Booking Through Thursday: First

How about First Editions? Are they something special? Or “just another book” to you?

I own a handful of first editions (and, of course, so you do–any newly published book is a first edition!), and to be honest, I don’t find them special for the fact that they were published first. My favorite books tend to have been published in the 1900s more often than any earlier, when you get to the point where first editions and antique books become one and the same. And at the point they’re antiques, I get scared to read them, which is not a property I like in a book–old and musty? Yeah! Crumbly? Oh, boy.

I’ve been meaning to write up a Sunday Salon post on the topic, but I collect editions of The Lord of the Rings through thrift stores and reasonably priced auctions on eBay–I find it to be an interesting way to look at the publication history of a work. While they’re not first printing at all (which also tends to raise the value, since it was first), I do have the first editions of The Lord of the Rings. I don’t like them simply because they’re first–I like them because of the history around them. The Lord of the Rings was published illegally in the United States, so all three books read “The Authorized Edition of the Famous Fantasy Trilogy” (it’s a three-part novel, Ace!). The Lord of the Rings proved popular with hippies and drug-users, so the covers are downright psychedelic and create a whole picture when placed next to one another. It’s definitely one of my prized possessions, but I value all the other editions just as much–it shows the evolution of how fantasy was presented in the United States to audiences. I don’t like them because they’re first; I like them because they’re illuminating and mean something.

So that’s a roundabout way of saying no, a first edition means nothing to me. My blood remains firmly unstirred. (But if you happen to have a spare copy of The Return of the King featuring Popeagorn, that’s a different story.)

5 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: First

  1. Sorry, no first edition of The Return of the King but I do have a first edition book club version of Gone With the Wind with the original dust jacket. I don’t love it more because it’s a first edition but because my sister rescued it for me. 🙂 I do have a very old copy of Little Women as well but it’s in sad shape and I don’t like to touch it for fear it will fall apart.

  2. I love that you use your books to see how presenting the books change over the years changes based on the covers. I have that some with old copies of Alice in Wonderland. I’m not a first edition person, but old books can have some fascinating history about them.

  3. Sorry for the errors in the comment above I kept rewriting my sentence until it came out worse then it was before. The first sentence should read as follows:

    I love that you use your books to see how presenting the books change over the years based on the changes in the cover designs.

  4. Generally, I don’t care about first editions. However, I was inordinately pleased to get a first edition of Bacigalupi’s novel and short story anthology. And I do make exceptions for certain graphic novels… Oh and my Tiptree collection. But really, I don’t go out and try to get first editions or anything like that.

    Tough question! I’ll have to think on it awhile. 😛

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