Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in a unique fashion — he typed it on a continuous roll of paper, without paragraph breaks, in a marathon writing session in 1951. It is somewhat different than the version which was published in 1957. Finally, the original version has been published.
The scroll was auctioned in 2004; Indianapolis Colts owner & Beat Generation aficionado Jim Irsay was the buyer. He has since had the scroll restored, and sent it on tour.
On the Road: The Original Scroll
The novel has been published as it first was written on the scroll. Yes, it is in book form – not actually on a scroll! But it lacks text breaks (such as paragraphs or chapters), includes real names rather than aliases, and is somewhat longer than the version published in 1957.
What has been published is the original draft; its publication has been 50 years in the making.
The book is available at Amazon.com. Just click the book cover at left to go there.
The Scroll Goes on Tour
The scroll began travelling the United States in January 2004.
You can get more info at OnTheRoad.org, the scroll’s official website.
The Jack Kerouac On the Road Scroll Auction
The hammer price for Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
scroll was $2,200,000.
(This figure does not include the buyer’s premium.)
The sales price greatly exceeded the pre-auction estimate of $1,000,000 – $1,500,000. The scroll’s buyer was Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team.
Jack Kerouac’s original typewritten manuscript scroll for On the Road was auctioned by Christie’s on May 22, 2001 on behalf of some of the heirs to Jack Kerouac’s estate, at a starting bid of one million dollars.
There was a public outcry against the auction by various writers, Beat scholars, and others who felt that the best place for the scroll would be the New York Public Library or another public institution where it would be available for study, rather than the collection of a private individual. Fortunately, the scroll was purchased by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, who recognizes the importance of the scroll and has said that he’s committed to preserving it. It will likely be made available for study as well.
The first set of links below are news stories detailing the scroll’s history and impending auction. The second set are post-auction updates. Finally, I’ve provided links to some sites offering background and perspective on the scroll’s auction.
- New York Times, April 4, 2001, Op-Ed piece on the importance of preserving literary archives, by Ammiel Alcalay
- The Guardian, April 5, 2001, by John Ezard
- Everett Herald, April 15, 2001, by Julie Muhlstein
Post-Auction News & Opinion:
- Lowell Sun
- New York Times, May 23, 2001
- Brian Hassett’s article on the scroll
- A short article on the scroll auction at BeatAngel.com, site for the upcoming Beat movie, which features the scroll as a “character.”