By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
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Index of Chapter 4

Chapter 4:   THE BOOK 4.2 - Publication
4.1 - Its Beginnings and Writing Of 4.3 - The Break From the Oxford Group

Chapter 4.2



Take, Oh take the gift I bring! - Not the blushing rose of spring,

Not a gem from India's cave, Not the coral of the wave -

Not a wreath to deck thy brow, Not a ring to bind thy vow, -

Brighter is the gift I bring, Friendship's pearly offering.

Take the BOOK! Oh, may it be - Treasured long and near by thee!

Keep, oh keep the gift I bring, - Love and friendship's offering!

The Temperance Token or Crystal Drops From the Old Oaken Bucket; edited by Kate Barklay
(George H. Derby and Co., 1846)

Ed Blackwell of The Cornwall Press told both Bill and Hank that he could not go ahead with the book printing until and unless they came up with some money. At least enough to cover the cost of the paper. Both men pleaded with Blackwell. Both had come this far. Could he not do them a favor for this worthwhile cause, they asked? They tried many sales ploys, and even dropped the name of Mr. Rockefeller. But Blackwell was not about to print the book on credit. He held fast to his requirement for payment up front. Bill and Hank drove back down to New York, disappointed once again. Disappointed but not undaunted.

Sales of shares of Works Publishing, Inc. were progressing very slowly. According to a printed financial statement that was issued in June 1940, there were at that time six hundred and sixty shares sold. Four hundred and five of them were owned by the Alcoholic Foundation. Forty-four individuals had subscribed to, and purchased one hundred and seventy-four shares. Five individuals received eighty-one shares given to them for "services rendered."

At twenty-five dollars par share, the total share offering should have produced $16,500. But, as of June 30, 1940, only $4,450 had been received.

By the time the book was being printed, less than six hundred and sixty shares had been sold. The multilith printing had cost one hundred and sixty-five dollars to print. And this was for four hundred copies.

By June 1940, the Cornwall Press had been paid two thousand four hundred fourteen dollars and seventy-one cents. (This included the printing plates which had been valued at $825.) All of this outlay of money; but not a single book had been ordered.

Bill Wilson had loaned the movement one hundred dollars. Charles B. Towns of Towns Hospital loaned the Foundation two thousand, five hundred and thirty-nine dollars. A Mr. William Cochran loaned another one thousand dollars.

Cochran, of the Cochran Art School of Washington, D.C., had been persuaded to loan the Foundation $1,000 at the insistence of Agnes M. Agnes was the administrator of Cochran's school and was the sister of Fitz M. whom Bill had helped sober up in New York. Agnes had been so grateful for her brother's rebirth that she did all that she could do to help.

Bill and finally the Foundation finally did manage to raise the necessary funds to cover the initial printing costs. Bill, Hank, Dorothy Snyder (Clarence's wife, who at that time was visiting with her sister in Yonkers, NY) and Ruth Hock went to Cornwall, New York to oversee the printing of the book. This was the first of many trips made to the little hamlet of Cornwall before the final galleys for the book were approved as ready.

The paper had been ordered. The book was to be printed in the thickest, cheapest paper possible. Bill, Hank, Dorothy and Ruth wanted to have the book appear much larger than its approximate four hundred pages. They wanted potential purchasers to believe they were getting something substantial for their money.

The Big Book's girth was expanded even greater by having the printer print each page with unusually large margins surrounding the text. This promised a very large and heavy volume. Thus, the book come to be known as the "Big Book."

The book's binding was red in color. Blackwell had an overage of red and explained to Bill and Hank that he would give them a special deal on this material. Ever cost conscious, Bill and Hank accepted. In fact, they even felt the color red would make the book more attractive and marketable. Red stood for royalty, so they thought.

The first printing was the only one on which a red binding was used. All the other bindings, except for that used with the fourth printing were in various shades of blue. The fourth printing, due to another overstock of binding material and thus, lower cost, was bound in blue as well as in green.

There was a typographical error in the first printing; despite all efforts to an even-free volume. On page 234, the second and third line from the bottom was printed twice. This error was removed from subsequent editions.

A New York City based artist and member of the Fellowship, Ray C., was asked to design the Dust Jacket. He submitted a few different ideas for consideration. These included one which was blue and in an Art Deco motif, and another which was red, yellow and black with a minimum of white. The latter had the words Alcoholics Anonymous printed across the top in large white script.

Hank and Bill chose the red, yellow and black mock-up: And the jacket became known as the "Circus" jacket due to its loud and circus-style colors. Bill and Hank felt this dust jacket stood out and was eye catching. The unused blue jacket is still located at the Archives at the Stepping Stones Foundation.

Ray C.'s story, "AN ARTISTS CONCEPT" appeared only in the first sixteen printings of the First Edition. His story was preceded with a quote. "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." It says there it was from Herbert Spencer, though nobody has yet to find this quote in any of Mr. Spencer's works.

And though Ray's story was removed from the Second edition, the "Spencer quote" was retained. And it can now be found at the end of Appendix II, ("Spiritual Experience") in the Big Book at page 570.

The alcoholics were ready to go. They had a book that told of their experiences. They had a program of recovery that was outlined within the pages of the book. And they were conducting meetings of the alcoholic squadron of the Oxford Group. But even though there was an Alcoholic Foundation and references had been made in correspondence to "we of Alcoholics Anonymous," the alcoholics meetings were not yet actually called those of "Alcoholics Anonymous" or "A.A. meetings." But the gatherings were being held in both Brooklyn, New York and Akron, Ohio.

Bill and Hank had sent out four hundred copies of the multilith (which promised a book to follow when it was finally published). They sent letters and post cards to doctors, clergy and others. They sat back and waited for their Post Office to deliver sacks of mail containing thousands of orders for their books. And with the thousands of orders, they also expected thousands of dollars which would accompany them.

They waited and waited. Each day they called the Post Office, asking where the responses were. They were often told that none had arrived. Four thousand seven hundred and thirty books had been printed. Yet as of June 30, 1940, only two thousand, four hundred and five had been sold. They recorded "163 books outstanding against accounts receivable," and they recorded that two hundred seventy-nine books had been distributed free of charge.

In other words, from the publication of the first printing in April 1939 through June 30, 1940, a period of fourteen months, Bill and Hank still had one thousand eight hundred and eighty-three copies unsold.

Bill and Hank were once again dejected. Cartons upon cartons of books remained in stock in Cornwall, New York. Ed Blackwell would only release books that had already been paid for. Thus, unless the Foundation sold some from their stocks, they couldn't sell the remaining volumes in Cornwall. "You've got to have money to make money," they must have thought.

By this time, the New York contingent was having major doubts they would even get back their hard earned investment. They also began to doubt Bill.

In Akron, Doc was also feeling heat from Ohio members who had invested. Though these people were still attending the Oxford Group meetings at T. Henry and Clarace Williams' home, they had hoped on something more when the book came out. They weren't sure what that something was; but it would come, they believed.

Unbeknown to all something was about to happen. Something that would change the course of the history of the yet unnamed fellowship. That something would come the very next month.

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