¬†The bibliographical definition of an edition includes all copies of a book printed ‚Äúfrom substantially the same setting of type,‚ÄĚ including all minor typographical variants. Therefore a book printed today, by the same publisher, and from the same type as when it was first published, is still the first edition of that book to a bibliographer. However, book collectors generally use the term first edition to mean specifically the first print run of the first edition (aka "first edition, first impression") or ¬†the first printing of the first edition. Since World War II, books often include a number line ( See 'printers key' below) that indicates the print run.
¬†¬† A "first edition" per se is not a valuable collectible book. A popular work may be published and reprinted over time by many publishers, and in a variety of formats. There will be a first edition of each, which the publisher may cite on the copyright page, such as: "First mass market paperback edition". The first edition of a facsimile reprint is the reprint publisher's first edition, but not the first edition of the work itself.
¬†¬† Publishers often use the same typesetting for the hardcover and trade paperback versions of a book. These books have different covers, the title page and copyright page may differ, and the page margin sizes may differ (same type area, smaller trim), but to a bibliographer they are the same edition.
¬†¬† From time to time, readers may observe an error in the text (or, in the days of metal type, a piece of broken type), and report these to the publisher. The publisher typically keeps these reprint corrections in a file pending demand for a new print run of the edition, and before the new run is printed, they will be entered. The method of entry, obviously, depends on the method of typesetting. For letterpress metal, it typically meant resetting a few characters or a line or two. For Linotype, it meant casting a new line for any line with a change in it. With film, it involved cutting out a bit of the film and inserting a new bit. In an electronic file, it means entering the changes digitally.Such minor changes do not constitute a new edition, but introduce typographical variations within an edition, which are of interest to collectors.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Collectors' definition
A common complaint of book collectors is that the bibliographer's definition is used in a book-collecting context. For example, J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye remains in print in hardcover. The type is the same as the 1951 first printing, therefore all hardcover copies are, for the bibliographer, the first edition. Collectors would use the term for the first printing only.
First edition most often refers to the first commercial publication of a work between its own covers, even if it was first printed in a periodical: the complete text of Ernest Hemingway‚Äôs The Old Man and the Sea appeared in the September 1, 1952 issue of Life magazine, yet the generally accepted ‚Äúfirst‚ÄĚ edition is the hardcover book Scribner‚Äôs published on September 8, 1952.
The term "first trade edition," refers to the earliest edition of a book offered for sale to the general public in book stores. For example, Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle was published in two variant forms. A "Sustainers' Edition", published by the Jungle Publishing Company, was sent to subscribers who had advanced funds to Sinclair. The first trade edition was published by Doubleday, Page to be sold in bookstores.
A small minority of book collectors, particularly in the science fiction field, hold that the earliest bound copies of a book; (promotional advance copies: bound galleys, uncorrected proofs, advance reading copies sent by publishers to book reviewers and booksellers) are the true first edition.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Publishers' definition
Publishers use the term first edition for their own purposes, with little consistency. The "first edition" of a trade book may be the first edition by the current publisher, or the first edition with a particular set of illustrations or editorial commentary.
Non-fiction, academic and textbook publishers generally distinguish between revisions of the text, usually citing the dates of the first and latest editions on the copyright page. However, even this rule of thumb is sometimes bent. A new textbook with a different format, title, and authors may be called a "second edition" because a previous textbook is being counted as the first, despite being essentially a different book (sharing only the subject with the new one). This stretch of the definition is done for its marketing effect, because the new textbook may seem more authoritative to the potential buyer if it implies that there have been "previous editions".
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Revised edition
The terms revised edition and nth edition, revised are sometimes used by publishers when the book has been editorially revised or updated but for some reason the author or publisher does not want to call it the n+1th edition (where n = previous edition number). Conversely, they may decide to call a version that is really not very different a "new edition" (n+1th).¬† The qualitative difference, then, between a "revised edition" and a "new edition" is subjective. This is analogous to the way that software publishers may call one update "version 3.7" but call the next update "version 4" instead of "version 3.8". The difference is their subjective sense of whether the differences constitute something very different or merely slightly different. Sometimes the distinction has more to do with marketing than with reality (that is, encouraging buyers to think that something slightly different is very different).
The basic definition of a co-edition is when two publishing houses publish the same edition of a book (or equivalent versions of an edition, for example, translated versions), simultaneously or near-simultaneously, usually in different countries. Some examples:
¬†¬† An English-language edition, from the same plates, films, or files, may be published in different anglophone countries by different publishing companies. For example, Arms & Armour Press in the UK and Stackpole Books in the U.S. published co-editions of various monographs on military matters.
¬†¬† A French-language novel published in France this year by a French publisher could become an English-language translation published in the U.S. next year by a U.S. publisher.¬†The logic of co-editions has often been to use the existing distribution systems of the different publishers in each country rather than establishing new distribution systems.
THE PRINTER‚ÄôS KEY
The printer‚Äôs key, also known as the number line, is a convention that publishers started to use after World War II (1945) to indicate the print run of a book. It is found on the copyright page (the verso of the title page).
Usually it is a series of numbers or letters as in the following examples:
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
a b c d e f g h i j k
Sometimes rather than follow in series the numbers alternate from left to right for example:
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
The purpose of this arrangement is to keep the line of numbers roughly centered even as the numbers are removed with subsequent printings.
If "1" is seen then the book is the first printing of that edition. If it is the second printing then the "1" is removed. Which means that the lowest number seen will be "2".
Sometimes number lines will also include a date line for example:
2 3 4 5 6¬†¬†¬† 73 72 71 70
This indicates a second printing (aka second impression) that took place in 1970. More specifically, it is this particular imprint's second impression of the edition.
Sometimes, when the publisher outsources the printing to a contractor, there will also be a code for which printing company was contracted in this case:
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10¬†¬† APC¬†¬† 00 99 98 97 96
The hypothetical printer‚Äôs key above decodes as third print run, printed in 1996, contracted to Acme Printing Corp.