First edition books
AbeBooks offers a huge selection of first edition books for sale, including some of the most famous titles ever published. We can help you find a first edition of your favorite book for your collection. From modern bestsellers to obscure novels, out-of-print books, classic literature, prize-winning books, biographies and children’s books - you'll find first editions galore on AbeBooks.
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What is a first edition book?
In publishing, a first edition book is described as all the copies that were printed from the same setting of type as when first published. The book becomes a second edition if significant changes are made to the copy.
In collecting, a first edition book is the work's first commercially available appearance in book form, printed with the original setting of type. The first time a publisher releases a new book, all copies of that book printed without major changes can be considered the first edition. Here's a selection of first editions from the 1970s.
Why are first editions special?
Collectors want to own the first appearance in print of a notable work - our most expensive sales lists are dominated by first editions. For some titles, this is a landmark moment in literature such as the publication of Ulysses, or the release of On the Origin of Species. Collectors want to own a piece of literary history.
How can I find first editions?
AbeBooks makes it easy to find first edition books. You can use the search box on this page, or our Advanced Search. However, our search results include a first edition refinement so you can narrow down your results to just first editions from any search.
It's useful to know the year of publication and publisher for the book you want. However, AbeBooks allows you to change the sort of order of your search results and if you select 'highest price' then you will quickly see the most valuable and collectible books, and that usually includes the most desirable first editions.
Why are there so many first edition books
Each time a publisher releases a new instance of the same title (with a new cover design perhaps), or when a book is released in a new format (such as paperback), these can also be first edition books. Booksellers will describe these later first editions as a 'first edition thus' or just 'first thus'.
You can also have regional first editions. You will see many US and UK first editions on AbeBooks as a successful book is often released in both countries. A true classic can be published dozens of times in numerous countries - with many later first editions.
Most serious collectors want the 'true first edition' - the 'first edition, first printing' - and sometimes detective work is required to identify which edition that is. There are many guides to identifying first edition books, including AbeBooks' own.
'First edition' doesn't always correlate with value or collectibility. Many other factors play a role, including condition, the presence of the author's signature, scarcity, provenance, and cultural or historic significance. First editions can often be affordable. We recommend that you do your own research and decide for yourself which edition means the most to you.