To a book collector the phrase 'First Edition' refers to a book that was released during the first printing of the 'First Edition', commonly referred to as a first/first. A first/first is what collectors are seeking. A popular book may have had dozens of additional printings, resulting in its first printing to be the most valuable.
For many years, books simply stated 'First Edition' on their Copyright Page. On older books printed before the advent of ISBN's (about 1968), check whether the book was printed the same year that the book was first published. For example, since The Old Man and the Sea was first published in 1952, a copy from 1965 cannot be the first edition. Newer books printed after 1968 may also have a number sequence printed on the Copyright Page that determines its printing history. A number sequence that has a "1" at the end such as "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1" indicates a first printing. This is typically referred to as, a full number line. But if the lowest number showing in this number line is a 2, then the book is a second printing, and not as valuable to a collector. Keep in mind that the number line method was not widely used until the 1980's.
Before anything else, you should check to see if the book as 'First Edition, First Printing' written inside the cover. If so, you have pretty irrefutable evidence of a first/first. If not, take a look at the dates in the book. If the date of the first publication does not match that of your edition, it is not a first printing.
There are some exceptions to these guidelines, and other methods publishers may use to indicate a first edition. This guide offers the most commonly used methods publishers use to indicate a First Edition, First Printing.
Thank you for taking the time to read this guide.
Wexford House Auctions