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First-Edition Identification by Publisher

In the case of titles published before 1900, the key to first-edition identification is often the date on the title page. The vast majority of first editions published before 1900 had the year of publication on the title page (this is true for fiction and nonfiction titles). The presence of a date on the title page alone may identify books published prior to the mid-1800s as first editions. A matching date on the copyright page (or the back of the title page) often identifies a book published in the mid- to late 1800s as a first edition. After 1900, a number of publishers did not or currently do not put the date on the title page of their first editions.

In the early 1900s, many publishers began to identify the first edition on the copyright page. A variety of statements have been used and continue to be used to denote a first edition, such as "First Edition," "First Printing," "First Impression," "First published (Year, or Month and Year)," or simply "Published (Year, or Month and Year)." A few publishers have placed or place their logo, colophon, or a code (generally "1" or "A") on the copyright page of the first edition. Publishers who did not or do not use a first-edition statement, in most cases, note subsequent printings on the copyright page. For these publishers, the absence of a later printing statement is the key to identifying the first edition.

Books with "First and Second Printings before Publication" are second printings.

Over the past few decades, the majority of publishers have used a number row on the copyright page to identify a book's printing and occasionally the date of publication. Sometimes the number row is accompanied by a first-edition statement (often it is not). It is important to note that regardless of the order of the numbers in the row, the lowest number indicates the printing. The presence of the number "1" (with few exceptions) indicates a first printing. Some examples follow:

"1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10"
"10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1"and
"1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2"
all indicate a first edition

"76 77 78 79 80 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2"
indicates a second printing published in 1976

"3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 90 89 88 87 86"
indicates a third printing published in 1986

"1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 H/C 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2"
indicates a first printing, manufactured by "H" in a cloth binding
(used by Scribners)

Unfortunately, publishers sometimes fail to omit a first-edition statement from subsequent printings:


First Edition
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

and

First Printing
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 90 89 88 87 86 85 84

are both third printings.

The list below provides at-a-glance information for first-edition identification by publisher. For more detailed information on identifying first editions by a wide range of publishers, we recommend the 1995 edition of Edward N. Zempel and Linda A. Verkler's First Editions: A Guide to Identification (The Spoon River Press, 2319-C West Rohmann Avenue, Peoria, IL 61604). This superb reference provides publishers' verbatim statements, collected over nearly 70 years, on their practices for identifying first editions and later printings. In addition, we highly recommend the occasional series "A Collector's Guide to Publishers" featured in the monthly magazine for book collectors Firsts (4493 N. Camino Gacela, Tucson, AZ 85718. Telephone: 520-529-5847). This interesting and informative series provides a history, some notable writers and books published, and standard practices for first-edition identification (and, in some cases, notable exceptions), for the publishers profiled over 30 major publishers to date. We used our experience over the last 30 years, our stock, and both of the above-mentioned references to compile the list below.

A final, important note: It is always prudent to consult a bibliography for conclusive first-edition identification. We have a rather extensive list of author and other bibliographies on this site for information.

