Identifying First Editions: The Fascination of Points of Issue
It might be tempting, therefore to take the information in Smith entirely at face value, recognizing that properly identifying first editions of Dickens in cloth is a task perhaps best left to dedicated collectors and high-end book dealers. However, even Smith can make an omission. Quite by accident we discovered a copy of Dickens's Our Mutual Friend (London: Chapman & Hall, 1865) in an original brown cloth binding completely overlooked by Smith. The collation, contents, type style, plates, and every single one of the many internal flaws matches Smith's description of a first. Despite some interesting conversations with an individual who self-designated herself as the Dickens book police, we maintain and stand behind this first edition.
Every scholar knows that any scientific body of knowledge is a constantly expanding and self-improving field, and the works of scholars who determine points of issue are no different. The bottom line is to take the time to do your homework, check for all known points carefully, and consult where necessary. Be prepared to change your mind. Then publish your results and stand behind your determination of a first edition.