Book Collecting

Jack Kerouac – First Edition Books: Identification Guide

Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac (1922 – 1969), known as Jack Kerouac, was an American novelist and poet who, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, was a pioneer of the Beat Generation.

Of French-Canadian ancestry, Kerouac was raised in a French-speaking home in Lowell, Massachusetts. He “learned English at age six and spoke with a marked accent into his late teens. His first published book was The Town and the City (1950), and he achieved widespread fame and notoriety with his second, On the Road, in 1957. It made him a beat icon, and he went on to publish 12 more novels and numerous poetry volumes.

The Town and the City was published in 1950 under the name “John Kerouac” and, though it earned him a few respectable reviews, the book sold poorly. Heavily influenced by Kerouac’s reading of Thomas Wolfe, it reflects on the generational epic formula and the contrasts of small-town life versus the multi-dimensional, and larger life of the city.

For the next six years, Kerouac continued to write regularly. Building upon previous drafts tentatively titled “The Beat Generation” and “Gone on the Road,” Kerouac completed what is now known as On the Road in April 1951. The book was largely autobiographical and describes Kerouac’s road-trip adventures across the United States and Mexico with Neal Cassady in the late 40s and early 50s, as well as his relationships with other Beat writers and friends. Though the work was completed quickly, Kerouac had a long and difficult time finding a publisher. Publishers rejected On the Road because of its experimental writing style and its sexual content. Many editors were also uncomfortable with the idea of publishing a book that contained what were, for the era, graphic descriptions of drug use and homosexual behavior—a move that could result in obscenity charges being filed, a fate that later befell Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and Ginsberg’s Howl.

In 1957, after being rejected by several other publishers, On the Road was finally purchased by Viking Press, which demanded major revisions prior to publication. Many of the most sexually explicit passages were removed and, fearing libel suits, pseudonyms were used for the book’s “characters.” These revisions have often led to criticisms of the alleged spontaneity of Kerouac’s style.

The success of On the Road brought Kerouac instant fame. His celebrity status brought publishers desiring unwanted manuscripts that were previously rejected before its publication. In response, Kerouac chronicled parts of his own experience with Buddhism, as well as some of his adventures with Gary Snyder and other San Francisco-area poets, in The Dharma Bums, set in California and Washington and published in 1958. It was written in Orlando between November 26 and December 7, 1957. To begin writing Dharma Bums, Kerouac typed onto a ten-foot length of teleprinter paper, to avoid interrupting his flow for paper changes, as he had done six years previously for On the Road.

Kerouac is recognized for his style of spontaneous prose. Thematically, his work covers topics such as his Catholic spirituality, jazz, travel, promiscuity, life in New York City, Buddhism, drugs, and poverty. He became an underground celebrity and, with other Beats, a progenitor of the hippie movement, although he remained antagonistic toward some of its politically radical elements. He has a lasting legacy, greatly influencing many of the cultural icons of the 1960s, including Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Jerry Garcia and the Doors. Artists including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Patti Smith, Tom Waits, The Grateful Dead, and The Doors all credit Kerouac as a significant influence on their music and lifestyles. This is especially so with members of the band The Doors, Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, who quote Jack Kerouac and his novel On the Road as one of the band’s greatest influences.

In 1969, at the age of 47, Kerouac died from an abdominal hemorrhage caused by a lifetime of heavy drinking. Since then, his literary prestige has grown, and several previously unseen works have been published.

