Finding First Editions
March 12, 2004 8:14 PM   Subscribe

BookNerdFilter: Is there a way to tell the printing and edition of a book given just the ISBN? There's abook I'm thinking of ordering, and I'm much more likely to do it if it's a first edition/ printing...
posted by kaibutsu to Media & Arts (3 answers total) has a nice advanced search option...
posted by lilboo at 8:29 PM on March 12, 2004

Taking a break from entering ISBNs, I find this question...

Unless the publisher specifically gives a different ISBN number to different editions/printings, then the answer is generally a "no." Usually the publisher doesn't change ISBNs after the first edition/printing.

From the ISBN Faq:

Does the ISBN have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?
The four parts of an ISBN are as follows:
Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers;
Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group;
Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title;
Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

posted by gluechunk at 8:48 PM on March 12, 2004

As far as I know (book seller/book collector), there's no way to tell from the ISBN. Normally, the ISBN only gets changed when the format is changed, or a new edition is released etc... Because ISBN's cost money...

Having said that, you should probably email whoever is selling the book and ask them to look on the inside where the book information is...

It might say First Edition, and First Printing... The problem with trusting this is that a printer can leave this information on.

there should be a little number thing that looks like
01020304 or 10987654321... If it has the one, it's the first printing. it might also have the year two like 96979899... If the lowest number matches the year of publication, that's another sign that it's the first edition first printing.

Read Among the Gently Mad for more about book collecting.
posted by drezdn at 8:57 PM on March 12, 2004

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