Monday, March 12, 2012

Covering the Beats

Jack Kerouac was born 90 years ago today in Lowell, Massachusetts. In 1957 he published his autobiographical work On The Road, about his 1951 cross-country travel adventures with Allen Ginsburg, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs. He typed the manuscript in just three weeks on a single 120 foot scroll and it soon became the defining work of the postwar Beat Generation. Here are just some of the covers which helped to define his book over the last 55 years. Above left is the first edition in 1957. On the right is UK Edition with cover art by novelist Len Deighton. The two covers above are from pitoucat's flickrstream. Below are two of my favorite On The Road covers in the mix. From left to right: a 1961 Dutch edition and a 1959 edition from Argentina, both from Beat Book Covers

Above is a 1958 US edition from Beat Book Covers, and an undated US Pan Books edition from pitoucat

Both covers above are from Portugal. One on left is from 1960, and cover on right is 1978. Below left: Dutch cover design from 2004. Right: from Iceland from 2008. All 4 are from Beat Book Covers

1989 UK Penguin edition and a 2008 Australian edition. Below left: Another favorite of mine is the first UK edition of the original scroll manuscript. The first US scroll edition is on right. Both from 2007 via pitoucat.   
Kerouac's own design for On The Road from 1952 which was never used. Via Beat Book Covers.
      If you are keen on taking a road trip, make a detour to The Beat Museum in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood; the epicenter of all things Beat during the 1950s. The Beat Museum is dedicated to "the spirit of The Beat Generation", which they define as tolerance, compassion and having the courage to live your individual truth", and they are home to an extensive collection of Beat memorablilia, including original manuscripts, first editions, letters, personal effects and cultural ephemera. Today the museum kicks off a 90th birthday fundraiser and online auction which help to support special events at the non-profit museum. New items will be added daily through March 21st. Gotta dig it.


  1. I just dug out my 1975 Penguin Modern Classics UK edition. It has a painting "The Athlete's Dream" by Larry Rivers on the cover. Also, there's poet (though possibly not of the beat variety) planning a road trip of her own.

  2. Great cover! I found it on flickr:

    And many thanks for the Type Rider link! It's a gem!
    This was a nice reminder for me to visit Typewriter Heaven again... So many great posts–I have to come back for more!


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