By Alexandra Tremayne-Pengelly for the Observer…
Bob Dylan and publisher Simon & Schuster apologized for selling books which they claimed contained Dylan’s handwritten signature, after fans realized the autographs were not authentic but automated reproductions.
A collection of essays by Dylan, titled The Philosophy of Modern Song, was released at the beginning of November. Around 900 copies of the book were marketed as a special edition signed by the musician and sold for $600, containing a letter of authentication from Simon & Schuster. However, collectors quickly took to social media after receiving the new release, pointing out similarities between the signatures.
Signatures made by autopens—automated autograph machines— are shakier than authentic signatures and typically contain pressure points made by the machine at the start and ending of each stroke, said Justin Steffman, an autograph authenticator at AutographCOA Authentication. Fans found at least 17 different variations of automated signatures in Dylan’s book, he said.
Dylan isn’t the first celebrity to be called out for his use of automated signatures. Autopens have become a widespread practice for books and CDs marketed as authentically-signed in recent years, said Steffman. Fans have also accused stars like Brian Wilson, Reese Witherspoon and Dolly Parton of using automated signature machines. “Where’s the quality control at these companies? Where’s the integrity?” he asked.
Simon & Schuster initially rebuked the Dylan claims, said Steffman, who also runs an autograph collecting group on Facebook. “On the first day, everyone started emailing them requesting refunds,” he said. Collectors who reached out to the publishing company to express concerns that the signatures had been created with an autopen were assured by Simon & Schuster representatives that this wasn’t the case, according to comments on autograph forums.
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