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Alcoholics Anonymous First Edition 1st Printing 1939

Original price $10,950 - Original price $10,950
Original price
$10,950 - $10,950
Current price $10,950

Alcoholics Anonymous First Edition Big Book 1st Printing 1939

This is a First Edition, First Printing of the Big Book from 1939. The book has a reproduction dust jacket.

Learn more about the First Printing:

Bill Wilson and Hank Parkhurst, the two men that spearheaded the book project, wanted to sell the book for $3.50 per copy. That was a very large sum in those days, the equivalent of around $50 today, and people might not think they were getting their money’s worth. They picked the cheapest, thickest paper the printer had, and requested that each page be printed with large margins surrounding the text. This made for an unusually large book. Thus, the book came to be nicknamed the “Big Book.” The First Printing is bigger and thicker than the current Fourth Editions. With AA having very little money in 1939 and the early 1940's, they picked the cheapest materials they could use for printing the book which contributed to the various colors of first editions.

A New York AA member named Ray Campbell; a recognized artist was asked to design the dust jacket. His story, An Artist’s Concept, appears in the First Edition. He submitted various designs for consideration including one which is blue and in an Art Deco style. The one which was chosen was red, and yellow, with a little black, and a little white. The words Alcoholics Anonymous were printed across the top in large white script. It became known as the circus jacket because of its loud circus colors.

There were approximately 4,650 First Printings that were printed in April 1939. For comparison, each of the first 6 printings of the First Edition had approximately 5,000 copies and the Eighth Printing from 1945 had 20,000. With the First Printing being the oldest and most unique of them all, it holds the most value.

The first and maybe most obvious to notice is that the cover on all First Printing books was in the red cloth with the red and yellow circus jacket. During these early days of AA much was done by trial and error. Nearly all AA members at the time were living in poverty including Bill Wilson, he and his wife Lois became homeless in May 1939 and remained without a home of their own until April 1941. Because there was so little money AA tried to cut as many corners as possible when it came to publishing the book. The printer Cornwall Press was so concerned about receiving payment they cut the first printing order short and only produced 4,650 copies of the April 1939 release.  All of these 1939 printings were bound in Red cloth.

Page 1 is the first page of the Doctor’s Opinion. The Doctor’s Opinion is now in the Roman Numeral section at the front of the big book and Page 1 is now the beginning of Bill’s Story. This change happened with the First Printing of the Second Edition.

Despite all their efforts at proofreading, there was a typographical error in the First Printing on page 234, the second and third line from the bottom was printed twice. This was corrected in subsequent printings.
The Appendix gives information about the structure of The Alcoholic Foundation, Trustees, and how to contact Alcoholics Anonymous.

Stories in the back of the First Printing:

Doctor Bob’s Nightmare – Page 183 by Dr. Bob Smith
The Unbeliever – Page 194 by Hank Parkhurst
The European Drinker – Page 206 by Joe Doeppler
A Feminine Victory – Page 217 by Florence Rankin
Our Southern Friend – Page 226 by John Henry Fitzhugh Mayo
A Business Man’s Recovery – Page 242 by William Ruddell
A Different Slant – Page 252 by Harry Brick
Traveler, Editor, Scholar – Page 254 by Jim Scott
The Back-Sider – Page 265 by Walter Bray
Home Brewmeister – Page 274 by Clarence Snyder
The Seventh Month Slip – Page 282 by Ernie Galbraith
My Wife And I – Page 287 by Tom Lucas
A Ward Of The Probate Court – Page 296 by William Van Horn
Riding The Rods – Page 303 by Charlie Simonson
The Salesman – Page 317 by Bob Ovatt
Fired Again – Page 325 by Wallace Gillam
The Fearful One – Page 332 by Archie Trowbridge
Truth Freed Me! – Page 336 by Paul Stanley
Smile With Me, At Me – Page 340 by Harold Sears
A Close Shave – Page 348 by Henry Zoeller
Educated Agnostic – Page 351 by Norman Hunt
Another Prodigal Story – Page 357 by Ralph Furlong
The Car Smasher – Page 364 by Dick Stanley
Hindsight – Page 370 by Myron Williams
On His Way – Page 375 by Horace Maher
An Alcoholic’s Wife – Page 378 by Marie Bray
An Artist’s Concept – Page 380 by Ray Campbell
The Rolling Stone – Page 386 by Lloyd Tate
Lone Endeavor – Page 391 by Pat Cooper/Ruth Hock (First Printing Only)

Appendix – Page 397


This book is in very good condition. There is some wear to the outside cover, along with some markings and spotting (visible in pictures). There is some penciled underlining on some of the first approximately 90 pages. A few other light markings and light wear shown. 

Please view all photos for conditions