Barber Institute Shows Kerouac's On the Road Manuscript

by Culture24 Staff | 03 December 2008
On the Road book cover

On September 5 2007 Penguin published On the Road: The Original Scroll to mark the novel's 50th anniversary. Courtesy Penguin

Exhibition Preview - Kerouac's On the Road at the Barber Institute, Birmingham until January 28 2009.

Birmingham’s Barber Institute of Fine Arts will be showing the original manuscript of On The Road by Jack Kerouac to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its publication in the UK in 1958.

This is the first time the original manuscript has been on display in Europe and the exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the University’s Department of American and Canadian Studies.

Kerouac sat down at a portable typewriter to write the 120-foot scroll over the course of three weeks in 1951 on sections of tracing paper that had been cut to size and taped together.

The novel, based partly on Kerouac’s own experiences, went on to become the bible of the post-war beat generation.

Penguin Books sell 35,0000 copies of On The Road every year and it is one of the most influential works of American Literature to be written.

The scroll was bought by a private collector in 2001 but has been touring the United States since 2004 before heading across to Europe this year.

The novel tells the story of Sal Paradise and his acquaintances as he travels across the country and the characters are based on Kerouac himself as well as beat poet Allen Ginsberg and the novelist William Burroughs.

The classic ‘road trip’ tail explores the characters' fascination with jazz, women and sexuality and the landscape of America.

A catalogue and series of connected events will accompany the exhibition including Lunchtime Gallery Talks on December 4 and 11, Beat Stories on January 24 and On The Road and The Beats and Post Beats, which will take place on December 12 and 13.

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