Sotheby’s is planning to auction an original working draft of the A.A. Big Book written by Bill Wilson, one of the fellowship’s founders, the New York Times reported June 14.
The auction house has valued the 161-page manuscript at $300,000 to $500,000. The manuscript contains notations written in the margins from dozens of people who reviewed the draft, including alcoholics and psychologists.
The auction is scheduled for June 18, but some people say that the historical document is priceless and should be placed in an archive for scholars and the general public to access.
“I think these things really belong to the fellowship of A.A.,” said Eileen Giuliani, executive director of the Stepping Stones Foundation, which maintains the home and the documents of Wilson and his wife, Lois Wilson, as a museum in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
Bill Pittman, director of historical information at the Hazelden Foundation in Center City, Minn., who has written extensively about the history of A.A., said the draft of the Big Book is “the most important piece of A.A. history to be sold, ever.”
He said the buyer should give it back to A.A. so researchers can view it and explore how the Big Book evolved. “I don’t want someone to buy it and sell each individual page,” Pittman added.
Sotheby’s obtained the 1938 document from an A.A. member, Joseph B., who declined to provide his complete name. He said his aunt, an A.A. member who knew Wilson personally, gave him the manuscript.
Joseph B. said he tried to find interest for the manuscript within A.A., but “ran into a lot of brick walls, a lot of dead ends.”
The auction will also include a second-edition Big Book that Wilson inscribed in 1958 to Joseph B.’s aunt, and four LP albums of A.A. lectures.
Currently in its fourth printing, the Big Book has been used by more than 19 million people to recover from alcoholism and other drug addictions.