Bill Wilson was so eager to take credit for the Big Book that he mimeographed and sold copies before the official printing, for $3.50 each. These pamphlets had no copyright notice, effectively making the text within public domain. Bill filed for a copyright, and convinced the rest of AA it was valid, but it was not and never has been. You can legally download the entire first edition.
Truth matters less than image to a con man, and Bill held his fake copyright ransom. He would sell it to AA, in exchange for a stipend and royalties for life. Over the years he demanded more and more. He started with an asking price four times the income of the average full time male worker in 1938. Putting the good of the group, of Bill W.’s cult, ahead of their own, the other authors folded. No one else made a penny in royalties.
This was the man who claimed to have a spiritual solution to an honest and sober life. This was the man with the hubris to say only he could save alcoholics. He didn’t even write his own cult doctrine. He stole it from Frank Buchman’s Group, from existing temperance societies, and from his own friends. Dr. Bob, AA #3 Bill Dotson, and Bill’s favorite mistress were all among the authors he ripped off.
Bill is credited within AA for authoring the first 164 introductory pages. These are considered sacrosanct and cannot be updated or edited in newer editions. They are gospel. This is not normal. If AA was primarily an alcohol recovery program, then updating their publications to reflect new research and theories would be important. Instead there are dogmatic unchanging scriptures, inerrant words from a deceased paternal god.
Bill Wilson had been sober only four years, with periodic violent binges punctuating his cult fervor. He was not an expert on addiction or recovery. He’d seen the light while hallucinating on belladonna and had a religious experience. He’d joined and then been asked to leave a cult. He was no messiah, but that wouldn’t stop him from behaving with godlike entitlement.