The numbering of book editions is a special case of the wider field of revision control. The traditional conventions for numbering book editions evolved spontaneously for several centuries before any greater applied science of revision control became important to humanity, which did not occur until the era of widespread computing had arrived (when software and electronic publishing came into existence). The old and new aspects of book edition numbering.

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A « first edition » per se is not a valuable collectible book. A popular work may be published and reprinted over time by many publishers, and in a variety of formats. There will be a first edition of each, which the publisher may cite on the copyright page, such as: « First mass market paperback edition ». The first edition of a facsimile reprint is the reprint publisher’s first edition, but not the first edition of the work itself.