wants to own all of the James Bond books by Ian Fleming, or perhaps all of the James Bond books, including those written by Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis, and Sebastian Faulks.

P.G. Wodehouse is another favorite of completists. The approach is not limited to authors, particularly. How one collects books is as varied as people’s tastes. But collecting by author is one way for a collector to express his or her affection for a given writer. It’s probably slightly easier to complete a collection of first-edition Ian Flemings than Hemingways. Also, Ian Fleming has that boyish movie tie-in as well, which is quite good fun.

Collectors Weekly: Do movies always make first editions more valuable?

Haley: It depends on how classic the movie becomes. The Bond movies are unquestionably classics. Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” became “Blade Runner.” That movie is considered a classic, but in a sense the book was already there, so either way it’s going to remain collectible.

One recent circumstance that comes to mind is Philip Pullman’s “Northern Lights,” part of the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, which had a sudden peak in terms of their value in auction. After the film “The Golden Compass” came out, the peak dropped off slightly. So I think it’s quite a difficult thing to try and predict.

Collectors Weekly: I suppose “Harry Potter” is in a class by itself?

Haley: In terms of “Harry Potter” by J. K. Rowling, the first edition was the Bloomsbury edition, which was printed in London. We’ve definitely seen big interest in that. At times it would be making £9,000 sterling, I think, or even £12,000 at one point. And the effect of that was that further down the chain, people were paying a few hundred pounds for a paperback that was signed. So when you have a situation in which the first edition is worth so much, then it will trickle down so that the less desirable editions still end up being worth some amount of money.

Collectors Weekly: What about other children’s books?

Collectors love "Winnie-the-Pooh" first editions for both A. A. Milne's words and E. H. Shepard's illustrations. These copies are from (left to right) 1926, 1928, and 1927.

Collectors love “Winnie-the-Pooh” first editions for both A. A. Milne’s words and E. H. Shepard’s illustrations. These copies are from (left to right) 1926, 1928, and 1927.

Haley: Maurice Sendak is always of interest, his illustrated ones particularly. With children’s books, it’s a mixture of the story plus the illustrator, really. Sometimes the illustrator is more desirable than the author, sometimes it’s the other way around. “Winnie-the-Pooh” is a classic example of both coming together. E. H. Shepard’s illustrations of “Winnie-the-Pooh” (Shepard also illustrated “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame) are as iconic, really, as the text itself by A. A. Milne. Similarly, just about any title that includes drawings by early 20th-century illustrator Arthur Rackham is collectible. He tended to illustrate children’s books, including J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens” and a 1907 edition of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

People often ask me about science fiction, but it’s such a niche area. We actually don’t see a great many titles at Bonham’s. We get the occasional H. G. Wells novel and other sci-fi classics, but we don’t often see the more arcane parts of the market. For example, I don’t think I’ve seen anything by Isaac Asimov since I’ve been here, but I’m not quite sure why because Asimov first editions certainly are valuable. I would say that most of the sci-fi we sell is prewar, but there are obviously collectible sci-fi authors who are postwar.

Collectors Weekly: Are people collecting biographies?

Haley: Written in the modern age? Almost never. There are some biographies that are collectible from much earlier on, like James Boswell’s “Life of Johnson” from the 18th century. But I can’t think of any 20th-century biographies that have great value.

Collectors Weekly: So is fiction perhaps more sought after than nonfiction?

Haley: Not necessarily. There are other fields of writing that are potentially more valuable than fiction, like natural history, travel, science, that sort of thing. Biographies, history, and military writing are all generally less sought after than fiction. I think it’s just that the majority of what people read is fiction, and fiction touches people in a way that other forms of literature don’t.

Collectors Weekly: Do people collect cookbooks?

The first edition of J. K. Rowling's first novel was published in England in 1997 as "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." The U.S. edition appeared a year later as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

The first edition of J. K. Rowling’s first novel was published in England in 1997 as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” The U.S. edition appeared a year later as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Haley: Well, Julia Child aside, the earlier cookbooks, certainly. Anything earlier than 1800 or 1700 can have quite a lot of a value to it. One thing we started seeing recently was a massive growth in interest in manuscript cookbooks, which are people’s recipe books from the 17th century and before.