D. Appleton & Co. Used a numerical identification, in parentheses or brackets, at the foot of the last page: "(1)" = first printing, "(2)" = second printing, etc. (May have occasionally used a "first edition" statement instead of the numerical identification.)
D. Appleton-Century Co. Prior to the 1980s, used a numerical identification, in parentheses or brackets, at the foot of the last page: "(1)" = first printing, "(2)" = second printing, etc. (May have occasionally used a "first edition" statement instead of the numerical identification.) Since the 1980s, have used a number row to indicate year of publication and printing.
Arkham House / Arkham House Publishers, Inc. With the exception of collected works of H. P. Lovecraft, did not reprint titles and, as late as the 1980s, always included a colophon at the back of each book (reprints would be noted there). According to the publisher, began using a first-edition statement and noting later printings on the copyright page sometime in the late 1970s to early 1980s.
Atheneum. States first edition on copyright page. Began using a number row in the mid-1980s.
Atlantic Monthly Press. Prior to 1925, did not use a first edition statement (or put the publication date on the title page of first editions as was the case for many publishers in the late -1800s to early 1900s, and did not consistently list later printings on the copyright page. See Little, Brown for books published after 1925 (Little, Brown began publishing the Atlantic Monthly Books in 1925 and using their methods for first-edition identification).
Avalon Books. Does not normally reprint books, but according to the publisher, later printings would be noted.
Ballantine Books. In general, hardcover editions stated "First edition (Month, Year)" or "First printing (Month, Year)"; paperback originals carried no statement on the copyright page for first printings; later printings were noted.
Robert A. Ballou. No consistent practice.
A. S. Barnes. According to the publisher, have noted later printings on the copyright page since at least 1976. Prior to this, designation of later printings was erratic. (Does not use a first-edition statement.)
Ernest Benn. States "First published in (Year)" on the copyright page of first editions; or sometimes omits the "first published" statement and puts the year of publication on the title page with their imprint to designate a first edition. In either case, subsequent printings are noted.
William Blackwood. No statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted. (According to the publisher, in the early 1900s may have designated some first editions "second edition" as a marketing tool.)
Blakison. Reprint publisher.
Bobbs-Merrill. Prior to the 1920s, sometimes used a bow-and-arrow design on the copyright page of their first editions; after 1920, generally stated "First edition" or "First printing" (but not consistent in either practice).
Bodley Head. States "First published 19.." or "First published in Great Britain 19.."; subsequent printings would presumably be noted.
Albert & Charles Boni. No statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted.
Boni & Liveright. May have occasionally stated first edition, but in general, the absence of a later printing statement indicates a first edition.
Book Supply Co. Uses a first edition statement; subsequent printings presumably noted.
Brentano's. Prior to 1928, no statement on first editions; subsequent printings noted. In 1928, began stating "First printed 19.." on copyright page of first editions and continued noting subsequent printings.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Published only the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs. No statement on books published prior to 1933; began using a first edition statement sometime in 1933. (Although both were published in 1933, there is no statement on the first edition of Apache Devil but Tarzan and the City of Gold states first edition on the copyright page.)
A. L. Burt. Primarily a reprint publisher, but published the first U.S. edition of P. G. Wodehouse's Man with Two Left Feet (states first edition on the copyright page). For those authors whose first editions have become very high-priced, A. L. Burt reprints in dust jackets closely matching the first editions are sometimes desirable.
Calder & Boyars. States "First published (Year)" or "First published in Great Britain (Year)"; subsequent printings would presumably be noted.
Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith. States "First published (Year)" or "First published in America (Year)"; subsequent printings would presumably be noted.
Jonathan Cape. States "First published (Year)" or "First published in Great Britain (Year)" on copyright page of first editions; subsequent printings noted.
Cassell & Co. Prior to the early 1920s, put the year of publication on the title page of the first edition and left the copyright page blank; subsequent printings would presumably be noted or carry a later date on the copyright page. In the early 1920s, began stating "First published (Year)" or "First published in Great Britain (Year)" on copyright page of first editions; subsequent printings noted.
Caxton Printers. No statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted.
Century Co. No consistent practice.
Chapman & Hall. Either stated "First published (Year)" or made no statement on first editions; subsequent printings noted.
Chatto & Windus. In general, no statement on first editions, although sometimes states "Published by Chatto & Windus" (without a date); subsequent printings noted. May have added a number row in the early 1990s.
Clarke, Irwin. No statement on the first edition; subsequent printings presumably noted.
Collier. In our limited experience with this publisher, no statement on the first edition; subsequent printings presumably noted.
Collins (U.K.). No statement on the first edition; presumably subsequent printings would be noted (with either a statement, or a date subsequent to the copyright date).
Contact Editions. Limited editions included a colophon page. Did not generally use a first edition statement on trade editions, but subsequent printings would presumably be noted.
Pascal Covici. May have occasionally stated first edition, but in general the absence of a later printing statement indicates a first edition.
Covici-Friede. No statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted.
Covici McGee. No statement on the first edition, but presumably later printings would be noted.
Coward-McCann. Not consistent in their practices for identifying first editions, but in general subsequent printings noted. (Until mid-1930s, usually placed a colophon with a torch design on the copyright page of first editions and removed the torch portion of the colophon on subsequent printings. After 1935, stated "first American edition" on the copyright page of books first published outside the United States, but made no statement on books first published in the United States.)
