See edits to the Twelve Steps

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Edits to original AA Steps 1 - 9

Steps 1 - 9

Edits to original AA Steps 10 - 12

Steps 10 - 12

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A fascinating glimpse into recovery history

Hazelden publishes the original working manuscript of the Big Book

One of the most historically provocative pieces of recovery literature ever discovered--the original working manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous--will now be available to readers everywhere.

The Book That Started It AllDuring this, the 75th anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous, Hazelden Publishing is releasing a four-color reproduction of the entire original working manuscript of the Big Book, complete with AA cofounder Bill Wilson's handwritten margin notes and penciled edits from other founding members of the Fellowship.

The Book That Started It All gives readers an up-close look at the first draft of the Big Book, which was written in 1939 and includes markups in black, green and red pencil. The copyedits and commentary give AA history buffs a firsthand view of the many opinions, debates and discussions that went into making the Big Book, as well as an opportunity to decipher five layers of editorial notations.

One of the most influential books of all time

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on June 10, 1935, the day Bill W. and Dr. Bob first met in Akron, Ohio, and the day Dr. Bob took his last drink of alcohol. Four years and thousands of meetings afterward, Bill W. and a handful of the original 100 AA members took it upon themselves to write down how they got and stayed sober. The result was Alcoholics Anonymous, a book that has since been translated into more than 50 languages and has sold 27 million copies in the United States and Canada alone.

"Imagine being able to explore a rare and valuable manuscript that takes you behind the scenes during the creation of one of the most influential books of all time--dramatically capturing the controversy and creativity that went into introducing AA's program of recovery to the world," marvels recovery movement historian Fred Holmquist, director of the Lodge at Hazelden.

The Twelve Step principles and practices of Alcoholics Anonymous, documented and brought to life through the personal stories chronicled in the Big Book, created one of the greatest social movements of the 20th century. But for nearly 40 years, the primary document of the program lay within the confines of Bill and Lois Wilson's home in Bedford Hills, New York. In 1978, Lois passed on her most prized possession to a friend, and the document remained hidden from public view for nearly another 30 years. The working manuscript eventually found its way to Sotheby's auction house, where it was sold in 2004.

The manuscript's current owner made a set of highresolution scans of the historic document available to Hazelden Publishing so that readers everywhere could have a sense of the lively and exciting six-week period in 1939 when the manuscript was taking shape.

"Hazelden's decision to publish this important text is rooted in our belief that Twelve Step principles are core to helping those who suffer from addiction experience lifelong recovery," explains Nick Motu, publisher and vice president of Marketing and Communications for Hazelden.

"The Big Book is one of the world's most studied and revered texts," adds Motu. "We are thrilled to make the original manuscript more widely available."

The Book That Started It AllEssays provide extra insight

In addition to high-resolution scans of the full manuscript, highlights of The Book That Started It All include the original, unedited version of the Twelve Steps (including a First Step that lacks the famous "We" of the opening), anonymous essays by leading AA historians and the transcript of a 1953 speech by Bill Wilson on the making of the Big Book. One essay recounts the internal debate over what to title the text: The Empty Glass, The Dry Life, The Way Out and even One Hundred Men were all in the running.

"For anyone who wants to understand the foundation of his or her own sobriety or that of family, friends, coworkers or loved ones, this book will be a revelation," says Holmquist. "Most important, this 1939 manuscript highlights the collaborative process that forever changed the way the world treats alcoholics and drug addiction."

Published in The Voice, Fall 2010

Direct your inquiries to or call 1-800-257-7810. All material copyright by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction.

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