Bob Dylan apologizes for autopen book controversy

Dylan is working on resigning books

Bob Dylan has apologized to fans for selling $600 autopen autographs of his latest book, The Philosophy of Modern Song. Last week, it was reported that publisher Simon & Schuster began refunding fans after complaints were received that the books were not hand signed as originally advertised.

In a rare public statement on Friday (Nov 25th), Dylan explains why the 900 copies were not hand signed as initially intended.

“I’ve been made aware that there’s some controversy about signatures on some of my recent artwork prints and on a limited edition of Philosophy Of Modern Song. I’ve hand-signed each and every art print over the years, and there’s never been a problem,” he says on Facebook.

“However, in 2019 I had a bad case of vertigo and it continued into the pandemic years. It takes a crew of five working in close quarters with me to help enable these signing sessions, and we could not find a safe and workable way to complete what I needed to do while the virus was raging. So, during the pandemic, it was impossible to sign anything and the vertigo didn’t help. With contractual deadlines looming, the idea of using an auto-pen was suggested to me, along with the assurance that this kind of thing is done ‘all the time’ in the art and literary worlds.

“Using a machine was an error in judgment and I want to rectify it immediately. I’m working with Simon & Schuster and my gallery partners to do just that.

“With my deepest regrets, Bob Dylan.”

Eagle-eyed fans began spotting the roughly 17 different signature variations after receiving their books last weekend. Autopen recreates real signatures and duplicates them using a machine and is not well received among collectors who are looking for official autographs.

Each book came with a letter signed by Simon & Schuster CEO and president Jonathan Karp, confirming the autographs were real.

“You hold in your hands something very special, one of just 900 copies available in the US of The Philosophy of Modern Song signed by Bob Dylan,” the letter reads. “This letter is confirmation that the copy of the book you hold has been hand-signed by Bob Dylan.”

The company initially denied refunds when complaints began flooding their inbox on Friday. However, by the end of the weekend, Simon & Schuster sent out emails advising them they could keep their books at no charge as a refund was being issued for the “mistake.”

Dylan, who began working on The Philosophy of Modern Song in 2010, offers his extraordinary insight into the nature of popular music. He writes over 60 essays focusing on songs by other artists, spanning from Stephen Foster to Elvis Costello, and in between ranging from Hank Williams to Nina Simone. He analyzes what he calls the trap of easy rhymes, breaks down how the addition of a single syllable can diminish a song, and even explains how bluegrass relates to heavy metal. These essays are written in Dylan’s unique prose. They are mysterious and mercurial, poignant and profound, and often laugh-out-loud funny. And while they are ostensibly about music, they are really meditations and reflections on the human condition. Running throughout the book are nearly 150 carefully curated photos as well as a series of dream-like riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem and add to the work’s transcendence.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: