The Original Working Manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous

The Original Working Manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous

In February 1939, Alcoholics Anonymous was in preparation of publishing their new book that Bill Wilson had been writing over the previous year. Their draft was complete with 400 of the multilith copies of their proposed book sent out to AA members, doctors, pyschiatrists, and ministers for comments and feedback. Suggestions started coming back to AA immediately and they were all entered into a single copy of the multilith book. That book became known as the “Original Working Manuscript.”

There was a short period of time of about 6 weeks between mid-February when the multilith copies were sent out for suggestions and the beginning of April when the final document was brought to the Cornwall Press printing factory to print the First Edition Big Book. Bill Wilson described the book that was brought to the printing plant…

“Nothing now remained except to prepare the printer’s copy of the book. We selected one of the mimeographs, and in Henry’s (Hank Parkhurst) clear handwriting all the corrections were transferred to it. There were few large changes but the small ones were very numerous. The copy was hardly legible and we wondered if the printer would take it, heavily marked up as it was… (arriving at the printing plant) we brought with us the mangled but precious printer’s copy of Alcoholics Anonymous. When the Cornwall manager saw the mess our book was in he was so dismayed that he almost sent us home to make a fresh typing of the whole business. But salesman Henry prevailed upon him to try to make galleys, and day after day we corrected these as they issued from the shop.”

Included below are several photos that show Bill’s description of the book that was brought to the printing plant.

After the 1st Edition Book was printed, Bill Wilson kept the Original Working Manuscript in his possession until his passing in 1971, when it was inherited by his wife Lois. In 1978, Lois gave the manuscript to a dear friend Barry Leach. You can see her inscription to Barry here.

-Learn more about the 1st Edition Big Book in our article: HISTORY OF THE BIG BOOK: FIRST PRINTING 1939


-Photos and information in this article about the “Original Working Manuscript” can be found in the Hazelden published book: “The Book that Started it All”

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