Dealer catalogs often contain confusing words or phrases to describe the books that are offered for sale. The terms may be understandable to professionals and bibliophiles, but new collectors and casual owners can sometimes find the jargon puzzling.
Some of the most perplexing descriptions include the various editions and copies of a book. Even antiquarian book scholars and dealers do not always agree on the specifics of these terms, so the following is offered as a very simplified guide:
Edition – All the copies of a book printed in the same run from one typeset (electronic or otherwise). Sometimes later printings of the book made from the exact, unchanged typeset are numbered as different Impressions or Printings of the same edition.
Illustration opposite page 34 for the first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900. The two dark blue dots on the moon are one indication of the first state of this book. The dots were removed in the second state.
First Edition – The first printing of a book from the original typeset. Some works were first printed in a magazine or newspaper and then later issued in book form. Thus, a first printing or first publication of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” would be the copy that appeared in The New York Evening Mirror in January, 1845. The first book edition was published later that same year.
First Edition Thus – This is not a first edition, but is the first appearance of an edition in a new format, with a new illustrator or by a new publisher.
State – If minor corrections, changes or typeset repairs are made during a single print run, the variations are referred to as different states of the same edition. For this term to be exact, all the copies from that run must be released for sale at the same time.
First edition dust jackets for Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949, in both the red and the green variants.
Variant – This usually refers to different versions of the binding or dust jacket within the same edition. It is a variation that is consciously made by the publisher with no regard to priority.
Book Club Edition – An edition published by a book club, often from the original publisher’s typeset.
Association Copy – This is a book that falls into one of the following categories:
a. It once belonged to the author or illustrator and perhaps contains their personal library bookplate or critical notes and edits in their hand.
b. It once belonged to someone associated with the author or illustrator. This might be a relative or a famous friend and the book often contains an inscription to that person.
c. It once belonged to someone who is mentioned in the book or is associated with the contents of the book.
Limited Edition of the complete writings of Henry David Thoreau in 20 volumes, 1906. Green crushed Levant morocco over marbled boards. With profuse illustrations, a foldout map of Concord and a foldout manuscript of “Life without Principle.” Limited to 600 sets.
Limited Edition – A single edition limited to a specific number of copies, usually in a very specialized format. Sometimes signed and numbered by the author or illustrator.
Advance Copy (or Advance Reading Copy) – Publishers often send a few copies of a new book to reviewers, publicists and wholesalers prior to its publication. These copies are usually proofs issued in paperback format (with plain wrappers) and could still contain manuscript errors. Advance copies have been in effect for about 100 years. They are early versions and scarce, but they are not first editions.
Ex-Library – A term used for a book that has been in a library, with the associated inferior binding, printed labels and painted shelf numbers. Not to be confused with the term Ex-Libris, which only means that the book contains an owner’s bookplate.
Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in antique and collectible books.
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