The Little Red Book
Ed Webster (Minneapolis)
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ed Webster published The Little Red Book in 1946 under the sponsorship of the Nicollet Group. Ed had the help and support of Dr. Bob, who gave numerous suggestions for wording various passages. Ed also wrote Stools and Bottles (1955), Barroom Reveries (1958) and Our Devilish Alcoholic Personalities (in 1970, just a year before his death). In various places in the U.S. and Canada, Ed was the third most widely read A.A. author.
First edition of The Little Red Book (1946)
A photocopy of the title page and inside front cover of the first edition. This copy, which belonged to Ed Webster, has Dr. Bobís signature on it. From the collection of Jack H. (Scottsdale, Arizona).
Note: the Hazelden 50th Anniversary Edition of The Little Red Book which was published in 1996 says that it is a reproduction of the original 1946 edition, but it is actually a reproduction of the 1949 edition. Ed Webster had made some substantial revisions in the book by the time that 1949 edition came out. In Roman numerals, 1946 is MCMXLVI (as we see at the bottom of the title page above) and 1949 is MCMXLIX.
In good old-time A.A., a book or pamphlet which was sponsored by an A.A. group in one part of the country was automatically considered appropriate for reading in other A.A. meetings in other parts of the country.
So The Little Red Book (sponsored by the Nicollet Group in Minneapolis) and Twenty-Four Hours a Day (sponsored by the group in Daytona Beach, Florida) were read from in meetings and made available by A.A. groups to newcomers all over the United States and Canada.
The Little Red Book was published by "the Coll-Webb Co.," which meant that Barry Collins and Ed Webster (members of the Nicollet Group in Minneapolis) were paying for publishing it themselves.
A letter from Bobby Burger, the secretary at the New York A.A. headquarters (then called the Alcoholic Foundation), dated November 11, 1944, gives Barry their full approval:
In fact, Jack H. (Scottsdale AZ) has discovered in Ed Webster's papers that in the late 1940's, the New York A.A. office was regularly ordering quantities of The Little Red Book for resale in New York. Dr. Bob not only helped Ed Webster write it, but was sending copies to A.A. groups in other parts of the country.
. . . The Washington D.C. pamphlet and the new Cleveland "Sponsorship" pamphlet and a host of others are all local projects, as is Nicolletís "An Interpretation of the Twelve Steps" [the Little Red Book]. We do not actually approve or disapprove of these local pieces; by that I mean that the Foundation feels each Group is entitled to write up its own "can opener" and let it stand on its own merits. All of them have good points and very few have caused any controversy. But as in all things of a local nature, we keep hands off, either pro or con. I think there must be at least 25 local pamphlets now being used and I've yet to see one that hasn't had some good points. I think it is up to each individual Group whether it wants to use and buy these pamphlets from the Group that puts them out.
Sincerely, Bobby (Margaret R. Burger)
Bill W. wrote Barry Collins about the Minneapolis book in November 1950:
In other words, in good old-time A.A., nobody ever thought that New York was supposed to decide what books A.A.'s could and could not read -- they were neither "policemen" nor gurus of some authoritarian religious cult -- as Brooklyn Bob, one good old-timer, put it, "We read anything we could get our hands on that might help us get sober." Individual A.A. groups could print any books they wanted to and sell any books which they felt would help their members.
The Little Red Book does fill a definite need and has wide circulation. Therefore, its usefulness is unquestioned. AA has a definite place for such a book. Someday I may try to write an introduction book myself which I hope might complement favorably with The Little Red Book. Here at the Foundation we are not policemen; we're a service and AAs are free to read any book they choose.
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