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From Mark Keller on publishing Jellinek’s “The Disease Concept of Alcoholism”

Cover artFollowing up on a post about The disease concept of alcoholism, the most widely cited (and least read) literary artifact of the modern alcoholism movement, according to alcohol historian William White, the next few paragraphs will introduce some new discoveries in the Mark Keller Papers here at Rutgers.

Keller to Smithers, 1959: Working on it!

In a letter dated February 25, 1959, Mark Keller writes to Brinkley Smithers that he visited Jellinek in Toronto and spent two full days working with him on the manuscript. They did quite a lot of editing, transferring one of the appendixes back into the text and adding some new sections. At that time Bunky was working on chapter three as they were talking about chapters one and two.

Keller also shares two more estimates for the publication costs. The original figure for 2000 copies was over $7,000 and another 1,300 for an additional thousand copies. The new cost would be $4,665.35 for 2500 copies.

Jellinek suggested that they should print 3000 copies and Keller agrees with him. The additional 500 copies will cost only $483. In the same letter, Keller also notifies Smithers that Bunky finally agreed to call the book simply the “Disease concept of alcoholism,” rather than “conception,” because this has “more punch than any other considered before.”

Jellinek to Keller, 1960: Handsome!

In a letter dated November 4, 1960 (labeled personal and confidential), Jellinek expresses his pleasure “how handsome the book is” and that he is more than satisfied with it. He hopes that it will sell. To that effect, he promises to send a few suggestions to whom the flyer promotional flyer could be sent.

Related, official correspondence

In a quotation from dated February 5, 1959, as a response to an inquiry of November 5, 1958, and revised January 30, 1959, with reference to Mark Keller, here’s the quote. The title says the present status of the disease conception of “alcoholism“ by Dr E. L. Jellinek. That is, the title still has the word “conception” at this point and Jellinek’s initials are misspelled.

The description reads: re-estimated as nine 192 pages to be printed on 6 x 9-page size and set 27 x 46 because to be printed on 60-pound white antique bookcase, bound in cloth with two color stamping and wrapped in 2 color dust jacket. The average price per copy is quoted $1.196 calculating 2,900 copies. See more details about the length of each section and the total price.

In a follow-up quote from United Printing Services, Inc. re: The disease concept of alcoholism by Dr. E.L  Jellinek, dated October 25, 1960, 1015 copies have been delivered and 2000 copies are stored at the bindery.  The final length is 250 pages complete with jackets and the total cost $4582.80 for 3015 copies, which brings the average cost per copy to $1.45 per copy.. The date is October 25, 1960.


The book was published under Jellinek’s correct name, initials, and all, eventually, and had multiple reprints by Hillhouse Press, the name of Keller’s publishing business, which catered to audiences interested in alcohol-related topics from the Yale period. Republished and distributed with the scholarly backup of the Yale and Rutgers Centers of Alcohol Studies (CAS) in 1962, 1972, and 1979, the book has become a bible to anyone in the field.

Later editions, unrelated to CAS, offer more print and electronic options, targeting broad audiences. The first edition, painstakingly edited by the one and only Mark Keller, is available online in the SALIS Collection of the Internet Archive.

The SALIS collection contains over 6,000 titles on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs to view or borrow.