Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quick Collecting Tip

Nowadays it's fairly easy to identify most first edition books, as the majority of publishers utilize a "printers key" on the copyright page.

The printers key is a sequence of numbers that indicate the current printing of that particular volume. Some publishers use ascending numbers (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10), some use a run of descending numbers (10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1) and others use a line of alternating numbers (2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1.) In all these cases, the presence of the number "1" indicates a book is a first printing. When the book moves into a second printing, the "1" is lopped off and "2" will be the lowest number in the line.

Here are some examples:

This ascending sequence of numbers

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

indicates the book is a third printing, as that's the lowest number present.


This descending sequence

10 9 8 7 6 5 4

tells us the book is in its fourth printing.


And in this alternating sequence:

6 8 10 9 7 5

the absence of the numbers 1 through 4 shows us this is a fifth printing.


These numbering systems are fairly standard, but by no means universal. In the past, each publisher often had its own distinctive method of indicating printings. I will showcase some of those in later blog entries.


P. J. Grath said...

I was pleased to find out about your blog today on "Shelf Awareness." I have linked it to mine and will visit you regularly.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Thanks for your kind words. I don't know how to link yet, but will be happy to link your site to mine when I figure out how to do it. I'm in Michigan too!