From the FAQ:

How can I tell if a book
is a first Modern Library edition?

Verifying a Modern Library first edition can be tricky.

In an ideal world, all first editions would identify themselves as such on the copyright page. You'd always find "First Modern Library Edition" or "First Printing" or something comparable. But not all Modern Library first editions carry such first edition slugs, and not all Modern Library books that have such slugs, most notoriously Bemelmans' My War with the United States and Thurber's Thurber Carnival as well as post-1963 editions, are necessarily first editions.

You can use the catalogs on the inverse of dust jackets and at the book's front (early Boni-Liveright titles) or back (later titles through 1963 or so) to tell the date a piece was printed. In tougher cases you can verify that the binding type of the book matches a date range.

Use this process to determine if you have a first edition:

  1. Check the BookNote for a specific title.
  2. To check books without first edition slugs, use the article Stalking the Unmarked First.
  3. Make sure that a book that does have a first edition slug hasn't carried the slug forward beyond the first printing by checking the table presented in the article False Firsts.
  4. Verify the book's date using Barry Neavill's Dating Key.
  5. Verify that the dust jacket matches the book by using the Dating Key for titles up to 1963, and for post-1963 titles check out Quick Guide to Regular Dust Jacket Backs 1917-1974 or Quick Guide to Giant Dust Jacket Backs 1931-1974.

To verify binding dates, use the Quick Guide to Binding Styles on this Website. (For a more detailed explication of older binding types, see John Krygier's article Modern Library Dust Jackets and Bindings: 1917-1939.)

Identifying the first editions of the numbered paperbacks (as opposed to the College Edition paperbacks) is more straightforward: If the number of a Modern Library paperback is the same as the highest number in the list of titles in the series, it's a first. And it's usually a first if the title is one of the 3 or 4 highest numbers in the list since several Modern Library Paperback titles were usually published together. To be sure, use Neavill's Paperback Dating Key. For a further discussion of the topic, see Barry Neavill's article in Edition #46, page 3, of The Modern Library Collector, reviewed elsewhere on ModernLib.

Contributors to this FAQ answer include:

Scot Kamins Henry Toldedano Barry Neavill
Pete Chocheles John Krygier

E-mail a question, correction, or request

Return to FAQ