Update Announcments

by Craig Stark

8 June 2023

By Craig Stark

First edition identification is a major factor in bookselling. For whatever reason, collectors want first editions and will pay for the pleasure of owning them. Advanced collectors don't always depend on booksellers to do much if any of the legwork here, but many other buyers do. Most. After all, We booksellers are the ones who are supposed to know what we're doing - know how to present books accurately, for one - and identifying first editions is just part of the game that needs to be played. But more than a few things trouble me in this process, more so than ever. Take this, for example:

For Whom the Bell Tolls

You would think that a high-profile book like Hemingway's, one that's collected enthusiastically for itself and its author, would have, 83 years after its first appearance, a settled consensus on what a first edition is. The crazy thing about this is, almost everybody thinks they know how to identify one - and runs with, if it's got the Scribner's "A" on the copyright page, it's a first - and yet almost nobody knows that this issue point is not definitive more often than not. Check this out:

A total of 210,192 sets of sheets of For Whom the Bell Tolls were printed by September 17, 1940, over a month prior to its October 21 release, all identical in every detail. Of those 210,192 copies, however, Scribner's itself released about 73,000 - only 73,000. What happened to the rest of them? Well, the rest were issued later through other channels and were destined to confuse booksellers and collectors alike for decades to come. Read the full story here.

This brings me to today's feature article, the case of another high-profile book that persists in defying efforts of sellers to identify its edition state accurately, and indeed these misguided efforts seem, if anything, to breed even more errors over time, and you know what happens to untruths over time if you keep circulating them. Anyway, this book will be familiar to most of you: Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

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Finally, if you're interested in this type of in-depth case study of first editions, BookThink has produced others, all of which are available for purchase. Among them are Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, Irma Rombauer's Joy of Cooking and Grosset and Dunlap's many first editions often mistaken as reprints.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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