First Edition Book Tips

Huckleberry Finn

In 2010, a first edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, sold for $4,250.00 at PBA Galleries in San Francisco. Huckleberry Finn was first published in 1885. This does not mean that every copy of Huckleberry Finn, will sell for the same price. In fact, if you visit any online bookseller, there will be copies of this story for around $10.00. These books share the same title, story, and author, but that is where the similarity ends. Think of a later printing as a copy of the original. Collectors collect the book itself, not the text or the story. The first edition book that sold at auction is also a “third state”, meaning that it was an early printing shortly after the second printing of the first edition. First state, second state, and third state books are usually identified due to some change in later printings, either in the binding or the text.

There are two books that help collectors determine if their books could be first editions. The first is The Pocket Guide to First Editions compiled by Bill McBride. The other is Collected Books, The Guide to Identification and Value, Allen and Patricia Ahearn.

Don’t want to buy a book to value a book? Try searching for your book on This is a web site that lists all the books for sale on the Internet. The sellers will list any pertinent information they believe makes their book a first edition. You need to match their description. For example, part of the auction caption for the sale of the first edition Huck Finn read: “the final 5 in p.155 is replaced and is slightly larger than the rest (third state);” Your book will need to have the same text, on the same page and line as the seller states (along with any other indications stated by the seller).

Sometimes, publishers make it easier to identify first editions by simply printing the words “first edition” or “first printing”. Some publishers use a number line, often with a “1” at either end of a number sequence. Here are two examples:
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The publisher will drop the number “1” on the second edition.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Sometimes, multiple copyright dates will be listed. It can’t be a first edition if there are multiple dates on the book.

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was first published by Charles L. Webster. Dover Publications printed their first edition of this book printed in 1994, so you need to make sure you have to original publisher. You can find more information by following this link: identifying the first edition of a book