Firstly, what is a first edition?
The first commercial print run of a novel is called the first printing of the first edition. If that first group sells out then another batch of books is printed. The new batch will now will be labelled "second printing of the first edition". The first edition continues until the book is changed. A new version of the book is then typeset, which becomes the second edition. Lately, 'first edition' has become widely accepted to mean 'first edition, first printing' when buying or selling books. Here at Fine1stEditions the vast majority of our books are first edition and first printings which is stated in every listing, if it is later printing this will also be stated.
How to determine if a book is a first printing:
For many years books simply stated "First Edition" on their Copyright Page. Newer books may have a number sequence printed on the Copyright Page that determines its printing history. A number sequence that has a "1" in it such as "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1" indicates a first printing. But, if the lowest number showing is 2, such as "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2" then the book is a second printing .. and so on.
However, some publishers do not use a numberline and the copyright page simply states "First published in **** (Year). If there is no mention of the book having been reprinted then it is almost certainly a first edition. There are exceptions which is probably why we exist as we can identify if any book is a first edition by various methods so that you can buy with confidence.