Bob Dylan will get tousled in ebook autograph controversy


“It does not look like something a person signed; it looks like a copy.”

Bob Dylan performs on a double invoice with Neil Young at Hyde Park on July 12, 2019 in London, England. Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for ABA

Henry Bernstein has seen Bob Dylan 27 occasions in live performance and owns three objects autographed by him: a replica of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album, {a photograph} of the singer and a “John Wesley Harding” songbook. His favourite tune is “Tangled Up in Blue.”

So when Simon & Schuster, Dylan’s writer, marketed limited-edition, hand-signed copies of the musician’s new assortment of essays for $600 every, Bernstein was amongst 900 followers who went for one. Last week, he obtained his copy of “The Philosophy of Modern Song,” Dylan’s first assortment of writings since he gained the Nobel Prize in literature in 2016, with a letter of authenticity signed by Jonathan Karp, the writer’s CEO.

There was just one downside.

Karp’s signature “looked more legit than Bob’s,” Bernstein mentioned.

Bernstein was one in all a whole bunch of followers who sleuthed their means round social media, reaching the conclusion that the supposedly hand-signed books had not, the truth is, been signed by Dylan.

“I got the nostalgia bug,” mentioned Bernstein, who already owned an unsigned copy of the ebook, in addition to a Kindle model and an audio model. He added, “If he touches this book — he wrote it, signed it — it feels like the soul of Bob Dylan is with me.”

Instead, many followers recommended that the “autographed” copies of the ebook had been signed by a machine.

Justin Steffman, knowledgeable authenticator who runs a Facebook group for collectors, mentioned the autograph was most definitely created by an autopen. The machine, which recreates signatures, is utilized by universities, celebrities and, most notably, the White House.

Handwritten penmanship usually has a circulation, Steffman mentioned. But “with a pen machine, it goes from point to point,” he mentioned, including that the start and the top factors of every stroke apply extra strain to the web page. Dylan’s autograph within the new books additionally seems to have a “slight shakiness throughout the signature,” he mentioned.

“It does not look like something a person signed; it looks like a copy,” Steffman mentioned.

This cowl picture launched by Simon & Schuster reveals “The Philosophy of Modern Song” by Bob Dylan. – Simon & Schuster through AP

As orders started arriving final week, Dylan followers started evaluating notes on-line, and it shortly turned clear that one thing was amiss, Steffman mentioned. Steffman collected photos of at the very least 17 signatures that each one appeared as if that they had been created by a machine. Items autographed by Dylan usually promote for $1,500 or $2,000, he added.

“They started popping up, everyone received them the same day and it was instant — we all realized it was an autopen,” Steffman mentioned. “More and more people shared their copies, and we all put it together.”

Steffman mentioned Simon & Schuster’s customer support had initially refused to concern refunds and had even denounced “online rumors” concerning the risk that the signature was a pretend. Twitter and Reddit customers additionally chimed in; a chat board organized by a fan inspired others who had bought the ebook to write down on to Karp, the Simon & Schuster CEO. Fans flooded his inbox, together with Bernstein, who, like others, obtained a private response from Karp promising a speedy refund.

By Sunday, Simon & Schuster had issued a public assertion that provided few particulars however acknowledged that Dylan’s signature had been rendered “in a penned replica form.” The writer mentioned it could give consumers “an immediate refund.”

In response to a request for extra element, a spokesperson for Simon & Schuster declined to elaborate.

“We acted quickly to address the situation, took the book off sale and initiated the process of issuing an immediate and automatic refund to all customers who bought the book,” spokesperson Adam Rothberg mentioned in an electronic mail Tuesday.

Dylan’s music label, Columbia Records, didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Dylan is much from the primary celeb to be accused of utilizing automated signatures. Fans have taken concern with signatures from Dolly Parton, Brian Wilson, Kenny Loggins and Ozzy Osbourne. Donald Rumsfeld, the previous protection secretary, was criticized for utilizing a mechanized signature on condolence letters to the households of service members who had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While questions stay concerning the choice to make use of an automatic autograph within the Dylan ebook, followers are assured that Dylan had nothing to do with it.

“I was surprised by the sheer number they were saying they had — 1,000 copies in and of itself seems like a red flag to me,” mentioned Laura Tenschert, who hosts a podcast referred to as “Definitely Dylan.” “I would assume he has better things to do with his time.”

Tenschert described the state of affairs as “messy” however mentioned, “I, personally, would assume Bob Dylan was not involved in this.” She pointed to his historical past of conserving ticket gross sales “affordable and accessible” to followers, which, she mentioned, “suggests it’s more important for him to reach his fans.”

There can also be the million-dollar elephant within the room: Dylan, 81, offered his whole recorded music catalog to Sony Music for an estimated $200 million this 12 months, and he offered his songwriting rights to Universal Music in 2020 for properly over $300 million.

“To me, it would be very uncharacteristic to the point he was involved in scamming his fans,” Tenschert mentioned. “I don’t think he needs it.”

Steffman, the authenticator, believes the autograph used within the ebook is predicated on the pencil signature Dylan makes use of on his paintings.

“Everybody has reacted so strongly right away, and this continues to happen with multiple artists. It’s just shocking they can flood the market with these autopens,” he mentioned. “Somebody needs to hold them accountable.”

This article initially appeared in The New York Times.

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