Most large houses of that time had a cookbook in which the cook or the lady of the house kept all their recipes, plus, perhaps, recipes from friends. These “household guides,” if you will, often contained medical remedies as well, which means you get these really strange juxtapositions. They were not published—they are more like one-of-a-kind manuscripts. But that seems to be a growth area.

As you move into the pre-Victorian period, you’re looking at Jane Austen—“Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility,” those sorts of titles. Once you get into the Victorian period, collectible authors include Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Nathaniel Hawthorne maybe. Toward the end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th, you’ve got Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Joseph Conrad’s “Lord Jim,” and all the core people, the people you read at high school.

Collectors Weekly: Wilde also wrote plays. Is a good copy of one of his plays just as desirable as a copy of a book?

Haley: Yes, I think that would be true. Normally plays are not worth as much as novels, but Wilde is a bit of an exception—a lot of his published plays are valuable. They’re also very nicely produced examples of book design in the late 19th century. Wilde books often have very attractive bindings. Many were published as limited editions.

Toward the end of the 19th century, they started going in like mad for limited editions, signed and numbered copies, and special bindings, partly, perhaps, as a backlash against mass-produced industrialized printing that had developed during the 19th century.

Some of the bindings of Wilde’s books are very Art Nouveau in style, and occasionally there was also the Aubrey Beardsley tie-in—for example, Beardsley illustrated Wilde’s play Salomé. In that sense, Wilde books truly represent their time.

After Art Nouveau, in the first half of the 20th century, the big names are James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Pretty much any first-edition novel by any of those authors is a five- or six-figure book. Some poetry, too, T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” being a prime example.

Collectors Weekly: Is there a market for books from the mid-20th century?

This 1940 first edition of Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is more valuable than most thanks to the author's signature inside.

This 1940 first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is more valuable than most thanks to the author’s signature inside.

Haley: It’s quite a complex market because there are often some curious quirks about the printing in books published by Beacon, Grove, City Lights, and others. Some of those books were printed in the traditional sense, others were more like mimeographs, and then you get some, like the ones printed by City Lights, that have all sorts of what are called “issue points.”

This question of issue points actually relates to the modern first editions we were discussing at the beginning of this interview. Occasionally you have an edition of the text, and within that edition you might have various “issues.” This normally means that, for example, a typographical error has been corrected but the text remains broadly the same, apart from the one page where the typo was corrected.

One of the most famous examples of this concerns J. K. Rowling’s first book. On the copyright page, her name was listed as Joanne Rowling rather than J. K. Rowling. Fairly recently, people determined that the Joanne Rowling copies came first, and that it was corrected to J. K. Rowling when the author kicked up a fuss with her publisher.

The issue with J. K. instead of Joanne is not considered a separate printing, but because we can establish that Joanne came first, those copies are more desirable. Even if there are more copies in circulation that read Joanne, people still prefer it because it’s the first one.

Collectors Weekly: If someone has a first edition of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” or Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” should they read it?

Haley: They should not read it, I’m afraid to say. At least, they should not read it in that edition. Go out and buy a paperback and read that. And if you have such a book, you should obviously look after the dust jacket as much as possible.

“On the copyright page, her name was listed as Joanne Rowling rather than J. K. Rowling.”

That’s one thing we haven’t addressed, the value of dust jackets, which is huge. It makes a massive difference. In a recent sale here at Bonham’s, we had two copies of “The Great Gatsby,” one with a dust jacket which we sold for $180,000 and one without which we sold for $3,000. That tells you how much value is in the dust jacket.

In the early days, dust jackets were literally “dust jackets,” kept on books in bookstores to keep them from getting dusty. Originally dust jackets were just typography on dull-colored paper. When people took a book home, the jackets were often discarded.

