Bob Dylan apologises for ‘error in judgement’ over using autopen

Bob Dylan has given a rare public statement to apologise for the “controversy” in which purportedly hand-signed copies of his artwork and books were actually signed by autopen.

Bob Dylan

Autopen is a machine-printed way of signing items with duplicate signatures, and the issues involving Dylan came to light when it was spotted by one fan who’d paid $600 (£496) for a copy of Dylan’s new book, Philosophy of Modern Song.

In his message to his “fans and followers”, Dylan wrote that he was “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”.

He explained that he’s hand-signed copies of such works for years, but in 2019 suffered from vertigo – a symptom that causes dizziness – which continued into the pandemic and made it difficult for him to carry out hand-writing sessions.

Bob Dylan playing piano at the London Palladium

“It takes a crew of five working in close quarters with me to help enable these signing sessions,” the 81-year-old explained, “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 judgement and I want to rectify it immediately,” he concluded. “I’m working with [the publishers] Simon & Schuster and my gallery partners to do just that. With my deepest regrets, Bob Dylan”

It’s not yet clear the extent to how Dylan and his team will “rectify” the situation. The 900 customers who bought the $600 book in which the autopen was first noticed have reportedly all been refunded by Simon & Schuster.

The situation has also been addressed by UK-based gallery and art retailer, Castle Fine Art, who’ve said that the editions of The Retrospectrum Collection prints and the Sunset, Monument Valley print, which were released last year in collaboration with Dylan, were also signed by autopen.

“We were entirely unaware of the use of autopen on these particular prints,” the gallery said in a statement, “and we sincerely apologise for the disappointment this may cause. We will be reaching out to each and every one of our collectors who purchased any print from the above editions to offer a solution to fully rectify the matter.”

Since the matter came to light, the website Autograph Live has been comparing the range of Dylan signatures which were duplicated via autopen – and has so far found 17 different variations in total.

Whilst many have of course been critical of the situation – with fans paying a high price for something purportedly said to be hand-singed, with Simon & Schuster initially rejecting refunds – fans of the iconic singer have also come out in support of him, with many writing it’s merely a storm in a teacup.

Bob Dylan

“I just can’t relate to all this drama,” one fan wrote. “He did what he thought best during a tough situation.”

“Dude, I also have vertigo. And I’m truly sorry that you are suffering from it,” wrote another. “If you can’t sign things, then be transparent about it. People aren’t going to be upset if you can’t sign them. But they will be upset if you lie about signing them.”

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