While the general doctrine would indicate that when a U.S. writer is publishing his latest novel, the U.S edition will be the world’s first edition. That is generally the case because the manuscript would have been edited here in the States with the publisher, and they will get it to print before any foreign editions appear.
However, once in a while there is an anomaly. That is the case with “Rose Madder”. While it may have been known at the time in 1995, as the years go by, this vital information falls into myth. The U.S. edition, published by Viking in July 1995 is in fact, not the world’s first edition. That honor befalls a Hodder & Stoughton (UK) variant edition which was released on April 4, 1995, three months prior.
While 1995 was still three years before I started to read and collect the vastness of Stephen King’s body of work, when I was in London in 2001, I purchased two copies of the true world’s first edition of “Rose Madder” from a collector that purchased them in 1995 from Michael Anft. At the time of the purchase, Michael had provided the seller with a personal letter stating that he received ten copies on April 4, 1995, directly from his Hodder rep in London. His rep that provided him with all the UK proofs of Stephen’s books, did not have any "Rose Madder" proofs to share with him as they were not done. As a result, the ten copies he was handed differed from the eventual UK first edition.
For starters, the end-papers were black stock paper, as opposed to the rose end-papers that were eventually used. The dust jacket also differs in that the picture of Insomnia is missing on the inner rear-flap. Finally, the UK first edition has a cotton page marker that is attached to a yellow/blue backing material that is attached along the entire length of the spine. The April 4 copies do not have either of these features.
While it is unknown at this time why this original state was done, it is the definitive world’s first edition. Of the 10 copies that were sold on or after April 4, 1995, there can be no more than nine copies that are signed by Stephen King. When I was visiting London in 2006 for the "Lisey’s Story" UK launch, I brought my two copies of "Rose Madder" with me and Steve was kind enough to sign one. The other is still unsigned. Of the remaining eight, I am uncertain where they are located, but at the time that Michael received them in 1995, none were obviously signed. I would love to know how many of the remaining copies are graced with the author’s signature?