Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2006 Issue

A Review of Bill McBride's E-First Edition Guide

Useful software for identifying first editions from publisher Bill McBride.


by Renée Magriel Roberts

Having reviewed Bill McBride's latest edition of A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions in book form in AE Monthly, I was pleased to see a new version (taken from the Sixth Revised Edition) of the Guide in software format. Since I am glued to my computer whenever I'm doing data entry, it seemed useful to have the Guide in its own window, ready to answer questions about whether or not a particular book is indeed a first edition.

Like its paper cousin, the E-First Edition Guide is organized around an alphabetical listing of publishers. As software, this publisher list is searchable by typing all or part of its name. The E-Guide uses the same abbreviation scheme as the printed book, which does take getting used to; however, by mousing over the definition, the full explanation is revealed. Since each publisher not only comes up with its own scheme for defining its first editions (and sometimes no scheme at all), and is not consistent within its own publishing history, a guide such as this is invaluable for figuring out when a book is actually a first.

The search function will also pick out a string of letters within a name. Searching for "Wood," for example, will display a list of publishers starting with that word, such as Wood & Holbrook, but then will also find the same string within a word, such as "Arrowood Press". It's important to note that this publisher list (in both the book and the E-Guide) is not comprehensive. So if you are in doubt you may have to do further research by looking at cues within the book itself, such as the typography of the number or letter line of printings, dated introductions and prefaces correlated with publication dates, advertisements of other works which can place the book after others are published, peculiarities of the dustjacket (understanding that a jacket and book may be "married" from different sources), reliable bibliographies, and of course the collected wisdom of fellow dealers on other antiquarian sites.

First issue points, the subject of McBride's other work (still in print form), can also pinpoint a first edition in major nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors. To McBride's credit, he actively solicits corrections and additions to the work, which is why it is now in its sixth edition, both in print form and in the E-Guide. We would all benefit from active collaboration in this work, so as you explore some of the smaller publishers who have not made it into the E-Guide I encourage you to contact McBride with information to update his work. An online suggestion form on McBride's site would benefit everybody -- such as the one Amazon is now using to create Marketplace listings, as well as to amend them.

Rare Book Monthly

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