William H. Schaberg is a scholar, author, and rare book dealer based in Fairfield, Connecticut. Being released on November 5, 2019, his new book, Writing the Big Book: The Creation of A.A – based on 11 years of primary document research and 7 years of writing – will be published by Central Recovery Press. It has been 40 years since Ernie Kurtz wrote Not-God, the last truly professional treatment of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. While many books dealing with A.A. history have been written since then, Writing the Big Book is the first to bring that same kind of exhaustive research, scholarly discipline and informed insight to the subject. Bill’s book—ranging from October of 1937, when a book was first proposed, to April of 1939 when Alcoholics Anonymous was published—is based primarily on the wealth of 1930s documents currently preserved in several A.A. archives.
Bill Schaberg began collecting rare books in 1984 and became a recognized dealer in 1994, operating as Athena Rare Books. His business is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America and, individually, he belongs to the prestigious Grolier Club of New York City. His interest in the history of ideas led him to amass a large collection of first edition philosophy texts and inspired his first scholarly work, The Nietzsche Canon: A Publication History and Bibliography (University of Chicago Press, 1995). Schaberg has delivered lectures on Nietzsche, William James, and other philosophers with his mentor King Dykeman at his alma mater, Fairfield University. He has served in the United States Air Force and ran a family printing business for over thirty years before retiring to commit more energy to his bookselling business.
Schaberg bought his first collectible copy of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1989 and has been professionally dealing in A.A. materials since the mid-1990s. In the intervening years, he has bought and sold a large number of A.A. books – with a particular focus on the first sixteen printings of the first edition. In 2001, he purchased at auction a multilithed prepublication copy of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. When Schaberg purchased the multilith copy of the Big Book at auction, his interest in AA was purely practical. He wanted to answer some basic questions about his newly acquired book: How many had been privately printed? Just how rare was it?
This eventually brought him to the AA archives, which contain a veritable treasure trove of previously unreported data. “The tremendous amount of unmined information I discovered was staggering,” he says. “That led to my decision to write a book covering just 18 months of AA history: from the first time they said, ‘Hey, we should write a book!’ until the day the book was actually published. It was amazing; the more I researched, the more great details I uncovered.” Schaberg’s scholarly investigation into the authorship of Alcoholics Anonymous was an eleven-year project that, like his Nietzsche book, began with bibliographical confusion over the text’s prepublication history and culminated in an unprecedented chronology of the “Big Book” origins.
He compiled much of the historical facts that are presented in this book from the AA archives along with several other sources, The result of his in-depth research, Schaberg’s history relies whenever possible on primary, real-time documents. He thoroughly investigates the book’s authorship, illuminating the lesser-known contributions of figures like Hank Parkhurst and Frank Amos, and reveals how the spiritual side of the A.A. program evolved and was vigorously debated.
Schaberg was surprised to learn that “the stories Bill Wilson always told about AA’s early years were more parables and myths than anything approaching historical fact.” In fact, he says, “the true story of the evolution and founding of AA is far more miraculous and inspiring.”
Ultimately, Schaberg hopes readers will find his history of the Big Book inspirational, positive, and uplifting. And he hopes that, in its own way, the book supports the work of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Who wouldn’t be proud,” he says, “to be part of a movement with such wonderfully human roots and such an amazingly miraculous backstory?”
You can purchase Writng the Big Book on Amazon:
You can also purchase at the following link if you’d like to contibute to The Stepping Stones Foundation:
Schaberg has also authored an amazing Step “Work-Group” Guide that can be downloaded for free on the Stratford Men’s Group website! This guide presents detailed instructions for organizing and running a 12-Step Workgroup based on the guidelines and suggestions given in the Big Book. It attempts to organize those guidelines and suggestions into eighteen comprehensive and manageable segments for use by a small group of recovering alcoholics.
For more information about William Schaberg and all of the work he has done including his new book you can check out his site: