If you check the comments of my previous post, you’ll see that the always lovely nursemyra had a few good questions regarding book collecting. Here’s a short answer for you, my dear.
Like Dante’s hell, there are many levels to collecting a book. First there’s the manuscript, which neither you nor I will ever see. Then there are the galley proofs. Although pretty rare, I’ve seen a few. Then there are Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) and proofs, which are fairly common if you know where to look. Then, the first edition. Did I leave anything out, mjp?
If any of these are signed, all the better. To some collectors, the earlier a book’s iteration, the more desirable. Others are only interested in first editions. There are SO MANY nuances. Does an author tour and sign? If not, signed copies will be sold at a premium. The smaller the first edition print run, the better. Those Harry Potter and Stephen King firsts? Worthless because there are so many of them (not counting the early titles). Do you “follow the flag?” (This means to only collect the first edition in the author’s home country, i.e., only the British firsts of Graham Greene, only the Australian firsts of Peter Carey.) I could go on and on ad nauseum. Feel free to email me.
If you buy a first edition that’s signed, you cannot read it. Reading it, even once, degrades its condition and condition is paramount. Who in their right mind buys a book that cannot be read? It’s nuts. My advice is to not get caught up in collecting books. Or shooting craps. Both are quicksand.