From the 1920s on, as publishing houses started employing designers and artists to produce decorative dust jackets, they used the jacket to market their books. Some people began to embrace the idea of keeping dust jackets on their books, but old habits die hard, so many people continued to dispose of their books’ dust jackets. That’s one reason why they are so rare.

Collectors Weekly: What advice do you have for beginning collectors?

Oscar Wilde's only published novel was "The Picture of Dorian Gray," which is one reason why even a battered first edition like this one from 1891 is collectible.

Oscar Wilde’s only published novel was “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” which is one reason why even a battered first edition like this one from 1891 is collectible.

Haley: One of the advantages of pursuing antiquarian books, earlier books, is that you can see the age on it. It’s very easy to tell whether an old book is what it purports to be, or not. With modern first editions, it can be more difficult, particularly when it comes to things like dust jackets and signatures. Dust jackets can be restored or reproduced and sold as if they were originals. And with signatures, if you are buying from an unknown source, you are probably taking a chance that the signature is actually authentic.

In my mind, there are three approaches to buying modern first editions. One: Buy books you like right when they come out. In this scenario, you’ll be buying a first edition, in hardback, in a dust jacket, and you might even be able to get the author to sign it for you. Best of all, you’re not likely to pay more than $20 or $25 for it.

Two: If you’re buying more valuable and more collectible first editions, buy either from a reputable auction house, an established dealer, or somebody who’s got a long-standing reputation and belongs to a professional body of some sort.

Three: It’s always smart to buy first editions that you like but don’t have to pay very much money for. In this case, the risk is fairly low. I mean, if you manage to find what appears to be a first edition of “The Great Gatsby” in a cardboard box at a flea market for $5, then the worst that can happen is you’ve wasted $5.

Once you bring your first edition home, the only other advice I’d offer, apart from not reading it, is to keep the book, especially one with a dust jacket, out of direct sunlight. It can also be a good idea to dust the tops of your books now and again to prevent dust from getting embedded in the tops of the pages.

Collectors Weekly: As someone who loves books, how do you feel about e-readers?

Haley: I can see that they have their uses, and I’m curious about the idea of reading the book on screen. I tried out the Sony Reader, but you get these black flashes when you turn the page—that bothered me. My concerns with the Kindle are that I would drop it and that I can’t just stick it in my back pocket like I can with a cheap paperback.

As you say, I love books, the physicality of books, book design, and all those sorts of things. But the books I choose to read tend to be quite tired-out, second-time copies that I can throw around and just enjoy, without worrying about treating them nicely.

Collectors Weekly: So, what are you mistreating now?

Haley: At the moment I’m reading a lot of classic 20th-century American fiction. I studied English literature when I was in school in England, but it was literally English literature. I had barely read any American literature before I moved over here about a year ago, so I’m trying to make up for lost time.

I just read the most recent novel by Edmund White called “Hotel de Dream,” and before that I read “Bright Lights, Big City” by Jay McInerney, partly inspired by having read “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis about a year or two ago. I’ve also been reading Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, classic 20th-century American stuff.

(All images in this article courtesy Bonhams & Butterfields in New York)

141 comments so far

  1. Matthew Haley Says:


    I had a look at the images on your CW page – what a lovely set! Price-wise I would have thought the set is comparable to this one we sold:

    Best wishes,

    Matthew Haley

  2. john Adams Says:

    Have copy of Robert Frost’s North Of Boston” published by Dodd Mead 1977, which I think is a first thus edition. Has the usual 1-10 , opposite Editor’s preface followed by ECL: 2 . Appreciate these are the initials of Edward Connery Lathem the Editor, but 2 ? Can you help as to what this denotes ? john

  3. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear John,

    Thanks for your message. ‘North of Boston’ was first published around 1915, so your edition is rather a late one and of limited commercial value; indeed Robert Frost had passed away well before 1977.

    I am afraid this detail of the codes is rather beyond my knowledge – I would suggest contacting Dodd Mead or whoever now owns that imprint to see if they can answer your question.


