No matter how many friends you have in the business or scouts you have roaming estate sales for you, you can always count on Bill McBride and his amazingly in-depth reference materials to always be there in a pinch. The Pocket Guide to Identification of First Editions is an invaluable resource in determining true First Editions for collecting, selling, buying, and Special Collection repository appraisal.
Even if it says First Edition, it’s not always a true First. Inside McBride lists almost every publisher ever known (AND their subsidiaries) along with a key code to determine how each denotes their actual Firsts. Let’s take his entry for the publisher Pantheon as a great example:
You can see the publisher’s name clearly labeled in bold, followed by a bunch of letters and numbers that looks like he simply jammed his fingers on the keyboard. This is the key to McBride’s genius. Let’s rewrite the entry in a manner that makes a little more sense:
Pantheon: to (c.) circa 1964: (NAP) no additional printings are indicated in the book; 1965-71: (FP) the words First Printing must appear on back of title page with no additional printings indicated; (1971 up) years 1971 to current: (FE) words First Edition must appear on back of title page with no additional printings indicated, or (FE) with a sequence of numbers (12345… or 10987654321 or 135798642, etc.) must appear with the 1 present.
And even simpler:
Pantheon: If the book is dated before 1964, the book is a First if there are no other printings listed. Between 1965-71, the publisher changed their rules and you MUST see the words First Printing or it’s not a true First. From 1971 until now, you MUST see the words First Edition, or the sequence of numbers as mentioned.
Lots of work for one little book, no? Well, it’ll all pay off when you realize you have a valuable first edition that no one can counter-argue, and that it leads you to dance all the way to the bank. Or in the case of a Library or Archival Special Collection, you have one more piece of fine literature that might just put you in contention for some grant money!