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Kerouac’s manuscript starting ‘road trip’ at IUB’s Lilly

By Ryan Piurek


The original manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road will be on display at the Lilly Library on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, beginning Tuesday (Feb. 4) and running through May 10.

The stop is the first on a coast-to-coast tour of the manuscript. Various sections, including a scroll that extends nearly 120 feet, will be showcased, giving visitors to the Lilly Library the opportunity to view multiple portions of the typewritten text.

The manuscript has been provided courtesy of the James Irsay family. On the Road has been described as one of the most significant books of the Beat Generation. Kerouac’s original manuscript was typewritten, single-spaced onto ten 12-foot lengths of paper that were then taped together. According to most biographers, Kerouac wrote the book during a 21-day period of non-stop writing, finishing it on April 22, 1951.

Since On the Road was first published by Viking Press, it has sold more than 3 million copies and has been translated into 25 languages. Purchased at an auction by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for $2.2 million (plus a buyer’s premium of $226,000), the acquisition set a world record price for a literary manuscript at auction.

A complementary exhibition on the Beats also will be on display.

(Editor’s note: James Canary, head of special collections conservations at the Lilly Library, oversaw the preservation of the Kerouac manuscript and will accompany it on its nationwide tour. Read about Canary at this HP archival site:

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Publication date: January 31, 2003
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