Jack Kerouac – First Editions Identification Guide

Jack Kerouac - First Edition Identification Points
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1950The Town and the City Harcourt, Brace & Co., NY, [1950]First edition. "first edition" stated on © page. Red cloth stamped in gold on spine. Mono¬gram lettered in gold on top of front cover. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in blue, green, and brown. Author’s photo by Arni on back dustwrapper. Price: $3.50. 10,500 copies printed.
ALSO: Grosset & Dunlap, NY, 1960. First paperback edition. Stiff white wrappers printed in black, orange, and magenta. Price: $1.45
ALSO: Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1951. First English edition. Cream cloth lettered in red on spine. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in multi-color. Price: 12s6d
1957On the Road Viking Press, NY, 1957First edition. "Published in 1957 by the Viking Press, NY" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Black cloth stamped in white on front cover and spine. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in black, blue and red. Price: $3.95
ALSO: Signet Book, 1958. First paperback edition. White stiff wrapper printed in multi-color. Back cover photo of author by William Eichel. Signet Books D1619. Price: 0.50c
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, 1958. First English edition. Red cloth lettered in gold on spine. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in red and black. Author’s photo by William Eichel on front dustwrapper. Price: 15s
ALSO: Pan Books, London, 1961. First English paperback edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in multicolor. Author’s photo by William Eichel on back wrapper. Pan Giant X 84. Price: 3s6d
1958The SubterraneansGrove Press Inc., NY, [1958]First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition. Grey mottled paper and brown cloth stamped in gold on front cover and spine. Grey and pink circle 7/16” on lower right front cover. Limited to 100 numbered copies.
B) Trade edition. "Copyright © 1958 , by Jack Kerouac" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Beige linen printed on cover and spine in brown. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in black. Price: $3.50
ALSO: Grove Press Inc., NY, 1958. Stiff white wrapper printed in black and green. (Later editions printed in black, blue, and green.) Evergreen Original E-99.
ALSO: Grove Press Inc., NYAndre Deutsch, London, 1960. First English edition. Red cloth lettered in gold on spine. (Green and blue cloth cov-ers also issued with no known priority.) Dust jacket: White dust wrapper printed in red and black. Price: 10s6d. 5000 copies printed.
ALSO: A Panther Book, 1962. First English paperback edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in multicolor. Panther No. 1320. NOTE: In 1959, Avon Publications, New York City, issued a paperback of the novel with a preface by Henry Miller.
1958The Dharma BumsViking Press, NY, 1958First edition. "Published in 1958 by the Viking Press, NY" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Black cloth with title printed in green on front cover; blue, green and silver lettering on spine. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in black, blue and green. Author’s photo on back dustwrapper by Keith Jennison. Price: $3.95. 13, 000 copies printed.
ALSO: A Signet Book, 1959. First paperback edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in blue, red, black and brown; red and black lettering on spine. Author’s photo on back cover by William Eichel. Signet Books D1718. Price: $0.50c
ALSO: Grove Press Inc., NYAndre Deutsch, London, 1959. Red cloth lettered in gold on spine. (Blue cloth covers also issued with no known priority.) Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in red and black. Price: 15s. 4000 copies printed. First printing erroneously states book was “FIRST PUBLISHED 1950”.
ALSO: Pan Books, London, 1962. First English paperback edition. Stiff white wrap¬per printed in multicolor. Author’s photo by William Eichel on back wrapper. Great Pan No. G538. Price: 2s6d
1959Doctor Sax Grove Press Inc., NY, [1959]First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition. 26 signed copies lettered A through Z and 4 signed copies, hors commerce, numbered 1 through 4. Beige linen with brown cloth on spine; gold lettering on spine.
B) First trade edition. "Copyright © 1959 , by Jack Kerouac" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Grey cloth lettered in gold on spine. White dustwrapper printed in black, grey, and red. Author’s photo by William Eichel on back dustwrapper. Price: $3.50
ALSO: Grove Press Inc., NY, 1959. First paperback edition. White stiff wrapper printed in black, grey and red. Evergreen Original E-160. Price: $1. 75
1959Maggie CassidyAvon Book, NY, [1959]First edition. First edition has "Jack Kerouac | Author of "Subterraneans" facing the title page. Later printings has "Critical Praise for Maggie Cassidy" facing the title page. Stiff white wrapper printed in multicolor. Avon G1035. Price: $0.50c
ALSO: A Panther Book, London, 1960. First English paperback edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in multicolor. Author’s photo by William Eichel on back wrapper. Panther No. 1092. Price: 2s6d.
NOTE: This book was originally published in paperback only.
1959Mexico City BluesGrove Press Inc., NY, [1959] First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 26 signed copies lettered A through Z and 4 signed copies, hors commerce, numbered 1 through 4. Beige paper with brown cloth on spine; gold lettering on spine.
B) Trade edition. "First printing, 1959" stated on © page. Grey cloth lettered in gold on spine. White dustwrapper printed in red, green, and black.
ALSO: Grove Press Inc., NY, 1959. First paperback edition. "First printing, 1959" stated on © page. Stiff white wrapper printed in red, green, and black. Evergreen Original E-184. Price: $1.95
1959A Vision of CodyNew Direction, NY, [1959]First edition. Limited edition of 750 numbered copies, signed by the author. White with purple cloth on spine. Cover lettered in purple and red, spine lettered in gold. Red-orange end paper. The decorations for the cover, title page, and text are by the author. Issued with a heavy clear acetate dustwrapper. Price: $7.50