    Matthew Haley

  4. Neal Davies Says:

    Dear Mathew I am from Australia and I have come across a very famous book called We of the Never Never its a small red book without its dust cover and consists of 248 pages The author is Mrs Aeneas Gunn and the publisher is HUTCHINSON &CO (PUBLISHERS) LTD. LOONDON NEW YORK MELBOURNE inside the book we have words Wholly set up and printed by Simmons limited 31-33 Parramatta road Glebe …..Sydney
    and below it says Registered at the general post office, Sydney for transmission through the post as a book. There is also a note from the author titled To the Public. I was wondering if you can tell me if this is a first Edition and what it would be worth?

  5. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Neal,

    Thanks for your question. It looks to me like Hutchinson’s were the first publishers of this book, and the earliest dated edition is 1907. If yours doesn’t have a date on it, then in all likelihood it is a reprint done soon after that date. I can’t seem to find any sale records for the first edition, but without a dust-jacket I would be surprised if it were as much as a three-figure sum. As it is such an Australian item, my suggestion would be to contact an Australian antiquarian bookseller; a list can be found at

    Good luck!

    Matthew Haley

  6. grace worthington Says:

    have 3 hard back books 4×6 pride and prejudice(edited by Josephine Woodbury Heermans, A.M.—- Ivanhoe (edited by Alfred M. Hitchcock M.A. —- A Tale Of Two Cities (edited by Huber Gray Buehler and Lawrence Mason —— are they worth anything price quoted inside 25 cents per book
    one has a name inside ofmary bailey 1908 and sandy taylor another has Lorene ririden bhs highschool 08

  7. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Grace,

    Thank you for commenting. Your books are reprints rather than first editions (the first editions wouldn’t have a named editor), and probably do date from about 1908 as the name inside one suggests. I think 25 cents per book is probably on the low side (!), but I think you would be looking at a handful of dollars per volume at most, unfortunately.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  8. Donnie Hiland Says:

    I know that true first editions are those which come from the original country in which they were published; but what of works that were published in two different countries simultaneously? Specifically, The Picture of Dorian Gray was published and released in periodical form by Lippincott’s in the US and Britain concurrently in July of 1890. Does one supercede the other in collectibility or value, or do they both hold equal position?

  9. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Donnie,

    Thanks for your unusual question. In the case you mention, I would have thought that the US and UK appearances probably hold equal value, although there might be a slight bias towards the UK version simply because some buyers will assume (even if wrongly!) that the US version is later. The odd thing is that with this work (and a few others – The Waste Land springs to mind) the book-form issue from the year after is just as desirable if not more so than the periodical form.

    Which all just goes to prove there are no hard and fast rules in rare book collecting!

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  10. Despina Says:

    Dear sir, I have a book titled The rain cloud and the snow storm, by Charles Tomlinson. I think it was published 1865, my question is on page 243, the page is folded over and typed twice on the folded side which is page 244. If you lift the folded page there is nothing underneath the area which it covered. Would this add or lessen the value of the book ?
    Thank you in advance for your help .

  11. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Despina,

    Thanks for your message. That is certainly an interesting printing flaw! It sounds very much like the sheet was folded over before it went through the press. I wouldn’t say it particularly adds to the value, and for a perfectionist collector it might diminish slightly. However, this work is unlikely to be of enormous value unfortunately – I would say a two-figure sum at most.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  12. Trish C. Says:

    I came across a cookbook I purchased at a garage sale. The name of the book is Chinese Japanese Cooking by Bosse and Watanna. The copyright date is 1914. I am at a loss as to value or worth. Its a odd, small book with gold lettering. Thank you.

