The Big Book Goes to Press

This article is written by nationally recognized historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.

[Mitchell K. Library]

To most of the New York members, the book was looking too religious. Both Jim B. and Hank P. wanted all references to God removed. Fitz M. wanted more mention of God.

The members in Akron, Ohio met around Dr. Bob's kitchen table reviewing the pages submitted to them and made their suggestions as well. Bill knew he could not please everyone no matter how hard he would try. There had to be some sort of a compromise.

There are several stories, none confirmed, of how this compromise took place. One story is that Ruth Hock, Bill and Hank's secretary, who was attending some of these heated "discussions," asked about the Oxford Group idea of a non-denominational God. That is, a God, not of the Roman Catholics or Protestants, or Methodists or any other religious denomination, but God of each individual's understanding. It is reported that at that point, Jim B. shouted out; "That's it! God as we understand Him!"

The Oxford Group literature, though Christian in content often discussed a Power greater than oneself. Why not have a universal God? One who can be embraced by all, religious and non-religious alike. Though not too happy about any mention of God, several of the New York members reluctantly agreed to this offer of compromise. The Akron members who -- were reluctant to relinquish the spiritual -- accepted this compromise as well. The book continued to be written.

Chapter after chapter were submitted to the New York and Akron members for their review. Many changes were made and many heated discussions took place. One long-term member from Ohio who was there, told this writer that "we red penciled, blue penciled, crossed out and attempted to keep the book as true to our beliefs as possible." The New York contingent did the same attempting to tone down the spiritual aspects.

Who Wrote "To Wives?"

Bill asked Hank P. to write what was to become Chapter 10, To Employers. Hank wrote that chapter and eventually had another falling out with Bill for receiving no credit. Bill also asked Anne Smith, Dr. Bob's wife to write the chapter To Wives, but she gently declined. She reportedly told Bill that he should have asked his wife Lois instead. Lois was not asked and Bill wrote it. To say the least, Lois held a resentment about that for many years.

Bill and Hank took the book to several sources for review and possible publication. Eventually, after several re-writes and corrections, the book was ready to go to press. In order to raise further funding, a pre-publication manuscript copy was printed. These went out to friends of the fledgling movement as well as to members for further review. Offers were made to send the printed book as soon as it was ready to those who purchased this "multilith" copy. A multilith was a sort of mimeograph process and 400 copies of the manuscript were published and sent out.

It was decided that some of the language should be toned down and upon further review and editing, the book was ready to go to press. A printing company was recommended to Bill and Hank. The Cornwall Press, located in Cornwall, New York (Orange County) was contacted and the process began.

"Circus" Dust Jacket

Bill and Hank wanted to make the book look like it was worth the $3.50 they were going to ask for it. They asked that the thickest paper be used as well as the widest possible margins. The owners of the Cornwall Press had some left over red binding cloth from another print job and offered this to Bill and Hank at a discount.

Ray C., a New York artist was "commissioned" to design the Dust Jacket for the book. One of the first design submissions showed a man marching forward with fists clenched and a determined look on his face. In the background was a bottle with another man trapped inside. The name, Alcoholics Anonymous was in red across most of the cover and "Their Pathway to a Cure" was on the lower right-hand corner. Ray also designed what became known as the "Circus" Dust jacket, the one that was eventually used. This cover was red, yellow, black and white with just the name, Alcoholics Anonymous on top.

Sometime during the Winter of 1939, Bill, Hank, Ruth Hock and Dorothy S. (the then wife of Clarence S. of Cleveland) went to Cornwall, NY to review the galleys. It is not known where, or for how long they stayed in this Orange County, NY hamlet, but it is known that they approved the galleys and the book went to print. Almost 4,800 copies were ordered with a promise from the Cornwall Press that just as soon as these were sold, they were prepared to print several thousand more.

When the books were ready, the Cornwall Press refused to release any of them until they were paid. Despite Bill's pleadings and promises of a quick turn-around, only those books paid for were let out of the warehouse. Very few were paid for and most stayed in storage for many months. It wasn't until February 1940 that there was any real movement of these books.

More will be revealedů

Mitchell K.