Monday, June 15, 2009

Lothrop, Lee and Shepard- Dating Your Book

How is it possible that dealers and booksellers have so much trouble dating their books? I would think if you are not sure of the date, your ad should either not give a date or give the date as your supposition. Of course, some books are hard to figure out. But there are some basic rules.

For books published by Lothrop, Lee and Shepard there is one absolute certainty. If the imprint or book spine has the words Lothrop, Lee and Shepard on it, the book has to date later than August 1904 (1905). What happened was the Lothrop Publishing Company failed in 1904 having debts 0f $110,000. In August, 1904 Lee and Shepard purchased all Lothrop's assets and incorporated as Lothrop, Lee and Shepard at that time. From a practical point- if the book says Lothrop, Lee and Shepard it is from 1905 or later.
(Lee and Shepard Publishers for the People--Raymond Kilgour- Shoe String Press 1965)

Here are some examples of poor efforts by dealers. I have included examples from different book selling sites. Note how these incorrectly dated books are even called first editions by some reputable dealers.


Sidney, Margaret; Jessie McDermott (illustrator). FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS : Phronsie Pepper Youngest of the Five Little Peppers. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1897. First Edition First Printing.

Aguinaldo a Narrative of Filipino Ambitions
Wildman, Edwin
Price: US$ 500.00
Book Description: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co, Boston, 1901. Cloth. Book Condition: Very Good. First Edition. 12mo - over 6¾" - 7¾" tall. First Edition

Hawaii's Story By Hawaii's Queen Liliuokalani
Queen Liluiokalani
Price: US$ 350.00
Book Description: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, Boston, 1898. Decorated Cloth Hardback. Book Condition: Good Plus or a Little Better. Original First Printing.

Bookseller Photo
Camp and Trail: A Story of the Maine Woods
Hornibrook, Isabel
Price: US$ 225.00
Book Description: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Boston, 1897. Binding is Hard Cover. First Edition.

These listings are very troublesome. And they are but a tip of the iceberg. Without even looking at the book, it is obvious that these Lothrop, Lee and Shepard published books are not pre-1900 volumes.

If a dealer cannot accurately date these books, how can anyone trust that dealer to accurately describe whether a book is a first edition in circumstances when that determination may be somewhat difficult.


  1. Cary-
    This is, as you mention, just the tip of the iceberg. And while collectors cannot expect eBayers to necessarily know anything, we can and should be able to believe that dealers on ABE and Alibris are at least somewhat knowledgable. Yet they persist in mistakes like you have listed, and other basic flubs such as listing Grosset & Dunlap and A.L. Burt Edgar Rice Burroughs reprints as firsts. And just try to correct them! Although a few will thank you for corrections, the majority will either hem and haw (the text hasn't changed), or they will begin to upbraid you for making the correction! I have learned to just "let it go", as Mary Ann tells me to do. It's barely worth the effort.
    Bart Nyberg

  2. Actually Kilgour is wrong. Probably all of the books listed above are true 1st editions.

    The statement that Lee and Shepard purchased all Lothrop's "assets" is correct. Some books were "unpublished" and some were published at that point.

    So books published 1st by Lothrop then unchanged and printed by Lee Shepard & Lothrop except for imprint/title are actually 1st editions, 2nd state.

    Thus both are 1st editions.

  3. I am a librarian with a patron looking for a biography of one of Lee Shepard & Lothrop's authors, Robert James Green. He wrote Two Swords For a Princess, Kor of the Wolves, and Silver Patriot. Does anyone know anthing about him? Thank you.

  4. I have a true first edition of Living Thoughts by C.A. Means (Lee & Shepard 1869 with the Act of Congress statement for the copyright) ... but I can't find this book anywhere online for value. Maybe it's just not a sought after book?

  5. This is a fascinating article. To comment on Silence Dogwood's reply above, I've seen several imprints of texts for "Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen" that say Lee & Shepard 1898 and also Lothrop, Lee & Shepard 1898. Would the Lothrop editions have been printed later although they say 1898? The matching dates are what is causing me confusion.

  6. Also, what I've discovered is that many publishers would purchase the plates for a book, and then re-release under their publishing firm with the exact same text. I'm assuming that this is what Silence Dogwood means when they say first edition, second state.