A world-class destination for collectors

What is a first edition?

A first edition is the first time a book is printed from a setting of type (arranging the physical letters to print the pages of the book). The first printing (also called first issue) is that set number of copies a publisher decides to produce in the first print run. Later printings are run from the same setting of type. A state is a small variation within a print run when a word or phrase is corrected. A second or later edition is when there is a completely new setting of type. 

When our shop calls a book a First Edition, this also implies that the book is a first printing, unless we specify something different in the description.

For more information on terms such as edition, printing or state, visit this Glossary.

Why do people collect first editions?

Because the first edition is the first time a book and its ideas are introduced to the world, and there are a finite number of them, it is typically the most desirable edition of a work. This is the case even if that first edition contained mistakes, or if the author later revised the content.

What does “First Thus” mean?

“First Thus” designates a later edition of a book in which there is something significant that appeared for the first time.

For example, in 1968, Salvador Dalí released a signed and illustrated version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Lewis Carroll issued the work a hundred years earlier in its first edition, but Dalí’s illustrated edition is called a “First Thus” because it is the first appearance of his artwork illustrating Alice.  

For more information on terms such as “First Thus,” visit this Glossary.

How do I know if my book is a first edition?

There is no single, simple way to identify a first edition in all cases. While some books use Number Lines or Edition Statements on the copyright pages, many don’t (and some copies that do, are not actual first editions!). Some books have specific Issue Points that specialists use to identify changes between print runs. In many cases, specialists will need to consult author-specific bibliographies to help determine which printing of a book they are holding.
The complexity involved in identifying a first edition – something that can radically affect a book’s market value – is one reason that collectors often benefit from working with a knowledgeable and trustworthy rare book specialist. For more see: Why work with a Specialist from Whitmore Rare Books?

As a beginning book collector, is there a useful Glossary you recommend?

Understanding book dealer descriptions and being able to discuss rare books often means being familiar with terminology unique to the book trade. We recommend the ABAA Glossary as a starting point.

What is a rare book specialist?

Through training and hands-on experience, rare book specialists are experts at identifying, valuing and describing first edition books. Part of their role is to place a work within its larger cultural context.  To do so, they often research the broad history of books and printing, the issue points and variants found within specific editions, and the retail book market relating to their fields of expertise.

Specialists at Whitmore Rare Books bring their past professional and educational expertise to bear on the materials that they handle; and also continue developing their skills and knowledge through independent research and formal professional development training. To learn more about our Specialists, click here.

Why work with a specialist from Whitmore Rare Books while building my collection?

The specialists at Whitmore Rare Books are recognized experts in their fields who can bring their considerable knowledge to bear on acquisitions being considered. Not just offering material from within the Whitmore Rare Books inventory, our specialists help to locate and authenticate potential acquisitions for our clients from sources worldwide, saving clients time and helping clients to avoid costly mistakes.
For a sense of what services our specialists provide, click here.

Does my purchase come with a Certificate of Authenticity?

Each book purchased from Whitmore Rare Books comes with a printed written description which doubles as our guarantee. The written description includes what edition is being purchased, as well as the place, publisher, year of publication and a description of the physical object. If a book is signed or inscribed, our written description also guarantees the authenticity of the signature.  We stand behind the accuracy of the written descriptions that we issue with your purchase.

We do not call our written descriptions Certificates of Authenticity, because those are generally issued by third parties, which may not have inspected the physical objects in person. We have seen many instances where third-party Certificates of Authenticity are issued for obvious forgeries or make other mistakes as to edition or authenticity of the material.

Do you bid for clients at auction?

In certain circumstances and for a fee, we do represent clients at auction. For more details, click here.

How do I protect my first editions?

Books should be kept in a clean, dry environment that does not get direct or prolonged sun exposure. They should be stored straight up and down with support on the sides or lying flat to avoid cocking the binding. That said, books are designed to last for hundreds of years and do not generally require sophisticated environmental controls.

When handling rare books, always use clean, dry hands and never white gloves. For a lengthier discussion, see this article.

