Patti Smith, Book Scout?

The Awl, a NYC-based online magazine, posted a great piece this week on "How to Spot a First Edition." The opening anecdote, though, is sure to draw readers outside the usual bibliophilic circles (31 reader comments and counting):

One of the most touching things about Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids is the way the author slips into book-scouting lingo when she describes the knack she had for that enjoyable (and revenue-enhancing) pastime in the late '60s and early '70s:

Not long after, I found a twenty-six-volume set of the complete Henry James for next to nothing. It was in perfect condition. I knew a customer at Scribner's who would want it. The tissue guards were intact, the gravures fresh-looking, and there was no foxing on the pages. I cleared over one hundred dollars. Slipping five twenty-dollar bills in a sock, I tied a ribbon around it and gave it to Robert.

Smith describes a number of such finds. The mere idea that you could run into a signed Faulkner just wandering around a used bookstore in New Jersey!

It's worthwhile to know a little bit about rare books--because it's fun and also because you shouldn't be letting valuable things slip off into perdition, if you can help it. There are many characteristics that tend to make a book more valuable, but nearly all the valuable ones are first editions. So what is a first edition, exactly? [Read More -- Seriously, Read More!]