Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2004 Issue

Bill McBride Publications on Book Collecting: A Review

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Leaving this book aside, I decided to move on to the two more useful titles, First Editions, and Points of Issue. First Editions is a compilation, now in its sixth revised edition, of the ways in which English-language publishers identify the first editions of their books. McBride says up-front that what he is presenting is the "most likely" first edition, given publishers' propensities for straying from even their own "standard" format. Here McBride pays close attention to the important minutia of first edition identification, including designating whether or not a publisher differentiates among different printings, and listing first edition rules in the chronological order in which they were applied by each publisher.

One interesting little rule, which he illustrates, relates the statement of edition to the book's typography: "if the presence of a '1' or an 'A' would disrupt the typographic layout, then it was never present to begin with."

There is a short paragraph on switching dust jackets (we could use a whole book on bookselling fraud!!) which is discussed in more detail in Points. But the heart of this little book is the alphabetical list, by publisher, of what designates a first edition. McBride uses his own abbreviation system, which takes getting used to, although he handily puts a key to it inside the rear cover. But, that aside, this seems a very useful list, which can save anyone in the business a lot of heartache. Like all three books, First Editions is pocket-sized, and can easily be transported to a book sale or auction, and is a relative bargain.

The final book in the trio is Points of Issue, which lists production changes made in books during their first printings, which might not be listed elsewhere. Points is meant then, to be a follow-up reference, used after identifying a book from Firsts. It has a two-page list of authors without points (a real timesaver); the rest of the booklet is an alphabetical list by author and title. Here's an example:
Twain, Mark, Life on the Mississippi. B, 1883, 441: illus of Mark Twain in flames 443: The St. Louis Hotel
which gives the points on the binding, and on pp. 441 and 443. While this is pretty terse information (for example, it doesn't explain why the picture in flames was not in later editions), it is still enough to help the collector or seller properly identify a first edition.

The quickest way to buy one of these books is directly from the publisher at www.mcbridepublisher.com. You pay full freight, but shipping is done right away and discounts are available for multiple copies. Amazon takes a month or two to special order them. If you purchase second-hand check the McBride site first to make sure you're getting the latest edition. Forget Book Collecting; which is not well-written and lacks both content and focus. I would stick to the two compendia, A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions, and Points of Issue. These two titles are straightforward and genuinely useful to both book seller and collector.

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