That's a really good question!
The "First Edition" of a book is a treasure that many collectors search for and often the price is higher based on that status. But is the book you're looking at really a "first" or is the bookseller mistaken? Here are a few things you need to know before buying a GLH first edition.
Check our book lists for Grace's first edition publishers. Nearly every Grace Livingston Hill book was published first by J.B. Lippincott Co. Books prior to 1908's "Marcia Schuyler" were released by various publishers as Grace established herself as a writer and there were a few later books published by Harper & Brothers and Revell. The early first editions are rare and can be costly - often $100 or more. Grace would be surprised at how much her first editions go for these days!
Grosset & Dunlap books, regardless of what the bookseller tells you, are NOT first editions.
When J.B. Lippincott Co. felt that a book's profitability had ended for them, they sold the rights (and often the actual printing plates) to Grosset & Dunlap, a reprint publishing house. If you're a reader of other vintage authors, you'll note that many authors' books were reprinted by G&D.
Take a look at this "disclaimer" on the early Grosset & Dunlap edition of White Orchids pictured. "The issuance of this new edition at a reduced price is made possible by (a) use of the same plates made for the original edition: (b) acceptance by the author of a reduced royalty." This statement alone proves that this is not the "first edition" of the book.
Don't be fooled by the copyright date.
All vintage GLH books carry the original date of copyright. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the copy you're holding is that old. Grosset & Dunlap published Grace's work for decades, even after her death. If there's a dust jacket, you can often spot a later edition by the clothes worn by the characters on the cover. If the styles don't match the copyright date, it's a much later reprint and worth less than an early reprint.
Just because it says "First Edition" in the book, that doesn't necessarily make it a first edition.
The Pinebrook Book Club editions illustrate this well. Side by side, they are nearly identical to their Lippincott counterparts. Like the G&D reprints, the Pinebrook edition is printed with the same plates as the original with their name and logo replacing J.B. Lippincott Company's inside the book. Even the embossing on the spine is the same.
However, there is something unusual that confuses booksellers and readers alike—both claim to be first editions! Since there can only be one first edition, Lippincott wins the battle. They actually contracted with Grace for the book. The Pinebrook edition may be the first (and last) edition for their club members, but it's not really a first edition—despite what the page says. Can you tell which book is which by looking at the copyright notice?
The moral of the story is: be sure about what you're buying.
Remember, most booksellers don't have time to become experts on the various editions of every author they sell, so before you plunk down a large amount of cash for a first edition GLH book, be sure what you're getting is the real thing.
Still wondering? The Lippincott edition is the upper image and the Pinebrook edition is below. If you can't tell the difference, neither can the bookseller, so be careful. Happy GLH Book Hunting!