The letters are believed to be due to be published in October 2012, on the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ first UK single, Love Me Do. The book is to contain more than 150 letters including messages to record companies, newspapers and fans, and will include drawings by Lennon.
This article was updated on 25 January 2011 with further information and a clarification.
The international rights to publish the letters were originally said to have been bought by Alan Samson of Orion Publishing Group, for between £500,000 and £1 million. A report in The Guardian newspaper, since removed, said that representatives from all the major publishing companies made bids at the north London home of Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, who owns the letters.
On 25 January 2011, Yoko Ono left a statement on this article, which can be read in full below. She denied that she had sold the copyright for the letters, but had granted permission for them to be published in a book edited by Hunter Davies. As yet, she says, no publishing contract has been signed.
Hunter Davies did approach Yoko Ono with a proposal that Davies would like to publish a book of collected letters written by John Lennon and obtained from the original recipients or the current owners of the letters. As John Lennon’s wife she does hold the underlying copyright of the letters even if she is not in physical possession of the letters John has written to people other than herself. As she feels Hunter Davies to be a trustworthy friend of long years, and a good editor, she is granting permission for Hunter to publish such a book, subject to her approval of the letters.
The statement also contained a comment from Hunter Davies.
I just got back from holiday to read that Yoko Ono has, quote, “sold her late husband’s letters”. She has done no such thing. This whole project is my idea and all Yoko Ono has done is agree to the idea and give me permission to reproduce them as, of course, she holds the copyright. She has not sold them, to me or anyone else, and it is deeply offensive to suggest otherwise.