Collectors of recovery memorabilia are about to have a unique opportunity when the original typed working manuscript of the AA “Big Book” is auctioned on May 5th in Los Angeles. Officially titled, “Alcoholics Anonymous,” the book has sold over 30 million copies and has been translated into 67 languages since it was published almost 80 years ago.
I was surprised to learn that this revered and historic text was not in the possession of the General Service Office of A.A. nor safely ensconced at Stepping Stones, the preserved home of its primary author, Bill Wilson. Wilson’s life was full of complicated twists and turns. So too the history of the book ownership has become a saga of its own. Gifted by Bill’s widow, Lois, to a friend who intended to give it to AA after his death, an oversight allowed it to pass into private hands and eventually disappear.
Current estimates are that the successful bidder will need between two and three million dollars to become the new owner. The good news is that an excellent color facsimile of the manuscript (“The Book That Started it All”) is available from Hazelden Publishing at a currently discounted price of $45.50. The best news is that for $9.50 you can purchase online a new copy of the current 4th edition from A.A. World Services, or at an AA meeting. At no cost, many members are happy to pass along their own copy at no charge, in keeping with the 12th Step of AA to help others recover as part of one’s own recovery process.
Perhaps a parallel generosity will motivate the new owner to restore it to the AA organization so that its inspirational power can have the widest impact. The content of an everyday copy of this book has a remarkable impact on people struggling to recover from their problem with alcohol. Next week I will use this space to share with you some of the comments that I have collected.