The Works by Geoffrey Chaucer. The Basilisk Press 1974 facsimile edition based on the 1896 Kelmscott Press edition
The Works by Geoffrey Chaucer

Have you ever really wanted a rare book for your collection but the price is too high?  Why not go for a facsimile edition?  A facsimile edition is when a publisher recreates, with perfect detail, a particular publication.  These editions are usually published in limited quantity and can be a fantastic option for collectors who wish to own memorable and beautiful books but cannot stretch to the original edition.

For example, James Joyce’s Ulysses is one of the most sought after modern firsts on the planet. Even a well worn first edition from 1922 costs around $20,000.  It is for this kind of book that the facsimile edition was created, allowing collectors of moderate means to experience the classics as they were originally intended.

Not all collectors think positively of facsimile editions; some feel that if one cannot find or afford the true edition one should go without. But no matter what your stance on these reproductions, it’s always prudent to be aware of their existence. 

Mainstream publishers and fine presses - such as Swallow Press, Arion, and Grabhorn - publish facsimile editions.

A Selection of Facsimile Editions

The Book of Kells
The Book of Kells

Swiss publisher Urs Vraf-Verlag’s facsimile with 48 color and 652 monochrome reproductions from 1950.
Taos Pueblo by Ansel Adams
Taos Pueblo
by Ansel Adams

New York Graphic Society 1977 facsimile edition based on the 1930 Grabhorn Press edition.
North American Indian Portfolio by George Catlin
North American Indian Portfolio
by George Catlin

Swallow Press’ 1970 facsimile edition based on the 1844 publication.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Paradise Lost
by John Milton

Arion Press 2002/2004 facsimile based on the second Baskerville edition of 1759 and including facsimiles of watercolor drawings by William Blake.
James Bond by Ian Fleming
James Bond
by Ian Fleming

Complete 14-volume set of facsimile first editions published by the First Edition Library in 1990.
Ulysses by James Joyce
Ulysses
by James Joyce

The Folio Society’s 2004 facsimile reproduction of the 1926 second edition.
The Boobus and the Bunnyduck by Michael McClure and Jess Collins
The Boobus and the Bunnyduck
by Michael McClure and Jess Collins

Arion Press’ 2007 facsimile based on the first book made by visual artist Jess Colllins in 1957 in San Francisco.
The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle by Charles Darwin
The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle
by Charles Darwin

Club Internacional del Libro 1994 commemorative facsimile edition
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell

David Paradine’s 1977 facsimile to commemorate a century since the book’s first publication by Jarrold & Sons.
Classics of Science Library in 13 volumes
Classics of Science Library in 13 volumes

Gryphon’s 1995-1997 facsimile of early editions of various landmark scientific works including Origin of Species.
Jazz by Henri Matisse
Jazz
by Henri Matisse

George Braziller’s 1983 facsimile of the 1947 limited edition.
1611 King James Great He Bible
1611 King James Great He Bible

400th anniversary limited facsimile edition published in 2008.
Howl by Allen Ginsberg
Howl
by Allen Ginsberg

Harper & Row’s 1986 original draft facsimile produced for the 30th anniversary of the poem.
Christmas Carol And The Ten Original Parts Of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Christmas Carol And The Ten Original Parts Of Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens

1977 Yushodo Booksellers’ facsimile is based on the 1843 Chapman Hall edition and Oliver Twist is based on the 1846 Bradbury & Evans edition in 10 parts.
A Voyage Towards the South Pole, and Round the World Performed in his Majesty’s Ships The Resolution and Adventure, in the Years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775
A Voyage Towards the South Pole, and Round the World Performed in his Majesty’s Ships The Resolution and Adventure, in the Years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775

The Libraries Board of South Australia’s 1970 facsimile reprint of the 1777 original (also in two volumes).
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four
by George Orwell

Facsimile edition replicating the manuscript of Orwell’s opus including numerous comments, marginalia and corrections. Published in 1984 by Secker & Warburg.
Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham
Security Analysis
by Benjamin Graham

Pictured is a facsimile of the famous 1934 edition; also available is a facsimile of the 1951 edition.
Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor by Mervyn Peake
Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor
by Mervyn Peake

A 1999 hardcover facsimile of the 1939 first Country Life edition, the reprint was limited to 126 copies.
Fer-De-Lance by Rex Stout
Fer-De-Lance
by Rex Stout

First Editions Library produced this exact facsimile of the original 1934 first edition published by Farrar and Rinehart.
A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson
A Dictionary of the English Language
by Samuel Johnson

Arno Press’ 1979 facsimile reproduces Johnson’s groundbreaking dictionary first published in 1755.
The Works by Joseph Conrad
The Works
by Joseph Conrad

A collection of 20 volumes printed in 1980 by the Johnson Reprint Corporation designed as a facsimile of the 1921 William Heinemann book.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Maltese Falcon
by Dashiell Hammett

This facsimile of the original 1930 first edition was printed in 1993 by Otto Penzler Books and includes a reproduction of the original interior pages as well as the binding.
The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen
The Roman Hat Mystery
by Ellery Queen

First Editions Library facsimile reprinting of the 1929 Stokes edition.
The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie
The ABC Murders
by Agatha Christie

A 2006 facsimile reproduction of the 1936 UK first edition right down to the red boards being stamped in period style and the inclusion of the 7/6 price on the dust cover.
Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov
Pebble in the Sky
by Isaac Asimov

This limited edition facsimile by Doubleday in 1990 was designed to imitate the original first edition published 40 years prior.
Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
Miracle on 34th Street
by Valentine Davies

Facsimile edition published in 2001 based on the 1947 first Harcourt edition.
Glinda of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Glinda of Oz
by L. Frank Baum

Facsimile of the 1920 edition of the final Oz book, which was originally published posthumously.
Boxing by A.J. Newton
Boxing
by A.J. Newton

Reproduction of the original 1910 handbook on boxing - night-time reading for every young chap, even the least belligerent.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Samuel Langhorne Clemens
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
by Samuel Clemens

This 1963 facsimile is slightly smaller than the original first edition. As well, its author is Samuel Clemens, as "Mark Twain" is considered a trademark by his estate.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers

Facsimile edition of the 1940 first edition published by Houghton Mifflin.

Which rare book is beautiful and special enough that you'd buy its facsimile?


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