Do Misprints or Typos Make a Book Valuable?

August 13, 2012.

One of the most common misconceptions about books is that misprints make them rare or valuable. Unfortunately, while certain types of errors can contribute to a book’s collectability, these alone will not increase the value of an otherwise inexpensive book. Consider the following case:

The Sun Also Rises is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. Widely considered to be Ernest Hemingway’s best book, it is also the founding text of the “Lost Generation” of writers who came of age during the First World War. This significance, combined with the small number of first editions available today (5,090 copies were printed and few have survived in collectible condition) is what makes it valuable.

First edition of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926).

So where do misprints come in? In this case, an error on page 181 (“stoppped” instead of “stopped”) appears in only the earliest issue of the book and was quickly corrected by the printer. When accompanied by other signs, such as the correct date, publisher, and binding, it means that a copy was one of the very first to be printed, making it more desirable to collectors.

On the other hand, any inexpensive reprint of the same book might contain a misprint. But if the edition is not particularly interesting or uncommon, and the order in which the book was published is not important, then the misprint is just a nuisance. It isn’t the typo alone that makes a book valuable, it’s what the typo indicates: how early a specific copy was published and how rare it is.

For a small number of very important books such as The Sun Also Rises, misprints can have an impact on value, but in most cases they don’t make a difference. To find out more about first editions, see our posts:

What is a First Edition?

What Makes First Editions Valuable?

You can browse our complete stock of first editions and signed books online, and if you have a rare book that you’d like to sell, please contact us.

Laura joined Peter Harrington in 2009 after completing a master's degree in book history at the University of London. Her special interests are science and medicine, modern literature, and the book culture of the medieval and early modern eras.