INTERPRETING THE DATE
(a) The Context
If you've located the the page with the publication details, and found a date and deciphered it, the next step is to find out what the date actually means. It probably means one of three things. Either it is the date the book was printed, or it is the date the book was published (Japanese books often give both dates, usually a few days or even a couple of weeks apart), or this is a later printing and the date you have deciphered is the date the book was first published (or printed).
The first thing to do is look at the context. Is the date given in a single column or line of text that stands alone? Or does it appear in two or more columns or lines of text (each one with different numbers, indicating a separate date)?
If there is only one column or line of text then the date is probably the date of publication. You will need to follow further clues (given later on) to determine whether it is a first printing or a later printing.
If there are two columns or lines of text (which is typical), then this probably indicates one of two possibilities, as follows:
(1) The book is a first edition, and the right-hand column, or topmost line of text, refers to the date of printing and the left-hand column, or bottom line of text, refers to the date of publication.
(2) The book is a later printing, and the right-hand column, or topmost line of text, refers to the date of the first printing, and the left-hand column, or bottom line of text, refers to the date of printing of this particular copy.
If there are more than two columns or lines of text with dates the book is almost certainly a later printing; the final column or line of text will give the date of the book in question, and the previous columns or lines of text will give the dates of earlier printings.
(b) Other Clues
OK, so we've now narrowed things down to one or more columns or lines of text that show one or more of the following:
- date of printing
- date of publication of this particular printing
- date of publication of previous printings
The final step is to work out which of the dates on the page refer to which of these three pieces of information. There are several ways in which publishers show this information. Most of them use a combination of some or all of the following symbols: