During World War II, The United States Government placed regulations on book printings. These regulations were put in place to conserve paper by limiting the size and weight of books. The Alcoholics Anonymous book was given the nickname “The Big Book” because Bill Wilson and Hank Parkhurst wanted to justify the cost of $3.50. Which at the time was almost unheard of for a book. Consequently, the printer began using thick paper with large margins to increase the size of the book, hence the name “The Big Book.” Clearly, there was no need for such a large book for the amount of text that was inside. It obviously needed to be decreased in size.
In January 1945, Alcoholics Anonymous started printing the “7th Printing” of the 1st Edition. It was intended for this printing to be smaller in size to conform to the government mandate but for some reason, this was never done. It is unknown why exactly why the changes were not made for the 7th Printing. We do know that a very limited number of 7th Printings were printed, some AA historians have estimated that there were approximately 300-500 printed. The earlier 6 Printings each had around 5,000 copies printed.
The 7th Printing even included the “Important Notice” about the size being decreased due to the Government regulations. We’re guessing that the reason the 7th Printing had a small run was that the printer had not yet manually made the changes to the printing press to accommodate the smaller book. Once the printing press was changed they discontinued any more printings of the 7th and immediately began producing the smallest big book ever printed!
The 8th Printing was released on February 12th, 1945:
The 8th Printing is the smallest of all of 16 First Edition Big Books!
After the War concluded and AA began printing the 9th Printing, the size of the book was increased to be a big book again!