A collection of 19 first-edition copies of the founding document of Alcoholics Anonymous, known to adherents as the "Big Book," will be auctioned off in Los Angeles next month.

The Profiles in History auction house said Tuesday that the collection will be part of a single lot that includes a 1940 stock certificate used at the time to raise funds to continue printing the Big Book.

The Big Book − which includes the group's 12 original steps — was first printed in 1939, four years after Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Akron on June 10, 1935, by New York stockbroker Bill Wilson — Bill W. — and Akron physician Robert Smith — Dr. Bob.

Wilson, who signed the 19 books in the collection to be auctioned July 11, was the book's primary writer. The book includes personal stories of recovery to sobriety through A.A., and the first edition boasts many stories from people in the Akron area.

The first-edition books — published in various printings between 1939 and 1954 — were collected over a lifetime by Ken Roberts, who last year put up for auction the original working manuscript for the Big Book. It sold for $2.4 million to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

The first-edition collection is estimated to sell for up to $500,000.

Gene M., who is an assistant archivist with A.A.'s Akron Area Intergroup, said Tuesday it's what the book says — what it means to people — that's important — "not the property."

He'd like to see them because they are rare, he said.

But, he said, "we don't put a value on property," material items associated with A.A. "This is a spiritual program. People who are practicing the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous don't put that much stock into property."

A.A.'s "primary purpose is to help the still suffering alcoholic. We don't have any other reason to be in existence," he said.

"I hope whoever buys it reads the book, whether it be an $8 copy or a $200,000 collector's copy," Gene M. said.

Gene M. said he'd like to see first editions go to the national archives of A.A. in New York City, or archives of A.A. groups that may have a particular connection to a specific first edition. For example, he said, a book may be inscribed to a person involved with an A.A. group at the time.

A.A.'s Akron Area Intergroup, he said, has some half dozen Big Books signed by Wilson, and one signed by Smith.

Wilson "would come to Akron a lot. He had friends in Akron and that was a thing, to have Bill sign the book," Gene M. said.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.