  13. Sandra Says:

    I have searched for information on the rarity of a book called The Mad Mullah of America. The author is Edgar Allen Booth. I have spoken with store owners of used, collectible, antiquarian books to no avail. This book was published in 1927 by Boyd Ellison, Columbus, Ohio. The sole distributor was Wayne Associates, Indianapolis, Indiana. It is about David Curtis Stephenson who was a grand dragon with the Ku Klux Klan. He was found guilty of 2nd degree murder in the death of a woman and served time. It is a very interesting & a bit grizzly story.
    I see that a new edition has been done fairly recently and that is all I find on line.
    Might you have some knowledge about this particular 1927 hard cover book?

  14. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Trish,

    Thanks for your message about the cookbook. It seems to be one of the earliest books, if not the first book, on Asian cooking in America. It was reprinted in 2006 which is often a good sign when one has the original edition – at the very least, it implies there are quite a few potentially interested readers, some of whom might want to own the first edition.

    That said, it is difficult to imagine the book selling for more than, say, $100, simply because as a cookbook it is relatively modern. The most valuable cookbooks tend to be 16th or 17th century, or occasionally 18th – although there are a handful of Victorian or 20th century ones.

    At this sort of level, it’s essentially worth what someone is prepared to pay for it, and the best way to establish that might be in an online auction, with a good description and plenty of pictures. But obviously then you’d have to sell it!

    Sorry not to be able to give a ‘solid’ answer.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  15. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Sandra,

    The Mad Mullah does sound like quite grizzly book! Quite often books published in smaller towns or cities, like Columbus OH as opposed to New York or Boston, are rarer. Funnily enough a search on WorldCat (an online aggregator of library catalogues) shows 9 copies in libraries in Indiana, where the book was distributed, but only one each in Ohio, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, etc.

    So it’s ostensibly a reasonably rare book. Some further research on WorldCat might turn up information on other books published by this company, or by this author.

    Good luck with the hunting!

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  16. john Adams Says:

    I have just come into possession of a worn copy of Robert Frost’s North of Boston 1915 December print which has a Helen L Davis bookplate by Schoy and is signed Robert Frost Milwaukee December 10 1921. The bookplate looks professional, but I cannot find any reference anywhere. On a rear endpaper is written an article headed ‘ Vocal Reality’ tones of voice and continues about Shakespeare and Macbeth. It then mentions Robert Frost and A2 Stephenson ? Building and guest endowment. with the same date as mentioned alongside his signature. Could this be at Wisconsin Univertsity where I think he held a post.?


  17. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear John,

    Thanks for your message. I love Robert Frost so this is quite an intriguing item to hear about. I would imagine that your theory about the building and endowment at Wisconsin U is right. The Helen Davis bookplate doesn’t ring any bells with me.

    Signed Frosts are not especially scarce, and I would imagine yours to be in the $200-300 range at auction since you describe it as “worn.” Still a nice thing.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  18. john Adams Says:

    Thanks for your reply. I will have to try and find out more about Robert Frost and A2. I was fortunate to come across a copy of Frost’s ‘From Snow to Snow” The binding A with the Hampshire Bookshop four page insert. I would classify it as a fine copy. Sellers have many descriptions of their ” one of 300″ copies. mostly it would seem without the insert. I am trying to get a value . Could you help please.

  19. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear John,

    No problem. It seems that sellers of “From Snow to Snow” are getting the ‘one of 300’ number from something called ‘APG’ which seems to be an ‘Author Price Guide’ published by Quill & Brush. I would probably want to consult a fully-fledged descriptive bibliography such as the 1974 ‘Descriptive Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library, University of Virginia’ to be sure.

    Values of unsigned copies of this first edition vary widely from as little as $50 without dust-jacket and in poor condition, up to the low- to mid-three-figure range. I would probably pitch it at something between $100 and $250. Sorry not to be more precise but one has to see things in the flesh.

    Best wishes,

    Matthew Haley

  20. Jim Thompson Says:

    The Edition de Luxe of Mark Twain Works

    I beleive I have copy #1 given to the Rogers Family. I live in Austin, TX, and would appreciate any help in getting the collection authenticated.

