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Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous firsts lead off PBA Galleries sale Nov. 21

Alcoholics Anonymous
AA ‘Big Book’ inscribed by William G. Wilson. PBA Galleries image

BERKELY, Calif. – On Thursday, Nov. 21, PBA Galleries will offer an auction of Rare Books & Manuscripts – Alcoholics Anonymous – Miniature Books. PBA will feature over 325 lots comprising rare, interesting and important books, manuscripts and related materials in all fields. Included is a significant collection of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book including all 16 printings of the first edition; rare editions of Aesop’s Fables; landmark scientific works; high spots of literature; illustrated and color plate books; and finely bound books and sets. Also, over 100 lots of miniature books, offered individually or in groups. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

Rare illustrations and color plate books are expected to attract significant interest. Notable 19th-century tomes include The Quadrupeds of North America by John James Audubon and John Bachman in two volumes (1851-1854), with 155 hand-colored lithographed plates, in full morocco elaborately tooled in gilt ($7,000-$10,000). Also from the 19th-century, PBA will present a beautifully bound copy of William Henry Pyne’s Royal Residences of Windsor Castle (1819). The large paper volume is comprised of 100 hand-colored aquatint plates by T. Sutherland & others ($7,000-$10,000).

Alcoholics Anonymous
Pyne’s Royal Residences with 100 aquatint plates. PBA Galleries image

The fin-de-siecle (end of the 19th century) is represented by William Morris’s The Sundering Flood (1897) the third to the last book printed at the Kelmscott Press. Produced posthumously under the direction of Morris’s daughter May, this special copy incorporates a number of woodcut borders and initials exquisitely hand-illuminated in gold and colors ($6,000-$9,000).

Alcoholics Anonymous
Kelmscott printing with beautiful hand-colored woodcuts. PBA Galleries image

Highlights span not only the arts but the sciences. The history of 18th-century science is well-represented by Johann Jacob Scheuchzer’s Kupfer-Bibel: in welcher Die Physica Sacra (1731-1735). His amazing attempt to apply scientific theories to the understanding of scripture is accompanied by 762 copper-engraved plates ($15,000-$25,000). Collectors of modern science must note the three offprints of foundational papers on the discovery of nuclear fission by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann (1939-1944). The first paper constituted the “first comprehensive account of the phenomenon of nuclear fission” ($3,000-$5,000).

Alcoholics Anonymous
Understanding scripture through science, 1731. PBA Galleries image

Other significant lots include a first edition, first printing of the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” inscribed by AA co-founder William G. Wilson (“Bill W.”) and published in 1939 ($10,000-$15,000). PBA will also offer copies of all 16 printings of the first edition of this influential and important book. The first-issue two volumes of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (1925-1927), the future dictator’s blueprint for the political and social destiny of Germany, are available in the original bindings ($5,000-$8,000). In addition to printed books, the auction showcases manuscripts, such as our beautifully calligraphed Persian illuminated manuscript from the early 18th century, with five full-page miniature paintings, in a hand-painted binding from the early 19th century ($3,000-$5,000). Among classic texts, a 1666 edition of Aesop’s Fables with his Life will draw excitement. PBA’s copy is comprised of 110 etchings by William Barlow illustrating the fables, and 31 engraved plates by Thomas Dudley for the Life ($10,000-$15,000).

Alcoholics Anonymous
Aesop’s Fables with William Barlow etchings, 1666. PBA Galleries image

The sale will begin at 11 a.m. Pacific Time on Thursday, Nov. 21. For more information contact  PBA Galleries at 415- 989-2665 or

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