Jim: if you are asking as a very general matter, the first edition, first printing would probably be more desirable and thus more valuable. But there are plenty of exceptions to that rule in the world of book collecting, although probably not as many in magic. From the simple expedient used by some collectors, Gord has apparently extrapolated that to mean that a fifth printing is a fifth edition. That sort of usage can get very confusing, especially in cases where there actually exist fifth printings of fifth editions of certain works!
And I tend to agree with Mark about the meaning of first edition in the collecting world. In essence, for many collectors, saying first edition is a short-hand way of saying first edition, first printing. The problem arises, however, when one is communicating with a collector who is bibliographically educated, in which case, use of the term first edition could mean many things. The problem with using the simple expedient of first edition means first edition, first printing for collectors
is that it doesnt go far enough. Is the speaker referring to the first state of the first printing, or possibly the third state? Is the speaker referring to a colonial or a subsidiary edition? Or perhaps a sub-edition?
Heres a favorite quote of mine concerning the usage of bibliographical terms:Many will say that the whole subject is far too recondite to interest them, and that in any case it concerns only a small, unimportant point. But the fact is that book collecting in the last resort derives any soundness that there may be in its foundation from bibliography, and unless the terms which bibliographers use convey always and universally the same meaning, there is an end to any hope of a sane future for book collecting.
Percy H. Muir in Points: Second Series
So thats the problem, as I see it: people using words and phrases that have different meanings to different people (thats how the discussion in this thread got started). Descriptive bibliography seems rather arcane to most collectors, when in fact, for most modern books, the principles which govern usage of the terms edition, issue and state are not that difficult to master with just a little study. For those who are interested in learning more about bibliography, its basic terms and usages, with examples using magic books, an article was published in last years issue no. 12 of The Yankee Magic Collector
that might be helpful. Heres the link for ordering: http://nemca.com/ymc.htm