Identifying First Editions

There are tons of reasons that people are drawn to secondhand bookstores – you never know, after all, what you might find among the shelves. At BookMarx, sometimes this means running across a first edition of a favorite story.

Identifying first editions isn’t always straightforward. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the words “first edition” printed on the inside cover page, but it can be vastly more complex. Here are a few ways to identify first editions the next time you’re in the store!


If the book was published within the last eighty years or so, you’ll find a number line printed within the first few pages. This is a string of numbers that can appear in any order. However, the lowest number present generally refers to the edition or printing of the book. Therefore, 3 9 7 8 7 4 4 6 1 would designate that the book in question is a first edition.


Another way of spotting a first edition is to note whether the inner page mentions multiple printings, even if it doesn’t necessarily denote your book as a first printing.

One last way to tell whether your book is a first edition is to note whether the dates that refer to copyright and printing are the same. This isn’t a foolproof one, as there are cases when these dates won’t be the same, but usually, if they are identical, your book is a first edition.

There’s plenty more that goes into identifying first editions, and the criteria change with older books. However, these rules are a general guideline for identifying if you’ve got your hands on a first edition.

Check out our collection of first editions at BookMarx.


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