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How to Identify Random House First Editions

Random House is the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world. The publishing house was founded in 1927 by Americans Bennet Cerf and Donald Klopfer, who had acquired the Modern Library imprint from publisher Horace Liveright two years before. As for the name, Cerf said, "We just said we were going to publish a few books on the side at random," and Random House was born. The company entered reference publishing in 1947 with the American College Dictionary. Random House acquired Alfred A. Knopf, Inc in 1960 and Pantheon Books in 1961.

Private German corporation Bertelsmann purchased Random House in 1998. Now the company has an entertainment arm, Random House Studio, for film and television, along with story content for video games, social networks, the web, and mobile platforms. In October 2012, Random House entered talks with Pearson plc about a merger. Last week the EU approved the merger without restriction, following the suit of the US Department of Justice and the corresponding organizations in Australia and New Zealand. Once the merger is complete, Penguin Random House will be the largest publisher in the UK and US.

Random House First Editions

Random House has issued multiple statements regarding the identification of first editions. Conventions vary for different countries, as well.

Random House, Inc

1928-1935: Random House published only limited editions. Thus, all the necessary information was contained on the colophon because the first edition was the only edition.

1936-1975: For limited editions, all information was still contained on the colophon. Other first editions were plainly marked 'first edition' on the copyright page.

1976-2000: All first editions from Random House, AA Knopf, and Pantheon carry the words "first edition" on the copyright page. Random House also defined these as first printings. In some more recent publications, there may be a number line which in first and second printings begins or ends with a "2", e.g., a book with the print number line "23456789" is a first printing with the "first edition" statement present, it is a second printing without the first edition statement present.

2001-present: Random House still follows the 1976 convention, as do Villard and Random House Trade Books. By 2001, Knopf and Pantheon had developed their own guidelines for identifying first editions.

Random House Australia

Random House Australia has issued only one statement, in 2000. The house changed its practices: they added a line that records 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. They delete the number starting at 1 for the first reprint, so the first edition/first printings are the only ones to have a "1."

Random House Australia Pty Ltd

The words "First published" appear on the imprint page, and "Reprinted..." is added as necessary. The latest statement (2000) reiterated the continuation of this convention.

Random House UK Limited/Random House Group Limited/Random House Business Books (UK)

Starting in 1994, the copyright pages of various imprints were standardized. On the copyright page appears 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2. The "1" is deleted with the first reprint, the "2" for the next, etc.

In 1999, Random House UK Limited changed its name to Random House Group Limited. The convention for identifying first editions was maintained and was also adopted for Random House Business Books.

Random House (NZ) Ltd

The New Zealand branch of Random House stated in 1995 that they have no way of identifying first editions and first printings, except that they do make note of subsequent editions or reprints.

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Kristin Masters
Master Content Brain. You think it, she writes it, no good thought remains unposted. Sprinkles pixie dust on Google+, newsletters, blog, facebook, twitter and just about everything else.


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