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‘Hamilton: The Revolution’ Races Out of Bookstores, Echoing the Musical’s Success

Alexandra Alter(New York Times)

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Getting into “Hamilton” these days requires either deep pockets — for tickets on the secondary market — or high-level connections. This hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, which on Tuesday picked up a record 16 Tony nominations, is sold out more or less indefinitely, with some secondhand tickets going for upward of $1,000.

Now, it turns out, even the buzzy new book about it is in high demand and short supply.

A new behind-the-scenes volume about the creation of the musical, called “Hamilton: The Revolution,” is selling so briskly that it’s currently out of stock on Amazon. (Secondhand sellers at the site are asking for up to $621 for their copies.) Despite a fairly robust first printing of 60,000, some booksellers have struggled to meet demand for the book, which came out on April 12. Its publisher, Grand Central, promptly ordered a second printing of 50,000 copies but doesn’t expect that supply to last long, either. The company has since ordered a much bigger haul and intends to have 400,000 copies in print by summer.

The oversize book, which has a list price of $40, is like catnip for “Hamilton” addicts. It traces the evolution of the wildly successful hip-hop musical and includes the full text of the libretto, as well as more than 200 footnotes from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s creator and star; facsimiles of his notebook pages; and color photos from the production.

Meeting demand for the book, which was written by Mr. Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic who was involved in the show’s development, has been complicated by the elaborate production process that gives the book a Revolutionary-era feel.

“Hamilton: The Revolution” was designed to mimic the appearance of a text from Alexander Hamilton’s era, with a ridged leather spine, Roman numerals for chapters and cream-colored lightweight paper that was a special-order stock from Asia. The books are printed in China, and reprints take approximately four to six weeks.

“The thinking behind this was, how do we create something that, in its physical form and in its content, recaptures the innovation that Lin brought to the musical by reinventing a very old story for the modern day?” said Charles Melcher, the chief executive and founder of Melcher Media, which produced the book for Grand Central.

Of course, meeting those exacting aesthetic standards probably means lost sales in the short term. The book hit the No. 1 spot on The New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list last week but has already slipped to No. 4, probably because of its limited availability. It has also fallen on Amazon, from No. 1 on April 13 to No. 20 on Tuesday. And as an intricately designed physical object, the book doesn’t translate well digitally. (One frustrated Amazon reviewer described the Kindle version as “a PDF of the book with excruciatingly small print and poor-quality photos.”)

The musical has also helped spur sales of Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography, “Alexander Hamilton,” which has sold more than a million copies and inspired Mr. Miranda to write the musical. Paperback sales spiked after the musical opened, from 3,300 copies in 2014 to 106,000 in 2015. In March, Mr. Chernow’s biography hit No. 1 on the Times’s paperback best-seller list.

Mr. Chernow’s publisher, Penguin Books, is making the most of the moment. The latest paperback edition features the musical’s logo — a silhouetted Hamilton with his arm raised — and boasts, “The Inspiration for the Hit Broadway Musical.”

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The student news site of Hollywood Hills High School
‘Hamilton: The Revolution’ Races Out of Bookstores, Echoing the Musical’s Success