What is a signed first edition book?

Learn how to tell a fake from a real signed first edition.

  • 12.12.22
  • David Headley
What is a signed first edition book?

Interested to learn what a signed first edition book is and how to tell an authentic one from a fake? Goldsboro Books, home of the world's largest first edition book club, explains all.

What is a signed first edition?

A signed first edition book is one in which the author has hand signed the book, usually on the title page. For it to be first edition, it has to be a book from the first initial print run.

How many first editions are there?

Every book is different, and there is no minimum or maximum print run. Books are printed to fulfil initial orders and a few extra copies. Though print runs in the U.K. are shorter than you’d imagine, making them more valuable as they’re in limited supply.

How can you tell if a signed first edition is authentic?

Without being an expert, it can be difficult to tell a signed copy from a counterfeit. There are a lot of fakes of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books for example. And beware of digitally printed signatures!

If you can't ask an expert (which we'd strongly recommend, especially for expensive purchases), then follow these tips below to help you make a decision.

  1. Look for the indent
    Sometimes publishers will use a stamped or digitally printed signature, which ultimately makes the book less valuable than a true, handwritten signature. Run your thumb over the signature - a handwritten signature will likely have an indent on the page, whereas a fake will be unnaturally smooth to touch - and actually look printed.

  2. Check for ink bleed
    Look at the front of the signature - does it bleed into the page slightly? This is more likely to be authentic if so.

  3. Pay close attention to the date
    Check the date on your book matches with the publication date, and even check it against other sighed copies that you know to be authentic. Speak to your independent bookstore or turn detective and use Google to confirm.

  4. Check the source
    You could contact the original source or publisher and check if the version of the book is authentic, since they can match it against your edition number, date etc.

    Also, if all the signatures look exactly the same then they are likely to be printed.

  5. Always buy from a reputable place
    If you want to be certain that you’re purchasing an authentic signed first edition, then it’s best to buy from a reputable source such as Goldsboro Books, who have experts on hand to ensure complete authenticity. Also, they have authors signing every day in the store and will only sell authentic signed first editions.