IOBA Q & A Column

Winter 2002 (Vol. III, No. 4) Table of Contents

We were Soldiers Once...and YoungI rented the movie, “We were Soldiers Once…and Young” and found it very well done. I highly recommend it. I then began a search through my boxes of books and found a copy of the book. I need some help on determining whether it is a true first, and hope you might be able to provide some information in this regard.

The book is in f/f condition with no price clipped on the d/w. Random House. Copyright 1992. 8765432. First Edition isbn 0-679-41158-5. Methinks this is a first edition, second printing.

Thanks in advance for your help and kind responses.

John Scott Porterfield

You would seem to have a first edition. The Random House rule is that they don’t use the number “1” in their line, but remove the words “first edition” at the time of second printing.

May I suggest you invest in McBrides book on First Editions, and of course any other reference books you can get. Reference books should be a requirement in the biz and McBrides, although not the only one that covers these questions, is the least expensive.

Richard Mori of Mori Books


It is a FIRST EDITION. In 1992, Random House began its number line with a “2” and the words, “FIRST EDITION.” For the second printing they simply dropped the verbiage and for the third printing they dropped the “2,” etc.

Hope this helps. Sam in AZ

I know this has been answered before, but I suppose I wasn’t paying attention because I can’t remember the answer – what percentage is normally charged for consignment sales?

Jennifer Sadler

There is no “normal” or standard percentage, at least in the used book trade. The most common consignment fees are in the 10% to 20% range (largely a function of the kind of material being sold). 10%, 15% and 20% are all used and seem fair and reasonable to me although in the case of a more established dealer as the consignee for less saleable material, especially in quantity, fees as high as 40 to 50% are not unheard of.

Of course, these numbers are all negotiable.

Sam Gottlieb.


New book stores can be thought of as consignment sales for books since they can return them for credit. Typical discounts for them run between 35 and 50 percent. As I’m sure you know, this is a very general statement and there are non-returnable books. In general, it is my experience that the non returnables enjoy deeper discounts than returnables.

And from the editor: I have accepted books on a 50/50 percentage basis, and 30% or 40% as well. A local antique shop gives 60/40 in favor of the consignor – a very generous arrangement. I think a lot depends on the value of the books consigned, and if the two parties can arrange an amicable agreement.

As you can see, the percentages are all over the place. I would suggest you set up your guidelines based on what you have learned, and be flexible.

DeWayne White, of White Unicorn

When listing a book that is a later printing, I have been listing the date that the printing occurred rather than the copyright date.

Is this the proper procedure?

Cynthia Putt
Parnassus On Wheels

The standard format of cataloging the date of a book has been to indicate the last date shown wherever it appears and, most important, when that date appears on the title page the date is shown by itself—without parenthesis–, but when the only or last date shown is on the copyright page it is shown in parenthesis.

Most dealers who have been cataloging books for years understand and use this standard format, as do most if not all ABAA dealers. This standard format tells any reader if the date appears on the title page or not, and consequently helps everyone understand when that particular copy was printed.

As you probably know, most often when there is a date on the title page of a book, and that date agrees with the copyright date on the verso of the title page, the book is a First Edition; not always, but usually. When a cataloger fails to indicate if the date appears on the title page or its verso by the use of this standard format, the customer cannot be certain the book is a true First Edition or a later printing or reprint.

This standard format also helps to clearly explain exceptions. For example, if we catalog a book showing the date in parenthesis and state it is a “First Edition” or “First Printing”, we are telling our customer and others the book is a true First Edition or First Printing even though the date does not appear on the title page. For many early twentieth century books, and before, this is especially important.

I hope this helps, and encourages others to adopt this standard format.

Michael Mart
The Good Times Bookshop

Our thanks to all of the above contributors.
Jean S. McKenna – Books
Chairman Education Committee

And finally, this helpful bit of information from Vic Zoschak of Tavistock Books:

Per requests I’ve received, this a follow-up on my previous posting regarding the correct use of the word ‘edition’ as applied to books from the hand press period. The definition below comes from Fredson Bowers’ PRINCIPLES OF BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION [New Castle DE: Oak Knoll Books, 1998], pg 108:



“An edition of hand-printed books is ordinarily the whole number of copies printed at any time or times from substantially the same setting of type. An early printer usually distributed his type soon after the form for which it had been set was printed. If, after the book had been placed on sale, more copies were required than had originally been printed, the book was perforce completely reset and a new edition created. The laws of the Stationers’ Company limiting the commercial edition of an early book to twelve to fifteen hundred copies had a marked effect on multiplying the editions of popular works.”

For those that don’t know Bowers, quoting from G. Thomas Tanselle’s introduction to the copy I have in front of me will sum up Bowers’ standing in the bibliographic world: [Bowers’ work is] “the standard guide on the subject*.”

* The subject, of course, being primarily the physical description of a book from the hand-press period, though there are chapters in his work on bibliographical descriptions of 19th & 20th C. books, and their inherent problems/challenges.

Regards, Vic Zoschak
Tavistock Books

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