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Home > The Writings of Zane Grey > Western Novels > Variants of the First Editions > A Discussion on First Editions


A Discussion on First Editions
with excerpts from Lloyd Rogers' Zane Grey First Editions


The following information was provided by Paul Schildgen of Yesterday's Memories, one of the Zane Grey's West Society's book dealers. This discussion on first editions was triggered by questions relative to observed variants from the commonly listed first editions.


When you asked for my thoughts on the issue of the Sunset Pass First Edition, I didn't see the difficulty. But perhaps the first thing to do is determine just what is a "First Edition"?

I researched information from several authoritative books on books. These included AB Bookmans, who have been in the book business for more than 100 years, John Carter's ABC of Book Collecting (6th Edition), Zempel and Verkler's First Editions: A guide to First Editions (3d Edition), Bill McBride's A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions (4th revised edition). Kovels Know Your Antiques, which has been mentioned by some clients, is too general to be considered. The exact bibliographical references are listed at the end.

Zempel and Verkler define First Edition best. "To most librarians, bibliographers, and book collectors, however, it means 'the first printing or first impression of a first edition.' Here a printing or impression is considered to be all copies of a book printed in one continuous operation from a single make-ready."

Harper and Brothers statement of First Editions is: "It is our custom to print on the copyright page, of all first editions the two words 'First Edition'. These are removed from the plate on all subsequent printings.

"In addition to those you will find on our copyright pages two key letters beneath the copyright. These give the month and year when the edition was printed."

G.M. Farley concurs with this consideration as mentioned in his Annotated Zane Grey, Explanatory Notes on page 18,

"Often Zane Grey's books were issued prior to the actual date of publication...In some instances the code letters will show a pre-publication date of several months. Any of these would be considered a first edition."

He shows a publication date of January 2, 1931.

Lloyd Rogers even mentions in his book Zane Grey First Editions, ".first edition to the collector means first printing and it is this sense that the term is used here." He goes on to mention that a printer may forget to remove the First Edition statement in later printings in the press of business. And that some of the books he examined here (in his book) may actually be products of an unidentifiable second or third printing (page 3).

In his notes to Sunset Pass (pages 84-85) he comments that " 'K-F' translates as 'October, 1932'. (The compiler has no explanation for the code letters of Arizona Ames ('I-F') predating the code letters of Sunset Pass other than the possibility that Arizona Ames was originally scheduled for publication before Sunset Pass."

What he seems to neglect is the possibility that Sunset Pass was published before Arizona Ames, thus the coding was correct.

The A-F coded Sunset Pass removes this seeming conflict. Therefore I believe that the A-F edition is the First Printing of the First Edition, and K-F and any inclusive code letters are later printings of the first edition. Incidentally, I have seen copies of Sunset Pass with code letters L-K, and no "First Edition" statement.


Reference Sources


AB Bookman's Yearbook 2000, Bookman's Weekly, Clifton NJ, 07015 C-1999.

Unfortunately Bookman's has been caught up in the many recent changes in the bookseller's world and is in the process of closing its doors.
ABC of Book Collecting 6th Edition, 1992. John Carter, With corrections and additions by Nicolas Barker, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, Delaware.
Defines edition as "all copies of a book printed at any time or times from one setting-up of type without substantial change". Also "first edition very, very roughly speaking, means the first appearance of the work in question".
First Editions: A guide to First Editions, 3rd Edition, 1995, Zempel, Edward N. and Verkler, Linda A. Spoon River Press, Peoria, IL 61604
This work is regarded as the definitive authority on first editions and the various methods publishers have used to identify the same. It was compiled from six previous books, now all out of print combined into this, the third edition of their authored work, inclusive of data from the previous editions. It is a compilation of the actual publisher's statements regarding their methods of designating a "first edition".

Zempel and Verkler comment " one must be able to identify a first edition correctly, not always an easy task, since publishers do not use a uniform method for designating a first edition."

"To most librarians, bibliographers, and book collectors, however, it means 'the first printing or first impression of a first edition.' Here a printing or impression is considered to be all copies of a book printed in one continuous operation from a single make-ready."

Harper & Brothers statement for 1928: "It is our custom to print on the copyright page, of all first editions the two words 'First Edition'. These are removed from the plate on all subsequent printings.

"In addition to those you will find on our copyright pages two key letters beneath the copyright. These give the month and year when the edition was printed."
A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions, 4th revised edition, 1989. Bill McBride, General Printing, Louisville, KY.
Bill McBride differentiates between an edition, a printing, and an impression:

An "edition is the number of books printed before a certain percentage of the contents is revised. A printing is the number of copies produced when the printing plates or type are on the press. An "impression" is the same thing as a "printing".

He goes on to state what may be the crux of the issue. "To the book collector, a "first edition" means a copy from the first printing of the first edition. To the publisher, a "first edition" may mean a copy of a title before it was substantially revised." In other words a publisher's "first edition" made be run over a considerable length of time. But to the book collector the first edition is the first printing of that possibly extensive printing run.





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Historical images of Zane Grey used with permission of Dr. Loren Grey and Zane Grey, Inc.
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Historical photos of Zane Grey used with permission of Dr. Loren Grey and Zane Grey Inc.