From the Editor

by Craig Stark

#156, 9 April 2011

Call me obsessive, but as I develop as a bookseller, I look more and more to original source material for answers to bookselling questions. Take first edition identification. How much can we rely on present-day guides? Some have established reputations, some not, and many of them crib heavily from previous guides - so if there are errors, they are perpetuated. And not always at the buyer's expense. I think many booksellers are relatively comfortable using Zempel and Verkler's First Editions: A Guide to Identification because it relies exclusively on publisher's statements regarding how first editions are designated. But are publisher's statements always reliable? Of course not. Most publishers are more concerned about selling books than they are assisting collectors. But perhaps we can assume that they are more likely to be accurate than not, and in cases where they aren't, that some sort of corrective record exists, online or elsewhere. And besides, Z&V itself states in its Introduction that the guide is in part compiled from H.S. Boutell's First Editions of Today and How to Tell Them - that is, Z&V is two steps removed from the original source.

If you're an experienced bookseller, by now you surely know that the presence of the Scriber's "A" on the title page verso is usually (though not always) an indication of first edition status. But do you know when Scribner's first started using this designation? Here's the publisher's statement in Z&V: "On books published since 1930 first editions are indicated with a capital 'A' on the copyright page." If this statement is definitive, then there are at least a few booksellers out there who are cheating themselves. In a few minutes perusing bookseller listings of ca. 1929 Scribner's titles, I saw a half dozen descriptions which note the presence of the Scribner seal on the copyright page but, alas, no "A," and then make the assumption that their copy isn't a first. In the case of Hemingway's ca. 1929 A Farewell to Arms, this could be a costly assumption because the first edition has absolutely no "A" on the copyright page. Indeed, I found two listings of A Farewell to Arms that were apparently first editions but were represented as later printings. A little knowledge, they asy, can be dangerous.

But here's something intriguing - an original source:

This is a catalog of primarily fiction titles published by Scribner's between 1846 and 1936. In the Note which prefaces the catalog there is this statement: "It may be added that since 1929 the first edition of any Scribner book has been distinguished the presence of a capital A under the copyright notice on the verso of the title-page. This is removed from second and subsequent printings" Oh, really? So which is it? 1929 or 1930? The original source is telling us it's 1929. Well, we know that A Farewell to Arms, published in September 1929, does not have the "A," so if 1929 is correct, there must be at least a few titles that do have it, perhaps published in October, November or December 1929?

You tell me. Do you know of any ca. 1929 titles with the "A." If so, write me at and we'll publish the answer one way or the other.

Today we have April's Top 10 on eBay. Here's is Pamela Palmer's summary: Special limited editions have long appeared in all three top 10 categories. In April 2011, though, the Antiquarian and Collectible list contained an unusual three signed limited editions. From the Taschen Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made to Lady Chatterley's Lover issued in a privately printed signed edition prior to the first trade publication to Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own the titles range from 1928 to 2009.

Finally, Jaymes Sorbel is celebrating the 10th anniversary of ChrisLands, long an industry leader in facilitating website development for booksellers, with a $100 discount on their set up fee (normally $199). It's a great time to make the move to setting up your own website and avoiding those punitive fees. Please note that this offer expires June 30, 2011. Click the banner on BookThink's home page for more information. As always, BookThink's many resources are available .


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