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Re: A new collection

Subject: Re: A new collection
by Urulöké on 2008/1/1 9:16:12

Hi and welcome Tom,

glad to have you discover this site, and my apologies for the relative silence when you found us! It has been quiet here with the holidays (for me in particular, I have either been on the road, or working working working.) I was hoping to put some serious time into adding to this site but that will have to wait until mid-January it looks like.

Working backwards as I have time today...

4A)How does one determine the impression of a book?
4B)What does impression mean?

5A)I still am not s'ure, how you determine the printing of a book?
5B)Does it say first printing in plain English?

6)What does the number line mean?

Impressions and printings are the same thing - as Parmastahir said, probably just an American/British English distinction. To go back in time a bit (now in the digital age this doesn't apply so much) printers would have to make plates composed of lots of little metal letters facing backwards (reading right to left). They would then roll ink on these plates, and press them onto paper (thus making an "impression" or "printing" of the plate) that would be cut and bound into the book as a page or multiple pages. Minor changes were often made between impressions, as spelling corrections were made, etc. If major changes were made in the text, or if new plates had to be made, it is referred to as a new "edition" and the impression/printing number for that edition would start over.

So it is possible to have a first edition/fourth printing, a fourth edition/second printing, a second edition/first printing, a first edition/first printing, etc. etc.

Collectors do tend to highly value the first edition/first printings more than anything else, though in Tolkien collecting there are so many editions that it is quite easy to get started collecting (and build quite an impressive collection!) without needing to spend the money on 1st/1sts. Getting started on paperbacks is a great way to begin for little money - here in the USA I have managed to collect a very large number of UK paperbacks just by visiting lots of used book stores or library book sales locally, just as an example.

So, how do you identify the edition and impression/printing of a particular book? It depends! Haha. It depends on the publisher, the year (most publishers have changed their method of indicating impressions over the years), the country, and the whim of the printers it seems sometimes.

It is important to learn a few basics that will tide you over well. All of these can be found on the copyright page, which is usually on the flip side ("verso") of the Title Page inside the book. First, since you asked, let's discuss "the number line". There are multiple variations on the number line that I have seen, so here is just one example to get us started:

03 04 05 06 07 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

In this case above, the printer is indicating two things: on the left, with the numbers starting with zeroes, is the year of the book. On the right is the printing or impression of the book. You read both numbers by looking for the lowest number that is still visible: in this particular case, the year is 2003 ("03") and the impression is a first ("1"). Why do they do it this way? It goes back again to the old plate printing days - the printer would create a plate for the book for the first impression, and print up a number of copies. When those copies are sold and shipped and more are needed, the printer would strike off the lowest number on the plate, and print up another batch. ("10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2"). This is still used today, even though in the digital age it is trivial to come up with some other method.

On older books, it is common to see other methods for indicating impressions. For example, George Allen & Unwin liked to use the method of adding a line of text for each impression, for example a book might say:

First impression, 1982
Second impression, 1983
Third impression, 1985

A good book to save up for as you get more serious about collecting Tolkien would of course be Hammond's Bibliography. A good starter book for book collecting in general would be John Carter's ABCs for Book Collectors.

More as I have time (the kids are awake now so I have to run for a bit...) Feel free to post as many questions as you like on any of these topics and I will get around to answering everything soon! Other regulars (and visitors!) will be contributing as well, these are all good conversations to have!

Welcome again!
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