From the FAQ:

What does "First Edition" mean
in the Modern Library world?

In the world of book collecting, a "first edition" (also called a "true first") is the first published appearance of a title. Most collectors further restrict the term to mean the first printing of the first edition.

The Modern Library is almost entirely a collection of reprints. So a Modern Library First Edition is the first published appearance of a title in the Modern Library series.

Perhaps the only Modern Library true first in the strictest sense of the term is Styron's The Long March, ML Paperback P22. Of course, many titles had introductions especially written by the authors for the Modern Library. Some would argue that the illustrated Don Quixote is also a true first because it represents the first appearance of that title with Dali illustrations, while others would call it a First Thus because the Cervantes text remains unchanged with just the llustrations added. But these few exceptions don't change the main point that the Modern Library is by and large a reprint series.

The fact that Modern Library is a reprint collection accounts in large part for why collecting the series is such an accessible hobby. For less than $100 you can get a Modern Library first of Pynchon's V in NF/NF condition; a true first of the same title (J.B. Lippincott, 1963, 8vo., 492 pp. fully bound in violet, etc.) in not nearly as good condition will likely cost you ten times as much.

Contributors to this FAQ answer include:

Scot Kamins John Krygier Joe Hill

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