Publishing giant Simon & Schuster have conceded that “hand-signed” copies of Bob Dylan’s new book, The Philosophy Of Modern Song, were in fact manufactured with an autopen system (which uses a machine to automatically reproduce a person’s signature).
The signed copies of the book – of which there were 900 – were sold through Simon & Schuster’s website at $599 USD (£505). Many fans cottoned on to the dupe when they started sharing photos of their copies on forums, where it became clear that every copy sported a virtually identical signature.
According to Variety, fans were able to isolate 17 variations of the signature by Sunday afternoon (November 20) – three days after the books were shipped out – which had each been replicated dozens of times.
They are autopenned. Fraudulent. Printed by a machine, not hand signed. pic.twitter.com/Bxsyv6JElC
— geewiz (@thmcdonald1) November 19, 2022
Simon & Schuster initially refused to honour requests for refunds, assuring buyers that the signatures were legitimate and validated by a “letter of authenticity”.
A generic response from the publisher read: “We certainly understand any concerns you may have, however – each individual copy of the limited signed edition of Bob Dylan’s The Philosophy Of Modern Song was personally signed by the author and is accompanied by a letter of authenticity from the publisher of Simon & Schuster.”
That “letter of authenticity” was attributed told the publisher’s president and CEO, Jonathan Karp, and told readers that “the copy of the book you hold has been hand-signed by Bob Dylan”.
As photos of the dodgy signatures continued to circulate, Simon & Schuster pivoted their stance on Sunday, telling buyers directly that they would be refunded. An email sent to those who complained about the dupe, also including a signature from Karp, read: “We apologize for the mistake that was made and are offering a full refund of your purchase. Please keep your copy of ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song’ at no cost. We hope you will enjoy reading it.”
The publisher later made a public statement on social media, writing: “To those who purchased The Philosophy Of Modern Song limited edition, we want to apologize. As it turns out, the limited edition books do contain Bob’s original signature, but in a penned replica form. We are addressing this immediately by providing each purchaser with an immediate refund.”
— Simon & Schuster (@simonschuster) November 20, 2022
The Philosophy Of Modern Song, Dylan’s first original book since Chronicles: Volume One in 2004, was released on November 1. It features more than 60 essays written by the folk icon, covering songs by artists like Elvis Costello, Nina Simone and Hank Williams. The audiobook release features a slew of celebrities reading Dylan’s essays, including Jeff Bridges, Helen Mirren, Oscar Isaac and Steve Buscemi.
One artist who took issue with the new book is Chris Frantz, drummer for Talking Heads. Frantz told Dylan to “suck a dick” in response to what he perceived as a slight against his band, in an essay about Costello. “I think it’s a very good book – despite that one chapter,” Frantz said.
Last week, Dylan announced the 17th instalment in his long-running Bootleg Series: a box set celebrating the 25th anniversary of his 30th album, ‘Time Out Of Mind’, featuring a remixed version of the original record, plus unreleased outtakes, demos, alternate versions and live cuts.