from Guy Debord

To Guy Buchet
13 May 1971

In examining the third edition of my book The Society of the Spectacle, printed 25 February 1971, I have discovered that, without advising me, you have added to it the ridiculous subtitle "The situationist theory."

In your letter of 6 February 1969, which announced a second edition of this book, you believed it necessary to ask me if it "would be possible to add a subtitle more explicit than the title to the cover." I responded to you clearly, as far as this incongruous request, in my registered letter of 10 February 1969: "I can not authorize any kind of subtitle." The second edition indeed conformed to the first; but, since then, you decided to unilaterally and by surprise modify the meaning of the book.

I advise you that I do not accept this fait accompli, which is contrary to all of the customs of publishing, and that you were explicitly prohibited by Article 7 of the contract that I signed on 6 September 1967 with your company: "No modification can be made to the work without the express authorization of the Author. The same goes for any addition, whatever it is."

Furthermore, the legal mentions of the date of this edition of 25 February 1971 strangely carry a 1971 copyright and a legal deposit of the "1st quarter 1969"; whereas you are not ignorant of the facts that the first edition came out in 1967 and that it is good that the readers are not deceived on this point.

Moreover, your last renewal of the author's rights on 31 December 1970 gives 4,029 as the number of copies sold to that date. The first edition, of November 1967 -- notoriously exhausted before the end of 1968, seeing that your Company, over the course of several months, was incapable of furnishing a single copy in answer to the requests of several Parisian booksellers -- called for, according to our contract, 3,000 copies to be printed, without including in this number the "press copies" (press copies that, at the time, you did not condescend to place on sale). You announced to me in your letter of 6 February 1969 an imminent reprint of "2,000 to 3,000 copies." If, according to you, only 4,029 copies from the first two editions were sold on 31 December 1970, it is quite extraordinary that, less than a month after this date, you endeavoured to put out the third edition, which was completed on 25 February 1971. Does this mean that the second edition, contrary to all technical and economic probabilities, had been limited to 1,000 copies? Or does this mean that, in the single month of January 1971, the book suddenly sold 1,000 or 2,000 copies, which would respectively represent a quarter or a half of all those copies that you declare were sold in the preceding thirty-seven months?

The fantasies of your accounts extend to the explicitly financial and the most easily verifiable aspects. According to Article 3 of our contract of 6 September 1967, which you have so imprudently torn up, "the rights of the Author are fixed at 10% of the sales price until 3,000 copies have been sold; after this number, they will be 14%." Although you yourselves fix at 4,029 the number of copies sold at 31 December 1970, in the statement of that date and in your subsequent settlement you have reckoned the rights of the author at a ratio of 10%.

It is clear that you believe that you can, in the most petty financial details as in the enormity of a change of title, mock me with impugnity. You will be enlightened.

Guy Debord

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 4, 1969-1972. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! June 2005.)

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