Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Bill Wilson's working draft manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book". The Charter of the Fellowship [Alcoholics Anonymous]. Bill Wilson. Original working draft manuscript of the "Big Book" Alcoholics Anonymous (published 10 April 1939), being an original multilith copy with an aggregation of annotations and revisions by several founders of AA (some by "Bill W." [a.k.a. William Griffith Wilson], but most in the hand of Henry Griffin "Hank" Parkhurst), 161 pages (three of which are written in pencil by several hands); 11 x 8.5 in.; 280 x 215 mm; Newark, New Jersey, 1939; the annotations and revisions in lead, green, and red pencil (with a few in ink), lightly browned. Each leaf encased in nitrogen-filled mylar sleeves by Northeast Document Conservation Center of Andover, Massachusetts and bound in a red cloth binder with a morocco lettering piece ("PRINTER'S COPY M[anu]S[cript]. ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS"). Bound with presentation leaf inscribed by Lois Wilson (Bill's widow): "I joyfully give this multilith copy of the AA book, one of my most precious possessions, to you, dear Barry [Barry Leach, author of Living Sober and close personal friend and confidante of both Bill and Lois], as evidence of my deep gratitude for all you have done for AA, for Al-Anon, and particularly for me. Lois 1/1/78." Seller is not transferring any copyright rights to duplicate this manuscript. The Working Manuscript of One of the Most Influential Books of the Twentieth Century... The Library of Congress ranks Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) the number one nonfiction work in their "Books that Shaped America." One of the best selling books of all time - the thirty-millionth copy of Alcoholics Anonymous was presented to the American Medical Association in 2011. In 1999 Time Magazine listed Bill Wilson as "Bill W.: The Healer" in Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century. Alcoholics Anonymous, the genesis of the "12-step method," serves as the blueprint for recovery of alcoholism, as well as other addictions, in over 150 countries around the world. Best-selling AA historian and author, Dr. Ernest Kurtz, said, "Not only is this Manuscript the most important nonfiction manuscript in all history, I consider it right up there with the Magna Carta because of the personal freedom it has provided so many millions of alcoholics!" This working manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous is the subject of the scholarly work, The Book That Started It All: The Original Working Manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous (Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden Publishing, 2010), in which AA historians discuss the multitude of annotations and edits and their impact on the evolution of Alcoholics Anonymous. A passage from the opening chapter: "This 'original working manuscript' is a historical document of singular importance, combining within its pages several different stages in the writing of Alcoholics Anonymous. These overlapping layers in the creation of the final text can be discovered by carefully reading and 'untangling' the different elements presented in the pages that follow. The original working manuscript ... is what historians call a primary document - one that comes from a specific time and place, capturing all the complexity and immediacy of that particular moment. The working manuscript encapsulates and preserves the thinking of the people who were 'founding' Alcoholics Anonymous during a very brief time period - six weeks or so - between the printing of the multilith copy in mid-February 1939, and the final editing of the first edition of the Big Book, which was done in late March or early April." The manuscript begins with a foreword discussing the Fellowship and the importance of remaining "anonymous". Page 1, entitled The Doctor's Opinion, includes a letter from a doctor endorsing AA and its practices, as well as his belief that "the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind. It does not satisfy [alcoholics] to be told that [they] cannot control [their] drinking just because [they] were maladjusted to life ... These things were true to some extent, in fact, to a considerable extent with some of [them]. But [they] are sure that [their] bodies were sickened as well..." Chapter One, Bill's Story, is Bill W.'s experience with active drinking and his recovery. "While I lay in the hospital the thought came that there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what had been so freely given to me. Perhaps I could help some of them.  They in turn might work with others ... We commenced to make many fast friends and a fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a part.  The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty ... We meet frequently at our different homes, so that newcomers may find the fellowship they seek ... Most of us feel we need to look no further for Utopia, nor even Heaven. We have it right with us here and now..." The remaining chapters - There is a Solution, More About Alcoholism, We Agnostics, How it Works, Into Action, Working with Others, To Wives, The Family Afterward, To Employers, and A Vision for You - cover the following related topics: the theory of alcoholism as a fatal physical disease combined with mental obsession, how to combat the disease through complete abstinence in harmony with the practice of certain spiritual principles, finding a personal Higher Power that is greater than oneself, how the 12 steps are worked and applied to daily life (discussed in How it Works), how performing service with or for other recovering alcoholics helps keep one sober, and suggestions for how a newly sober recovering alcoholic can return to his family, friends, job, etc., and be productive while remaining sober. The final seventy-nine pages in this copy are devoted to "Personal Stories," actual experiences of alcoholics who found recovery by practicing the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. As stated in The Book That Started It All: The Original Working Manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous, "... Since the first publication of the Big Book, sales of its four editions in hardback and softcover printings have exceeded 27 million copies in the United States and Canada alone. Copies have also been made available in a braille and large-print edition, in sign language, on audiotapes and CDs, and on the Internet. The text has been translated into at least fifty-two languages ... the Fellowship of AA, and the Big Book have saved millions of alcoholics from death and given them a new way of life. The book and the AA Fellowship are viewed as the gold standard among the worldwide community of Twelve Step groups ... A great number of other anonymous groups - including those for overeater's, codependents, people with dual recovery issues, marijuana addicts, sex addicts, and other people with depression - have used and adapted the Twelve Steps and counted AA's Big Book as their spiritual godfather ... Amid the wealth of literature on Alcoholics Anonymous, you have in your hands the greatest treasure of all, the beginning of it all, the charter of the Fellowship. [When comparing the Big Book to the Magna Carta] Both great works offer us freedom from oppression, and both have - in different ways - changed the world for the better. But finally, the value of this book is measured by the people it touches. As many AA members would say, 'What's a book worth that saves your life?'" A lawsuit commenced by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (A.A.W.S.) prevented the sale of this Manuscript from taking place last year. That lawsuit is now concluded and as part of a settlement a Stipulated Order was entered by the Court which states as follows: A.A.W.S. irrevocably waives and surrenders any and all rights or claims it has or may have to possession, ownership of, or title to the 1939 "Printer's Copy" also known as the "original working draft" manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous (the "Manuscript"), based upon a certain 1979 letter from Barry Leach or otherwise and that Roberts has the right to transfer, auction, or otherwise sell the Manuscript at his sole discretion without being subject to any claim or encumbrance by A.A.W.S. $2,000,000 - $3,000,000

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2018
    5th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 641
    Sold on May 6, 2018 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2022 February 19 Americana & Political Signature Auction.

    Learn about consigning with us

    The department director has the heart of a true and highly knowledgeable collector with the business acumen of someone who has been not only successful but has decades of an impeccable track record
    David Greenburg,
    Chicago, IL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search