An edition consists of all the copies of a book printed from one setting of type or from printing plates made from the typesetting. All the printings from a particular typesetting are subsumed within the edition. Thus, copies from the tenth printing or twentieth printing from the initial typesetting belong to the first edition. What amateurs call the “first edition” is really the first printing of the first edition.
A printing or impressionòthe terms are interchangeableòconsists of all the copies printed at one time, i.e., without removing the type or plates from the press. The first printing is usually the collector’s desideratum of the first edition. Thus, the first edition of The Great Gatsby was set in type and plated in 1925. The first printing was published by Scribners on 10 April 1925. It can be identified by six readings that were emended in the second printing:
The third printing of Gatsby was printed by Chatto and Windus in 1926. These copies constitute the first English printing, but they are the third printing from the Scribners first-edition plates.
The Modern Library used the Scribners plates in 1934 to produce the fourth printing of the first edition. In 1942 Scribners used their plates to manufacture the fifth printing. New Directions produced the sixth printing in 1946, and Grosset and Dunlap produced the seventh printing in 1949. The publisher’s imprint on the title page has no bearing on the precise use of edition. One may refer carelessly to “the Grosset and Dunlap edition of Gatsby,” but it is the sixth printing of the first edition.
States result when the printed pages of some copies of a single printing are altered either during the course of printing or after the printing is completed. Stop-press correction of one or more words creates states: the first state with the original reading and the second state with the emended reading. The correction may be performed by cancellation: removing pages and inserting emended replacement pages, which are called “tip-ins.”
Issues are created by an alteration of the pagesòaffecting the conditions of publication or saleòof some copies of a printing. Usually issues result from title-page alterations. Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned was published with the Scribners title page and with the title page of Canadian publisher Copp Clark. The presumption is that the prelims, or preliminary material (the first gathering of leaves), were printed with title pages for Scribners and for Copp Clark; therefore, two issues resulted: an American issue and a Canadian issueòwhich may have been issued simultaneously. There can be no second issue without a first issue. There can be no first issue without a second issue.
Binding variantsòdifferent cloths or different cloth colors or changes in the stampingòhave no bearing on edition, printing, state, or issue. Binding variants are binding variants. It may be possible to determine the priority of a particular binding variant used for part of a printing, but bindings have no connection with text. Binding issues are possibleòfor example, parts of a printing may be bound in paper and cloth to create binding issues. But this term is potentially treacherous and should be applied with reluctance.
A dust jacketòwhich may be more valuable than the book it accompaniesòhas no bearing on the edition, printing, state, or issue of the book. But there may be editions, printings, states, or issues of jackets themselves. The first printing of the Gatsby jacket was printed with a lower-case “j” in “Jay Gatsby.” Some of these jackets were hand-corrected, thereby creating two states of the first printing of the jacket. The error was corrected when the jacket was reprinted. The English dust jacket exists with and without labels lowering the price; these are best described as issues because the label changes the conditions of sale. There is no way to determine that the dust jacket now on a volume was always on that volume. Jackets are frequently swapped. The description of a book and its dust jacket are independent of each other.
This page updated December 4, 2003.
Copyright 2003, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.