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TODAY staff and wire
updated 9/3/2009 8:54:39 AM ET 2009-09-03T12:54:39

Before dying Tuesday of brain cancer at age 77, Senator Edward Kennedy worked to secure his own legacy in the form of a massive memoir that will be published on Sept. 14.

The 532-page autobiography, “True Compass,” will have a first printing of 1.5 million copies. It covers Kennedy’s family life as well as his work in the Senate on major issues such as civil rights, Watergate, Vietnam, and the pursuit of peace in Northern Ireland.

The memoir was originally scheduled for release in 2010, then advanced to October. Last week the book’s publisher, Twelve, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group, announced that the release date had moved up a month to September.

“The book was completed earlier this summer,” said Cary Goldstein, director of publicity for Twelve. “Our original publication date was October 6. We’d always hoped to publish sooner. 

“The production process moved faster than expected, so we were able to shave off some time,” Goldstein added. “Many of the biggest fall books publish in September, so we think it’s ideal.”

By late Wednesday morning, “True Compass” was in the top 75 on Amazon.com.

“He worked valiantly to finish the book and make it the best it could be,” publisher Twelve said in a statement. “As always, he was true to his word. The result is a great and inspiring legacy to readers everywhere, a case study in perseverance.”

According to the publisher, the autobiography was “five years in the making” and covers 50 years of history. Kennedy wrote the memoir in collaboration with Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Powers, coauthor of “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Mark Twain: A Life.” However, “every word” is Kennedy’s, according to his literary representative, Robert Barnett.

“Happily and amazingly, he was in good enough shape to finish it,” said Barnett, a Washington attorney whose clients include President Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. “It’s his book. He wrote and approved every word.”

Barnett said he had known Kennedy since the 1970s and for years had discussed a possible memoir. In 2007, Kennedy was ready.

“He told me that he very much wanted to tell his story, not so much because of him, but because of his family, his kids, the causes he championed and fought for,” Barnett said Wednesday. “I’ve found over the years that people who write these types of books just come to a point where they say, ‘Now’s the time.’”

Well before he started his memoir, Kennedy was collecting his thoughts. According to Twelve publisher Jonathan Karp, Kennedy had been keeping a personal journal since John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign. In 2004, he began an oral history project through the Miller Center of the University of Virginia and incorporated that material into his book, for which he reportedly received $8 million-$9 million.

The publisher said that a special limited edition of “True Compass” will be available by the end of September. Kennedy’s other books include “America Back on Track” and a children’s story, “My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington.”

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive

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