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Jack Kerouac – First Edition Books: Identification Guide

Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac (1922 – 1969) was an American novelist and poet of French Canadian ancestry. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his method of spontaneous prose. Thematically, his work covers topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel.

Kerouac 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, and the Doors.

Kerouac’s early writing, particularly his first novel The Town and the City, was more conventional, and bore the strong influence of Thomas Wolfe. The technique Kerouac developed that later made him famous was heavily influenced by jazz, especially Bebop, and later, Buddhism, as well as the famous Joan Anderson letter written by Neal Cassady. The Diamond Sutra was the most important Buddhist text for Kerouac, and “probably one of the three or four most influential things he ever read”. In 1955, he began an intensive study of this sutra, in a repeating weekly cycle, devoting one day to each of the six Pāramitās, and the seventh to the concluding passage on Samādhi. This was his sole reading on Desolation Peak, and he hoped by this means to condition his mind to emptiness, and possibly to have a vision.

An often overlooked literary influence on Kerouac was James Joyce, whose work he alludes to more than any other author. Kerouac had high esteem for Joyce and he often used Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness technique. Regarding On the Road, he wrote in a letter to Ginsberg, “I can tell you now as I look back on the flood of language. It is like Ulysses and should be treated with the same gravity.” Additionally, Kerouac admired Joyce’s experimental use of language, as seen in his novel Visions of Cody, which uses an unconventional narrative as well as a multiplicity of authorial voices.

Jack Kerouac – First Editions Identification Guide

How to Identify First Edition books by Jack Kerouac
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1950The Town and the CityHarcourt, Brace & Co., NY, [1950]Red cloth. "fist edition" stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $3.50; front flap has blurb for The Town and the City, continues to back flap. Rear panel has Kerouac's photo by Arni.
ALSO: Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1951. Cream cloth boards. First UK edition. Dust Jacket price of 12s6d.
ALSO: The Universal Library, Grosset & Dunlap, [1960]. Wrappers. First paperback edition. © page date 1950 ($1.45).
1957On the RoadThe Viking Press, NY, 1957Black cloth "Published in 1957 by the Viking Press, Inc." on the © page, no other printings. Dust Jacket has "On the Road $3.95" on the front flap; rear panel has a blue and red bands on top and bottom.
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, 1958. Red cloth. First UK edition. Price of 15s.
ALSO: A Signet Books D169 ($50c). Wrapper. "First printing, September, 1958" stated on © page.
1958The SubterraneansGrove Press, NY, [1958]Three issues, no priority:
  • (A) Limited edition of 100 numbered copies. Issued w/o Dust Jacket
  • (B) Beige cloth. Copyright 1958 with no other printings. Dust Jacket front & back flap blank. Rear panel has a blurb for The Subterraneans. Note: Both 1st/2nd printing Dust Jacket are the same.
  • (C) Grove Press, Inc. NY, 1958. An Evergreen book E-99. Wrappers. Copyright 1958 with no mention of subsequent printings.
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, London, 1960. Three bindings, no priority: Red, green, blue cloth. Price of (10s6d).
1958The Dharma BumsThe Viking Press, NY, 1958Black cloth "Published in 1958 by the Viking Press, Inc." on the © page, no additional printings.
Dust Jacket front flap price of $3.95 with blurbs for Dharma Bums; back flap has ads for Compass Paperbound Classic with five titles. Rear panel has two bands, green on top and blue on bottom with a picture of Kerouac.
ALSO: A Signet Books D1718, 1959. Wrappers. First paperback edition. "First printing, October, 1959" stated on the © page.
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, London, 1959. Two bindings, no priority: red and blue cloth. Price of 15s.
1959Doctor SaxGrove Press, NY, [1959]Three issues, no priority:
  • (A) Limited edition of 26 signed copies, lettered A-Z, 4 hors de commerce copies, numbered 1-4. Issued without a Dust Jacket
  • (B) Black cloth. "Copyright 1959 by Jack Kerouac" on the © page, no other printings. Dust Jacket front flap has blurb for Doctor Sax, continues to back flap, price of $3.50. Rear flap has photo of Kerouac with a short bio.
  • (C) Wrappers. Evergreen Original E-160. Same © page page as above. Price of $1.75.
1959Maggie CassidyAvon Book Division, NY, [1959]Wrappers. First printing has a double title page spread. Later editions has a single title page; facing title page is printed "Critical Praise for Maggie Cassidy".
ALSO: A Panther Book, 1960. Panther No. 1092. Wrappers. First UK edition, price of 2s6d.
1960TristessaAvon Book Division, NY, [1960]Wrappers.Avon T-429 (35c). First printing has a double title page spread. © page date 1960 with no other printings.
1960Lonesome TravelerMcGraw-Hill Book Co., NY, [1960]Boards. "First Edition" stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $4.50. Blurbs for On the Road, Subterraneans, Dr. Sax and Dharma Bums on rear panel w/ code 34195 on bottom corner.
ALSO: Andre Deutsch, London, 1962. Red cloth. First UK edition, price of 15s.
1961Book of DreamsCity Lights Books, [1961]Wrappers. © page page date 1961 with no other printings. Price of $2.50.
1963Big SurFarrar, Straus & Cuhady, NY, [1962]Blue boards. "First printing, 1962" stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $4.50 on front flap, some Dust Jacket do not have a price on top of front flap, assuming later state Dust Jacket.
1962Visions of GerardFarrar, Straus & Co., NY, [1963]Boards. "First printing, 1963" stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $3.95 on front flap
1965Desolation AngelsCoward-M© pageann, Inc., NY [1965]Orange cloth. Copyright 1965 with no other printings. Dust Jacket price of $5.95.
1966Satori in ParisGrove Press, Inc., NY, [1966]Blue cloth. "First printing" stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $3.95 on front flap. Rear panel has photo of Kerouac.
1968Vanity of DuluozCoward-M© pageann, Inc., NY [1968]White boards. Copyright 1968 with no other printings. Dust Jacket price of $5.50.
1972Visions of CodyMcGraw-Hill Book Co., NY, [1972]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.


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

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