A new book, The Lyrics: Since 1962, will collect every lyric Bob Dylan has ever recorded – on his albums and official bootlegs – to make what the president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp, has called “the biggest, most expensive book we’ve ever published.” The tome, due out in November, will be slightly larger than an LP, contain more than 960 pages and weigh approximately 13 and a half pounds, according to The New York Times. The limited-edition book will sell for $200 and an extremely limited version, signed by Dylan, will go for $5,000.
Boston University faculty and British literary scholar Christopher Ricks – who wrote the 2003 book Dylan’s Visions of Sin – edited the book and wrote what the Times describes as a “lengthy, philosophical introduction.” Ricks’ co-editors were a pair of sisters, Lisa and Julie Nemrow, who also created the book’s layout, which is unique in the way it offsets refrains, choruses and bridges and allows Dylan’s lyrics to run, occasionally, as a 13-inch line the way he had intended. Additionally, the editors presented the songs chronologically, including alternate versions from Dylan’s “bootleg series.” It also reproduces Dylan’s album covers.
The book also notes instances where Dylan changed lyrics in ways that affected their meanings. An example is “Tombstone Blues” from Highway 61 Revisited, which begins with the line, “Well John the Baptist, after torturing a thief”; a version that appears on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7 presents the differed version, “Ah, John the blacksmith, he’s torturing a thief.”
Karp claimed that Dylan provided notebooks and manuscripts to Ricks for the project, though Ricks demurred when the Times asked about the singer-songwriter’s involvement in the project. “I think the right thing for us is not to go into the question of the particular kinds of help and assistance and advice that we were in a position to receive,” he said.