How to Tell If It's a First

The determination of whether a book is a first edition or not is based on various details called points.

A book's points can be anything, from subtle details such as how much hair shows from under a boy's cap on the cover to the actual title of the book, which was frequently changed in later editions.

The points of a Horatio Alger first edition are listed in bibliographies by Bob Bennettt and Ralph D. Gardner, but there are some books that even these two experts disagree on.

Additionally, some books that are called first editions may not really be the first ever instance of the story in print. Many of Horatio Alger's stories were serialized and published in weekly or monthly magazines before being published in book form. Some were published in paperback before being published in hardback.

Below is an example of two very different first editions of a Horatio Alger book: a hardback first and the "true" first. Their points are listed alongside.

The $500 Check

United States Book Company, 1891

  • First hardcover edition issued one year after paper edition.
  • Earliest state has black strip at foot of spine obscuring publisher's name.
  • Later states have "Lovell" printed in gold at foot of spine.

$500; or, Jacob Marlow's Secret

United States Book Company, 1890

  • First edition contains May 10, 1890 date on the cover (in wrappers).
  • Book advertisements in the front of the book list the first 22 numbers of this series only.
  • There is a single quotation mark in front of the word "Dean" on the title page.