Secrets of a copyright page
By Jessica on July 20th, 2011
Early last week, Morgan asked me a question that had been asked of her. The answer: “It’s on the copyright page.” I forget sometimes that not everyone knows what I know. Not everyone can look at a line of numbers and can glean random bits of information from it. In the interest of probably cementing my position as a book nerd (as if there was any doubt) I bring to you, the secrets of the copyright page. [Insert scary music here!]
What is the copyright page? In most books, the copyright page is right behind the title page. It is full of information…if you know where to look for it. It tells you who published your book and its ISBN number. Most of this is straightforward, but then there is this line of numbers that looks like some sort of code… And it is! [Cue maniacal librarian laughter!]
Imagine that you are looking at the copyright page from The Loser List by Holly Kowitt. Starting from the left you will see a string of numbers from 12 at the left and counting down to 1. That line represents the number of printings that a book has gone through. Then there is a space, and then another string of numbers, starting with 11 and going up until 16. Check out the picture to see what I mean. Or, grab a book near you and follow along!
So what does it mean?
Let’s work out from the center where the gap is. The first number to the right of the gap, 11, represents the year that this book was printed. This book was printed in 2011. If you’re following along in a different book, can you now tell which year it was printed?
So what about the other string of numbers? The first number to the left of the gap, in this instance it’s a 1, represents the number of printings a book has had. I can tell from the 1 printed here that I’m holding a copy of the first printing of The Loser List, and it was printed in 2011. [Yay for brand new books!]
Now it’s time for a little test…take a look at this image:
Following the steps above, we can deduce that this book was printed in 2011 and it is from the third printing.
This method works for most hardcover books published today. For books that are much older, you may not see the string of numbers and may have to go to a rare book dealer for more information. [Sounds like a fun field trip!]
Now you can join me in cracking open books and turning to the copyright page. If you are like me, you have bookcases of books just waiting to be explored with your new knowledge!
We’ll bring you more secrets of the copyright page soon. What did you think of this one? Let us know in the comments!