    Thank you

  21. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Jim,

    Thanks for your message. Do you know who the set was published by, where, and when? There is likely to be more than one deluxe edition of Twain. In terms of authentication, authenticity is unlikely to be an issue – it would cost more to fake a set like this than it would actually be worth – but I should be able to give you an approximate idea of value.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  22. Sarah Audsley Says:

    Hello Mr. Haley,
    I have a first edition of “The Sand Pebbles” signed “To Marguerite and Henry Christmas 1962 Richard McKenna” Unfortunately, the book doesn’t have a dust jacket. Does this book have any value?

  23. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Ms Audsley,

    Thanks for your message. Uninscribed, the book normally makes less than $100 at auction even with a dust-jacket. Without a dust-jacket and uninscribed, I would think the book would be only a handful of dollars.

    However there was a copy in dust-jacket inscribed to Walter Bradbury, a literary editor, that made about $600 at auction. Therefore it’s worth doing a bit of research to see if you can identify Marguerite and Henry! If you found a good connection, a buyer might be interested in it with the intention of ‘marrying’ it up with a dust-jacket from another copy ( which it should be said is a slightly controversial practice in the book world).

    Best of luck,

    Matthew Haley

  24. Sarah Audsley Says:

    Thank you for your reply. I wish it was inscribed to Marguerite Henry but wishing won’t make that happen (I found the book in Baltimore). I’ve done some internet research but trying to find out the circle of acquaintances of somebody who’s been dead for fifty years is testing my capabilities. Anyway, thanks again.

  25. Victoria payne Says:

    Hello sir I have what I believe is first edition..corrections were made in this book it’s inscribed to a family member with post cards to same person a letter stating how many copies will be printed and when. All written by the author and signed by him: Thomas Troy Donovan and the CIA…what is something like this worth. Thank you for your time.

  26. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Ms Payne,

    How intriguing! By the looks of things, this history of the CIA was first published in a very limited, ‘secret’, form in 1975, before being commercially released in 1981 with some of the sensitive parts expurgated.

    Your item is a very difficult thing to put a price on; at auction its value would probably be fairly low – maybe $100 or so – but in the right bookstore, say in Georgetown, DC, a stone’s throw from the Pentagon, a bookseller might ask hundreds of dollars.

    Best wishes,

    Matthew Haley

  27. David Daisley Says:

    I have inherited a first printing 1858 of Edward Fitzball’s “Micheal Schwartz, or The Two Runaway Apprentices”. It is signed by the Publisher, as a gift to my great uncle.
    Despite much research, I’ve been unable to find any reference to this original copy, only multitude modern day reprints.
    Does it have any historical significance or value?
    Thank You,

    David Daisley
    Alberta, Canada

  28. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Mr Daisley,

    Probably the reason why you haven’t been able to trace this 1858 first printing is that it was published in Spalding, a relatively small town in Lincolnshire that is not noted as a centre of printing! I imagine the printer was a small jobbing printer, rather than a full-blown literary publisher. There are three copies listed in UK institutional libraries. On this basis it is relatively rare, and a copy inscribed by the publisher even more so. However, this may not equate to huge commercial value! If you were interested in selling it, I would suggest sending some digital photos to a few antiquarian booksellers. A list of Canadian antiquarian booksellers can be found here:

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  29. David Daisley Says:

    Dear Mr Haley,
    Thank you for your response with regard to my copy of Edward Fitzball’s book. I am distantly related to the publisher, who in turn appears to be related to Fitzball. You must have spent many hours researching this book for me! The information that you have provided is most interesting and helpful. Again, Thank You!
    David Daisley

  30. velma wonner Says:

    well i almost had,another breakdown after reading everything you have said about To Kill a Mocking bird I had a first edition my mother told me to keep. By mistake I gave it to the libary for fund raiser. one of the volenters got and kept or sold who knows. My point is if you have a rare copy of a book keep in your private stock or lock up with your valubles. My question is will you explain to me to me about Art-Type edition. My friend has about 8 of them they all look the same so they where, maybe, a book of the month thing. I am reaserching them for him I am now reading the tales of two cities(he let me borrow for research, some of the others are tom sayer,huckelberry fin. Are they worth anything with art-type adition. and thank for help. I love your page

  31. velma wonner Says:

    I am also wondering if you have ever heard of writer of poems named Laurence glen elson from Ft.woth TXwith each poem in the book there is also a scetch about the poem it based on the sadness he had after losing his wife. The name of it is Footprints in sand. copyright 1972. Once more thank for any help you can give and thank you for your website

  32. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Velma,

    Thanks for your messages! I’m glad you are finding this interview and the comments useful.

