Collectors of First Editions

May 26, 2012

I have never met a Collector of First Editions. Nor do I understand them.  I don’t understand their relish for these flaw-riddled works, for without exception all first editions harbor them. Or perhaps “the flaw” is the very thing that makes these works desirable. The flaw brings the author closer, it is that human touch, like the author’s signature. Or even the editor’s, in the commotion of putting together a book’s first appearance in the world.

The editor of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Tony Tanner 1966) writes a note on the text:

There were two editions of Mansfield Park published in Jane Austen’s lifetime. The first edition (1814) was badly printed and contained many errors. The second (1816) was very much better and contained many of Jane Austen’s own corrections and changes.  Subsequent reprints used this second edition uncritically. In 1923 under the scholar Dr. R.W. Chapman, the second edition was taken in hand, and with great care he corrected further printer’s errors and author’s errors.

Perhaps there are Collectors of not only First Editions but of  Subsequent Editions. Collectors, in other words, of the entire line.

I wonder what their title would be? Collectors of The Whole Caboodle. Or Collectors of the Kit and Caboodle.