1960The Scripture of the Golden EternityTotem Press, [1960]First edition. White wrapper printed in purple. Cover drawing by Jesse Sorrentino. Price: $0.95c. (Second printing has white wrapper printed in red; third printing in black.)
NOTE: In England, THE SCRIPTURE was distributed by Centaur Press Ltd. , who pasted a rectangle of white paper printed in black reading “CENTAUR PRESS LTD. / 9 St. Anne’s Close, / Highgate, West Hill, London, N. 6’’ on title page.
1960TristessaAvon Book, NY, [1960]First edition. "Copyright © 1960, by Jack Kerouac" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Stiff white wrapper printed in multicolor. Photo of author by Keith Jennison on back wrapper. Avon T-429. Price: $0.35
ALSO: World Distributors, London, 1963. First English edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in multicolor. Price: 3s6d
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, London, 1964. First English hardcover edition. Blue cloth lettered in gold on spine. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in black, blue, and purple. Author’s photo by William Eichel on back dustwrapper. Price: 18s. 3500 copies printed.
1960Lonesome TravelerMcGraw-Hill Book Co., NY, [1960]First edition. "First Edition" stated on © page. Brown and black cloth lettered in grey and brownish -orange on spine. Cream dustwrapper printed in black and brown with Larry Rivers’ drawing of author on front wrapper. Price: $4.50
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, London, 1962. First English edition. Red cloth lettered in gold on spine. White dustwrapper printed in black, purple, and red. Author’s photo by William Eichel on front wrapper. Price: 15s. 4000 copies printed.
ALSO: Pan Books, London, 1964. First English paperback edition. Stiff white wrappers printed in multicolor. Pan Paperback G665. Price: 2s6d
1961Book of DreamsCity Lights Books, [1961]First edition. "© 1961 by Jack Kerouac" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Stiff white paper wrapper printed in blue. Cover photo of author by Robert Frank, design by M.E. Cranston
1961Pull My DaisyGrove Press Inc., NY, [1961]First edition. "First Printing" stated on © page. Stiff white wrapper printed in black, yellow, and red. Evergreen Original E-294. Price: $1. 45
ALSO: The same edition was issued in England by Evergreen Books, Ltd., London, in September, 1961.
1962Big SurFarrar, Straus & Co., NY, [1962]First edition. "First Printing" stated on © page. Mottled blue paper with black cloth spine lettered in gold. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in black, blue, and green. Price: $4.50
ALSO: Bantam Books, NY, 1963. First paperback edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in multicolor. Back cover photo of author courtesy of Brown Brothers. Bantam Books S2642. Price: $0.75c
ALSO: Grove Press Inc., NYAndre Deutsch, London. First English edition. "First published October 1963" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Blue cloth with gold lettering on spine. (Black cloth cover also issued with no known priority.) Glossy white wrapper printed in red and black. Price: 18s. 3000 copies printed.
ALSO: A Four Square Book, London, 1965. First English paperback edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in black, red and blue. Four Square Book No. 1241. Price: 3s6d
1963Visions of GerardFarrar, Straus & Co., NY, [1963]First edition. "First Printing" stated on © page. Cream paper with red design, black cloth spine lettered in gold. Dust jacket: Cream dustwrapper printed in black, red and green. Illustrated with drawings by James Spanfeller. Price: $3.95
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, London, 1964. First English edition. Blue cloth lettered in gold on spine. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in black, blue and purple. Author’s photo by William Eichel on back dustwrapper. 3500 copies printed.
ALSO: A Mayflower - Dell Paperback, 1966. First English paperback edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in black, green, orange, purple, red and blue. Mayflower-Dell Book No. 9349. Price: 3s6d
1965Desolation AngelsCoward-McCann Inc.m NY, [1965]First edition. "Copyright © 1960, 1963, 1965 by Jack Kerouac" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Orange cloth with author’s name printed in gold on front cover, gold lettering down spine. Dust jacket: White dustwrapper printed in orange, yellow and black. Author’s photo on back dustwrapper by Lawrence L. Smith. Price: $5.95
ALSO: Bantam Books, 1966. First paperback edition. Stiff white wrapper printed in purple and black. Bantam N3153. Price: $0.95c
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, London, 1966. First English edition. Black cloth with white and silver letters on spine. Dust jacket: Stiff white wrappers printed in silver, red and black.
1966Satori in ParisGrove Press Inc., NY, [1966]First edition. "First Printing" stated on © page. . Blue cloth lettered in silver on spine. White dustwrapper printed in orange, blue and black. Author’s photo by Lawrence L. Smith on back dustwrapper. Price: $3.95
1966A Pun for GelpiLowell House Printers, 1966First edition. Heavy cream colored paper printed in black, blue and green. Single sheet. Limited to 100 numbered copies, signed by the author.
1967Jack Kerouac/Hugo WeberPortents, NY, 1967First edition. Limited to 200 copies. Heavy orange paper printed in black. Folded boradsheet. Photograph by Ann Charters.
1968Vanity of DuluozCoward-McCann Inc.m NY, [1968]First edition. "Copyright © 1967, 1968 by Jack Kerouac" stated on © page, with no mention of later printings. Grey boards, blue cloth spine. Dust jacket: Purple dustwrapper, printed in white and yellow. Price: $5.50.
1968Visions of CodyMcGraw-Hill Book Co., NY, [1972]First edition. Red cloth. "Fist edition" stated on © page with number line "123456789". Dust Jacket price of $8.95.

Jack Kerouac – First Printing Dust Jackets Identification Guide

Gallery of First state Dust Jackets of Jack Kerouac’s works. Only includes the first appearance in book form. Either the UK or US edition and does not include later printings.

Reference:

  • Wikipedia
  • Ann Charters, A bibliography of works by Jack Kerouac, 1967.

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