An edition includes all copies printed from the same plates or setting of type without substantial change. The first edition consists of all the copies printed from the first setting of type: it is the first public appearance of the text in book form. Any edition can appear in multiple printings, and each printing includes all of the copies produced from the same plates or setting of type at a given time (for example, an edition may include 1000 copies, 500 printed in November, and another 500 printed in January from the same setting of type).
States are created when publishers make minor changes to the text, illustrations, dust jacket or other elements of a book before publication. Sometimes, for example, a typographical error is corrected during the course of printing, or the caption is changed on an illustration.
Issues are created intentionally by the publisher to produce copies that differ from the rest in some way. These copies are treated as a separate unit, such as in the case of a large-paper issue, or when a new title page is substituted after publication. While priority among the different states of a first edition often cannot be determined, a first issue always precedes a second issue. In some cases, collectors may prefer a later issue. For example, the second issue of Walt Whitman’s Drum Taps includes the poet’s moving homage to the fallen president Abraham Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” The first issue does not include this poem because it was completed before Lincoln’s death.
Sometimes the statement “first edition” needs to be qualified. The phrase “first American edition,” for instance, indicates that the book was first published in another country and this is its first appearance in America. The “first English edition” is a book’s first appearance in Britain, while the “first edition in English” is the first English-language edition of a book that first appeared first in a different language. Some books are issued by the publisher in two forms: a first trade edition, the mass-produced copies for sale in stores, and a special or limited edition, produced in small quantities, often in a different binding or issued with a page signed by the author (called a signed limited edition).