Coward, McCann and Geoghehan. No statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted.
Creative Age. No statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted.
Crime Club (U.K.). See Collins.
Crime Club (U.S.). See Doubleday, Doran & Co.
Thomas Y. Crowell. No statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted. May have used a number row to indicate printings as early as the 1940s.
Crown Publishers. Prior to the 1970s, no statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted. Began using a number row and first-edition statement in the 1970s.
John Day Co. / John Day in association with Reynal and Hitchcock [1935-38] / John Day & Co.
First few years (beginning in 1928) may have stated "First Published (Month, Year)" on first editions and noted later printings. In the 1930s, switched to designating only later printings (no statement on first editions). In the 1970s, began using a number row. (In the late 1970s, may have added a first-edition statement to the number row.)
Delacorte Press / Seymour Lawrence. Presently uses a number row; previously stated "first printing" or "first American printing." Devin-Adair. Although may have consistently stated "First Edition" in recent years, in general first editions can be identified by the absence of a later printing statement.
Dial Press. Although occasionally stated "First Printing" prior to the mid-1960s, did not list subsequent printings. In general, first editions published prior to the mid-1960s can be identified by the presence of the same date on the title page and the copyright page (also true for books published before the mid-1930s with the imprint "Lincoln MacVeagh / The Dial Press"). In the late 1960s, began stating "First Printing (Year)" on first editions and noting subsequent printings. Currently uses a number row.
Dillingham. In our limited experience with this publisher, no statement on the first edition; subsequent printings would presumably be noted.
Dodd, Mead. Prior to 1976, no statement on first editions, and often subsequent printings were not noted. In late 1976, added a number row to most titles (occasionally deleting the row from subsequent printings and replacing it with a later printing statement). Note: According to Firsts magazine, in the 1970s first-printing dustwrappers of some mystery titles were issued without a price on the flap, making them appear to be book-club editions.
George H. Doran. Generally placed a colophon with the initials "GHD" on the copyright page of the first edition (but not consistently until the early 1920s). Occasionally, stated "first printing." Merged with Doubleday in 1927.
Doubleday & Co. States "first edition" on copyright page; no statement on later printings.
Doubleday, Doran & Co. States "first edition" on copyright page; no statement on later printings.
Doubleday & McClure Co. In general, the date on the title page should match last date on the copyright page of a first edition.
Doubleday, Page & Co. Before the early 1920s, no statement on the first edition. In early 1920s, began stating "first edition," but may not have used any statement on books first published outside the U.S. (no statement on later printings).
Duell, Sloan and Pearce. In general, either stated "First Edition" or placed a Roman numeral "I" on the copyright page of first editions. Later printings were usually denoted similarly - e.g., "Second Printing" or "II."
E. P. Dutton. Prior to 1929, the date on the title page should match the last date on the copyright page of a first edition. In the 1930s, began stating "First edition" or "First printing." In recent years, added a number row (they adjust the numbers for subsequent printings, but often fail to remove the first edition statement).
Editions Poetry. States "First published...(Year)" on the copyright page of the first edition; subsequent printings would presumably be noted.
Egoist Press. Limited editions included a colophon page. Did not generally use a first-edition statement on trade editions, but subsequent printings would presumably be noted.
Eyre & Spottiswoode. Either printed the year of publication under their name at the bottom of the title page of first editions, or stated "This book, first published 19.., is printed..." on the copyright page; subsequent printings were noted.
Faber & Faber, Ltd. States "First Published (Month, Year)" on copyright page and notes subsequent printings. Prior to 1968, the year of publication was in Roman numerals; beginning in 1968, switched to Arabic numerals. Since World War II, the month has generally been omitted from the first-edition statement. Recently added a number row to most publications.
Faber & Gwyer, Ltd. Stated "First published by Faber & Gwyer in (Month, Year)" on copyright page of first editions; noted subsequent printings.
Fantasy Press. States "First Edition" on copyright page; may have occasionally left "First Edition" statement of original publisher on offset reprints with their imprint.
Farrar, Rinehart. Publisher's logo appears on the copyright page of first editions; no statement on subsequent printings. Very rarely stated "first edition" (in place of the logo).
Farrar, Straus. Publisher's stylized initials (FS) appear on the copyright page of first editions; no statement on subsequent printings.
Farrar, Straus & Cudahy. States either "First published (Year)" or "First printing" on the copyright page of first editions.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux. States either "First published (Year)," "First printing (Year)," or "First edition (Year)" on the copyright page of first editions.
Farrar, Straus & Young. Used either a first-edition statement or a colophon on the copyright page of first editions.
Fawcett. Uses a number row to designate printings.
Four Seas. In general, no statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted.
Funk & Wagnalls. Used a Roman numeral "1" (I) on the copyright page of first editions. According to the publisher's statements, beginning in 1929, stated "First published (Month, Year)" on first editions and noted subsequent printings (presumably no statement on first editions published prior to 1929). But the first edition of John Cheever's The Enormous Radio, published in 1953, has the Roman numeral "1" and does not have a first edition statement.
Lee Furman. Made no attempt to identify first editions or subsequent printings.
Gambit, Inc. States "First printing" on the copyright page of first editions; subsequent printings are noted.
States "First printing" on the copyright page of first editions; presumably subsequent printings are noted.
Gnome Press. States "First Edition" on copyright page; may have occasionally left "First Edition" statement of original publisher on offset reprints with their imprint.
Victor Gollancz, Ltd. Prior to 1984, no statement on first editions, but subsequent printings noted [e.g., "First published (Year) | Second impression (Year)"]. In 1984, began stating "First published in..." on the copyright page of first editions.

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