For particularly valuable or fragile books, custom clamshells and cases are the preferred option for protecting your collection.  If you are interested in learning more about cases, click here

What equipment does Whitmore Rare Books recommend for handling rare books?

Clean, dry hands – and never white gloves – are the first and most crucial tools. Additionally, we recommend:

Book cradles – to keep books opened to the appropriate angle, thereby reducing damage to the spine joints or inner hinges.

Black light – for identifying paper repairs, water marks, or signs of forgery or facsimile.

Loupe – for examining early paper, reading small print or other marginalia.

Mylar – for protecting dust jackets, or cloth-bound books from fading, minor wear and tear, or finger-soiling.

If my book is damaged, can it be repaired?

The short answer is yes, a book can generally be repaired. Whether or not it should be depends very much on what it is and the type of damage it has sustained. Some repairs can actually lower the value of a book or throw authenticity into question, while other repairs may be perfectly acceptable and even recommended.

For more information on bindery services and repairs, click here.

What makes a book valuable?

The book market is based entirely upon supply and demand, the same way that the art market or other antiques markets are. Generally, collectors are looking for the best condition copy of a book available, a book with an exceptional association or authorial presentation inscription, or books of such particular scarcity that only a very few are known to exist. Higher prices will be realized for books that incorporate one or more of these characteristics.

How do I find the value of my old books?

We recommend using the Advanced Search function at AbeBooks.com to find dealer listings for books that appear to be comparable to yours. This will give you a sense of where dealers are retailing copies of the book based on condition and scarcity.  Keep in mind that dealers generally offer a percentage of their expected retail price.  If you have books to sell, click here.

What is an appraisal and when should I get one?

An appraisal is an official evaluation, conducted by a certified professional, about the insurance replacement value, donation value, or estate value of a significant book or collection. In these instances, it is important to work with a certified appraiser.

Appraisals can be costly, and are only as good as the expert researching the material. Those interested in selling their books may not need a formal appraisal, but may do better by researching book values on AbeBooks.com. If you have books to sell, click here.

Do you offer appraisal or valuation services?

Whitmore Rare Books does not offer any formal appraisal services. To reach a certified appraiser we recommend checking the ABAA directory.

While we are generally transparent about our pricing expectations when evaluating books to purchase as inventory, we cannot provide informal evaluations or research services to appease general curiosity. For more information on how to evaluate your own books see FAQ above.

Do you buy or consign books?

We are always looking to purchase exceptional, museum-quality first edition books and rare manuscripts – typically famous titles by famous authors, or works related to important historical movements such as Women’s Suffrage, Abolition, or Civil Rights. For more information on selling books to us, click here.

We enter into consignment agreements very selectively, and this is generally reserved for representing prestigious private collections and aiding long-term clients in dispersing high value libraries over time.

Do you take book donations?

Because we pride ourselves on a world-class inventory, we do not take donated books under any circumstance. Please do not bring, send, or leave books for donation at the shop.

If you have books that you are looking to donate, we recommend reaching out to local friends of the libraries, Goodwill, or other regional thrift stores.

Are you open to the public?

Yes, Whitmore Rare Books is open to the public for browsing and shopping. Due to the value of our inventory, the door remains locked during business hours; please use the bell to request entry.  To guarantee time with a specialist, we recommend reaching out in advance to set an appointment.

Who do you sell books to?

Whitmore Rare Books serves a diverse clientele. Some of our clients have established, prestigious private collections. Some of our clients selectively purchase first editions as art objects or even as books to read.  Some clients are buying meaningful gifts for others. We also serve institutions, ranging from large universities and museums engaged in research and exhibition, to teaching and curriculum driven colleges.

Because we value our clients’ privacy, we will never disclose the names of specific individuals or institutions which we serve.

Can I host my event at your shop?

With the exception of Filming, Private Shopping or events hosted with cultural collaborators, we do not offer our space for private events.

Are you hiring?

Our shop rarely has openings for new staff positions, but when we do, we post them here.

If you would like us to keep your resume on file for future opportunities, please send it over to: info@WhitmoreRareBooks.com.

Thank you, we appreciate your interest in working with us!