A Free online resource for Vintage Children's Book Collectors
with information on Authors and their most sought after editions.
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Vintage Children's Books
When collecting early children's books the condition is everything, some collectors are grateful to find a given work even if it is torn and the covers are falling off, or well loved as some dealers describe them!
As we move closer towards the modern era and the children's books of mass production, the importance of first editions becomes more important. If you are happy with reprints and reproductions you will will be able to build a large collection quite quickly and relatively cheaply. Unfortunately though it is unlikely that your collection will ever increase significantly in value. If you are collecting for enjoyment and as an investment, and children's book can give a significant financial return, you need to collect the first editions.
Not ever book collector understands the intricacy of “First”collecting. Even so that does not stop them appreciating the love and feel of their books. True book collectors regard their books as objects of art, of beauty and even romance. Many do not even regard themselves as book collectors but still have a shelf of treasured books or even a library full of them. Something about having a book on the shelf gives pleasure; owning books enriches our lives but for the serious collector of more modern children's books, the edition of a book is just as important.
Originally a first edition was any printing of a book that was made from the first plates used to produce the book. Over time the term narrowed slightly to just include those editions of the book that were bound from the first print run. For book dealers and collectors today, a “First” is generally accepted as being the first printing of the first edition.
Ask a book lover why this is so desirable, even more than a second printing of the first edition and you will probably get an answer concerning the closeness of the book to the author. The first edition is the “real” book that the writer intended, this is the one that the publisher gambled his investment on. Later printings are merely imitations of this “First” and lack that romantic and almost mystical connection with author. Technically later editions might also contain rewrites and other changes, or even revisionist editing. This is part of the rarity factor of collecting, there was a limited number of “First” edition copies. Over the years this number has dwindled, there will never be any more copies of the “First” edition. It is because of this that many “Firsts” appreciate in value over time. As books are subjected to mistreatment and accidents so they become scarcer to find and the laws of supply and demand come into play in the market place. So a bibliophile's library becomes an increasingly valuable collection of assets.
If we delve into the history of books, we find that with the spread of small presses from the big cities to the towns of the surrounding countryside literacy increased as books became more available. Before this time it was only the rich that could afford to collect books. As the need for quantity increased so the quality decreased. By this time the printing presses were using soft metals and woodblocks for the type and pictures. The First edition run was always the clearest. Later printings deteriorated as the typeface began to wear. The term First edition became a byword for a quality in the book trade, with collectors prizing these copies above all others. This tradition has persisted even though the old methods of printing have been superseded by the offset press and now computers with their print on demand capabilities.
So, there you have it, even though there might be hardly any difference in the quality of more modern editions, the market is driven by a desire by collectors to possess that magical first edition. First editions are the most desirable if you wish to collect books that will also give you a return as an investment.
As we have said, a first edition is now regarded as being a first edition and a first printing. This means that the book is from the first print run of the first edition. That its, the book may have more print runs, if for instance the publisher underestimated the demand. It will not usually become a second edition without some changes to the text or layout. As far as collecting is concerned none of these subsequent editions have the value of a first edition, first printing.
Now we must qualify this with the fact there might be TWO first editions of a book.
The “First” trade edition that is produced for the trade and general public is sometimes preceded by a”First” limited edition. This is usually a smaller numbered run, sometimes specially bound and signed by the author. It might carry extra illustrations. Unfortunately some publishers have tried to cash in on this in the past by just producing the same book as the trade edition in a different cover, without even stating the number of copies produced. So not all first limited editions are collectible.
Two other terms you might come across that are used by book dealers and collectors, are the “First” separate edition, which usually refers to a piece that has previously appeared in another book and is then published in its own right as a “stand alone volume”. Finally the term that causes the most confusion among new collectors, “First” edition thus, this refers to a book that is been republished with substantial changes, sometimes with a new publisher that infers it is so different from previous printings it is in fact almost a new book.
Next...How to recognise a first edition