The Essentials of Book Collecting

An Essay in Parts

by Robert F. Lucas

Part   1 - Introduction
Part   2 - Importance of priority relative to book collecting
Part   3 - Jargon - Reading a catalog description
Part   4 - Jargon - Condition and its importance
Part   5 - Bibliographies and other useful references
Part   6 - Rarity & scarcity and supply & demand
Part   7 - Ephemera - what is it and is it part of book collecting
Part   8 - Understanding book values & pricing
Part   9 - Some physical aspects of the book - bindings & paper
Part 10 - Book illustrations - variety of & illustrators
Part 11 - Investing in Antiquarian Books

Part 2 - Importance of priority relative to book collecting

Book collectors have a high regard for priority; they search for first EDITIONS, first PRINTINGS, first ISSUES, first STATES, first BOOKS (of specific authors), first APPEARANCES, and earliest IMPRINTS! You could go against the grain and collect second editions or second printings, but if you ever decided to sell or otherwise dispose of your collection you would likely find that your collection would attract less interest than a similar collection of books in first editions.

Those who collect literature rather than non-fiction often place the greatest emphasis on priority. They search not only for first editions, but usually want first printings of the edition and the earliest issues or states when priority has been established.

Many collectors of non-fiction often will settle for a later edition or a later printing; most do prefer first editions, but the emphasis tends to be more on the content of the book rather than sequence in printing history. In fact, the "best" edition of some non-fiction classics is the revised or updated editions which sometimes is a third edition or even later and contains additional information of value to the collector.

The definitions of "first edition", "state", and "issue" are complex and the terms are interpreted in many ways — we will attempt to provide relatively simple definitions, to which there will be exceptions — our object is to provide you with a general concept of each term:

Robert Frost's first book is entitled "A Boy's Will" and the first edition was published in London in 1913 and occurs with four different binding variants. The first American edition of "A Boy's Will" was published in New York in 1915 and occurs in two states (some refer to as issues) with the first state having an error in the last line of page 14 reading "Aind" instead of "And".

Try searching for this title in one of the major antiquarian book databases and read the descriptions to find which copies are first editions, first printings, first states or issues, etc.


Part   1 - Introduction
Part   2 - Importance of priority relative to book collecting
Part   3 - Jargon - Reading a catalog description
Part   4 - Jargon - Condition and its importance
Part   5 - Bibliographies and other useful references
Part   6 - Rarity & scarcity and supply & demand
Part   7 - Ephemera - what is it and is it part of book collecting
Part   8 - Understanding book values & pricing
Part   9 - Some physical aspects of the book - bindings & paper
Part 10 - Book illustrations - variety of & illustrators
Part 11 - Investing in Antiquarian Books

Books and Book Collecting