Frequently Asked Questions


Check back once in a while for more info!!

How can I tell a first edition?

This is really a 2-part question. A first edition is where you START to look. Many books are produced in more than one print run, especially if they turn out to be a big hit or the author is already very popular. Each print run is called an 'impression'.Most publishers list the impression numbers on the Copyright Page of the book.


So what you are looking for is:

  • a series or string of numbers like 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0, or 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0, or 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 0, or a series of letters like ABCDEF that will indicate the impression number
  • the words 'First Edition', letters 'FE', 'First Trade Edition', et cetera indicate that the book is a first edition but may not be a first impression.


 Impression numbers are a fairly recent notation. Earlier printed books may have no impression number at all.


A great little book to help you determine true 1st Editions is A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions' compiled by Bill McBride.


A Little About Author Signatures and Autographs

There are many forms of Autograph. Here's how I rate them regarding the value that an author's autograph adds to your book.


Flat Signed, or Signed or Autographed. The author has actually signed the book. An autograph on the full title page is the best, followed by an autograph on the half-title page or the end paper. These autographs hold the most value. The author signing the book more than once is fun too.


  • Tipped in Autograph Page. The publisher will have a special page printed and the author will autograph that page. The page is then 'tipped in' to the book. This means that it is inserted and glued into the book, usually after the end paper(s). This type of autograph is almost as valuable as a flat signed one.


  • Inscriptions. Sometimes an author may inscribe a book to the owner. I have a few of these in my collection that were inscribed to me personally. I generally will not buy a book that has been inscribed to someone else unless the inscription itslef bears interest. Many collectors consider inscribed books of equal value to flat signed. It's a matter of preference, but I think, generally speaking, inscriptions are a little less valuable.


  • Signed or Autographed Book Plate. This is becoming increasingly prevalent, as you can see on EBay. Signed bookplates, in my opinion, only have value if the bookplate is specific to the book. This means that the book plate should relate directly to the title with the title printed on the book plate and possibly some related artwork. Generic book plates like Anne Rice's 'ancestral homes' really do not add appreciable value to her books as you can actually buy these signed bookplates separately and just stick them in. So watch out for book plates!


  • Signed/Autographed and Numbered. If you combined flat signed AND numbered, you've got a real winner! Tipped in AND Numbered runs a close second, followed by a title-specific signed and numbered book plate.


  • And How about Dates? If the author dates his/her autograph, it's best that the date be very close to the publication date of the book. Subsequently dated autographs (like years after!) may actually be worth a little less. Don't ask me why, but we all probably are thinking the same thing.


There you have it. Happy hunting!

How are Books Rated at A. B. Normal Books?

Each book's condition is described completely. Each book is examined individually before listing. Additional pictures are available on request.


When referring to either the book or the dust jacket:


New - Just that! Bought new (either from publisher, book store, etc.). Condition is New and never read


  • As New - Bought used (either from publisher, book store, etc.). Condition is As New and never read.Same condition as New but book was purchased as a 'used' book.  


  • Fine - Book is in excellent condition. Flaws if any are noted. Boards are tight, pages bright, and book has probably never been read.


  • Very Good - Book is still collectible but read and used. All flaws are noted accordingly.


  • Good - Nice reading copy; potentially collectible depending on title.


  • Fair - Nice reading copy.


  • Poor - Hey. If it's a rare enough title............



Some Definitions

Board(s): The actual hard covering of a book. Boards may be paper-covered, cloth-covered, leather covered. They may also be quarter- or half-covered. Frequently, in modern 1st editions, only the spine is cloth covered. Some boards are printed or pictorial-ized/illustrated in lieu of a dust jacket. Hardcovers have 'boards', soft covers have 'wrappers'.


  • Dust Jacket: The paper cover that wraps around the outside of a book and folds inside the boards. It is usually printed and may have illustrations. It protects the book’s cover and spine from wear and light.


  • End Paper: A folded sheet of paper, one half of which is glued to the inside front or back cover of the book. The other leaf extends freely and serves as the first or last page of the book.


  • Flyleaf: The free half of the end paper of a book, it forms the first or last page of the book.


  • Foxing: The brownish spots that appear on paper over time if the paper is not acid-free.


  • Head/Foot: Usually referring to the top edge or bottom edge, respectively, if the book's spine. It is normal to have wear on either. The foot of the spine wears from sliding on the shelf and the head of the spine wears because that's how you usually pull a book from the shelf; you finger the head of the spine, pull it forward, and the book tips out for access.


  • Spine: The surface of a book that usually faces outward when a book sits on a shelf.
    Wrapper(s): the cover of a trade paperback or mass market paperback is referred to a wrapper or wrappers (wraps). Generally fully illustrated. An exception to a fully illustrated wrapper would be the plain wraps of some ARCs/Proofs.