Own a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook? Download this new printable Forward from the Author!

By Andrew Davidson
on September 15, 2010

As a younger lad, I was into mischievous things, and diligently poured over a copy of the The Anarchist Cookbook by author William Powell.

It's filled with poor drawings of low-tech traps and dubious mixtures to make illegal drugs and the such. This 'alamanac' is no mere collection of underground information collected into one place. While dated in the lingo, the prices, and the availability of questionable substances. It's slightly disorganized at times, and it tends to gloss over critical steps. Overall, this book is filled with plenty of bad things to do to other people.

I take all the instructions in this book with a grain of salt. I don't think anyone should try any of the recipes in the book, for fear of chemical explosion. The ideas are interesting, and thought-provoking. If you recall any of the genius of any of the devices or contraptions in your daily life, you must be MacGuyver.

It wasn't until recently, when I was checking the resale value of my copy (surprisingly high for a used book), I also noted this plea from the author on Amazon.com where he basically renounced his book.

The Download

In the interest of keeping the author's 'final words' of the work alongside of the original book, I quickly designed this single one-sheet PDF file (free to download) to include with your copy of this American classic. I've placed my copy just on the inside cover, so the next friend who 'borrows' my copy will be alerted to the author's renouncement. If nothing else, it adds to the street cred of the dangerous information in the book. Here's the author's final words on the book, quoted verbatim below:

I have recently been made aware of several websites that focus on The Anarchist Cookbook. As the author of the original publication some 30 plus years ago, it is appropriate for me to comment.

The Anarchist Cookbook was written during 1968 and part of 1969 soon after I graduated from high school. At the time, I was 19 years old and the Vietnam War and the so-called “counter culture movement” were at their height. I was involved in the anti-war movement and attended numerous peace rallies and demonstrations. The book, in many respects, was a misguided product of my adolescent anger at the prospect of being drafted and sent to Vietnam to fight in a war that I did not believe in.

I conducted the research for the manuscript on my own, primarily at the New York City Public Library. Most of the contents were gleaned from Military and Special Forces Manuals. I was not member of any radical group of either a left or right wing persuasion.

I submitted the manuscript directly to a number of publishers without the help or advice of an agent. Ultimately, it was accepted by Lyle Stuart Inc. and was published verbatim - without editing - in early 1970. Contrary to what is the normal custom, the copyright for the book was taken out in the name of the publisher rather than the author. I did not appreciate the significance of this at the time and would only come to understand it some years later when I requested that the book be taken out of print.

The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this.

Apparently in recent years, The Anarchist Cookbook has seen a number of 'copy cat' type publications, some with remarkably similar titles (Anarchist Cookbook II, III etc). I am not familiar with these publications and cannot comment upon them. I can say that the original Anarchist Cookbook has not been revised or updated in any way by me since it was first published.

During the years that followed its publication, I went to university, married, became a father and a teacher of adolescents. These developments had a profound moral and spiritual effect on me. I found that I no longer agreed with what I had written earlier and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the ideas that I had put my name to. In 1976 I became a confirmed Anglican Christian and shortly thereafter I wrote to Lyle Stuart Inc. explaining that I no longer held the views that were expressed in the book and requested that The Anarchist Cookbook be taken out of print. The response from the publisher was that the copyright was in his name and therefore such a decision was his to make - not the author's. In the early 1980's, the rights for the book were sold to another publisher. I have had no contact with that publisher (other than to request that the book be taken out of print) and I receive no royalties.

Unfortunately, the book continues to be in print and with the advent of the Internet several websites dealing with it have emerged. I want to state categorically that I am not in agreement with the contents of The Anarchist Cookbook and I would be very pleased (and relieved) to see its publication discontinued. I consider it to be a misguided and potentially dangerous publication which should be taken out of print.

William Powell