    I must admit I’m not familiar with the Art-Type publications; from the name I might guess that they are mid-20th-century? It sounds like they are reprints of classic works – Dickens and Twain – and as such would probably just have ‘used book’ value rather than being especially collectible. Sorry not to be of more help!

    I’m equally not aware of Laurence Glen Elson, although it sounds an intriguing work. Probably quite rare indeed, although there is a copy being sold online at $10 which is a reminder that not everything rare is valuable. Certainly worth looking after, by the sounds of it.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  33. Andrea Donaldson Says:

    Very interesting information! I just acquired a hardback copy of The Old Man and the Sea 1952 third impression – December 1952; Printed in Great Britain by Western Printing Services LTD., Bristol; bound by A.W. Bani & Co., London. Wondering if you could tell me if this has value? The dust jacket on this book has a brightly colored fish on the hook. Thanks for information.

  34. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Andrea,

    Thanks for the kind words. Hemingway post-war is worth much less than Hemingway between-the-wars, sadly. In addition, UK editions of Hem will almost invariably be worth less than the US true first editions. However, a British Hem fan might like your book especially if the dust-jacket is in good condition; it’s certainly more of a two-figure item than a three-figure one, though, I would have thought.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Haley

  35. Prof. Howard R Wolf Says:

    In which volume is there an essay by or about Robert Frost
    on “vocal reality”??
    Thank you

  36. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Prof. Wolf,

    What an intriguing question! I’m afraid I don’t know the answer, but I would suggest you consult a bibliography of RF which might provide the answer; there are bibliographies by Mertins, Clymer and Green, and Lentricchia. If you locate one of these in a local library, it might provide the answer.

    Best of luck,

    Matthew Haley

  37. Raymond Walsh Says:

    Dear Sirs

    I hold a copy of Fifty Shades Of Grey published by Arrow Books 2012 (paperback).
    Its a first edition in this publication,but the copyright page states that the Copyright belongs to E L Grey and not E L James.
    I would be very grateful for any input into this .

    Kind Regards


  38. Matthew Haley Says:

    Dear Raymond,

    What a curious thing! This work has a rather complicated publishing history, but my feeling is that the ‘ultimate’ for collectors would be the print-on-demand paperback released in May 2011 by The Writers’ Coffee Shop, a virtual publisher based in Australia. This is probably the closest thing to a ‘true’ first edition.

    Yours is certainly an early edition, but as for the bizarre copyright line I can shed no light on it! I would think that your copy has curiosity interest but probably not huge commercial value – at this point at least.

    Kind regards,

    Matthew Haley

  39. Raymond Walsh Says:

    Dear Matthew,

    Thank you for looking at the information i sent you and for your thoughts.

    Kind Regards


  40. Nils Friedman Says:

    I have just started collecting First Editions and am looking into purchasing a copy of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. It is a first edition but does not have a dust jacket. Is it a good investment?
    Thanking you in advance for your reply.

  41. Teresa Elson Says:

    “Footprints in the Sand” what’s published in 1972, by Laurence Glen Elson, Sr of Fort Worth Texas.
    He was my late husband’s grandfather on his father’s side.
    This was an original work. The drawings in the book were mainly of his grandchildren, Larry and Terry, and memories of his beloved Oneta.
    I was pleasantly surprised to have it pop up on Amazon used for $10, but notice there is one, somewhere in India I believe, that is $50!
    Teresa Elson, Fort Worth, Texas

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