First Edition Points

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When buying American books, Canadians pay more

When it comes to buying American books, the Canadians are getting ripped off. For proof you simply need to take a look at the U.S. versus Canadian price on a first edition dust jacket for any given year, and compare it against the exchange rate during that time period. To see what I mean, take a look at the price of three books published in 2005 when the value of the Canadian Dollar was between 80 to 85 U.S. cents.

Three books published in 2005

The cost in Canadian money is consistently more than the exchange rate alone can explain. Most are several dollars more than they should be. In the most extreme case, if you purchased a copy of William Vollmann’s Europe Central in 2005, you would have paid $58.00 Canadian versus $39.95 U.S. That’s about $12 more that the exchange rate.

Now that the Canadian and U.S. dollar are on parity, these differences will become much more obvious, and you might see publishers change the price more often to compensate. First edition collectors should keep a careful eye on the Canadian price that is printed on the dust jacket. I think we will see more situations where the Canadian price on the first printing might be different on subsequent printings, and that will make first edition jackets more scarce and potentially more valuable. We might see a repeat of The Joy Luck Club first edition where the Canadian price started out as $26.50 on the first issue jacket, and was changed to $24.95 on later printings.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Deep End of the Ocean

The first edition of Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean went into dozens of printings. But the first printing is unique, and could prove to be collectible over the next several years. The first printing dust jacket is translucent and the boards are aquamarine with a wave pattern. With the first printing, the combination of the jacket on top of the book gives the cover its overall look. Later printings have traditional paper dust jackets, so the boards (which are very plain) do not show through. I'm sure it was less expensive to produce them this way. Here are some photos of the first edition:

The first edition of The Deep End of the Ocean

What does this all mean? We have seen time and time again that books where both the book and the dust jacket are unique in the first printing tend to rise in price more than books where the dust jacket is the same across the first and early printings. The reason? Books tend to outlive their dust jackets, and with books such as The Deep End of the Ocean, you will not be able to successfully marry a later printing jacket with a first printing book.

First Edition identification photo of The Deep End of the Ocean

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

From the first edition dustjacket:

"It is a strange story, in which many extraordinary things happen, some of them shocking and brutal, some of them pitiful and touching - yet always with elements of comedy and irony and burlesque that appear in unexpected places. It is a book that has a great deal to say and which is destined to have a great deal said about it."

To see photos of the first edition of Invisible Man click here.

Invisible Man won the National Book Award. To see photos of other National Book Award first edition books click here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Valley of the Dolls

Jacqueline Susann was born on August 20, 1918 in Philadelphia. Her mother was a school teacher and her father, Robert Susann, was a portrait painter. At age 16 she left Philadelphia for New York (against objections by her family) where she appeared in many Broadway plays. She later turned to television acting where she "stabbed, strangled, and shot on every major dramatic show on the airwaves."

Valley of the Dolls was Susann's first novel. To quote the first edition dust jacket, it is the "story of three gifted women, of their climb to fame and wealth, and of the soul-crushing price they pay for their precarious place on the mountain peak. Here are their worlds, behind the lights of Broadway, on the movie lots of Hollywood and Europe, in the gay nightlife of New York and Paris. Here too, is the horrible nightworld of booze and pills – pep pills, sleeping pills, red pills, blue pills, pills to chase the world away and pills to help one clutch at sanity – the lethal 'dolls' of the glittering people. They are magic tickets to peace and oblivion… and even death… in the VALLEY OF THE DOLLS."

Click here to see the photos of the first edition of The Valley of the Dolls

First Edition identification photo of The Valley of the Dolls

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Edna Ferber's So Big

Like most Pulitzer Prize book collectors I had always assumed that the first edition of Edna Ferber's So Big was an orange book and that it did not state "first edition" or "first printing". The common wisdom on this book was that the first edition could be identified by the lack of additional printing statements. This made some sense because I had seen copies where sixteenth printing was stated, so it would seem that copies without a printing statement were first printings. The books dealers I spoke with all confirmed that the first edition was identified by the lack of a printing statement, and eBay and AbeBooks were filled with offerings for “first editions” with the “required” lack of printing statement.

But there was just one problem with this. Other books published by the same publisher (Doubleday) in the same year So Big was published had first edition statements on their copyright page. So it seemed a bit odd that So Big would not have a similar statement. So I always suspected that perhaps the edition I owned (one without a printing or edition statement) was not the true first edition.

Well it turns out that my suspicion was right. Not only is “First Edition” stated on the true first edition of So Big, but it also turns out that the true first edition was published with blue boards rather than the orange boards that later printings were bound with. Photos of the first edition can be found here:

First edition of So Big by Edna Feber

Although I now know what the first edition book looks like, I still have yet to come across a first edition dust jacket. So the search continues.