Paradise at the NY Public Library

Jack Kerouac Exhibition at The New York Public Library Coincides with 50th Anniversary of On the Road

Beatific Souls: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, 1957-2007 on View from November 9, 2007 through March 9, 2008; Includes Famous Scroll Manuscript Typed on 120 Feet of Paper

Entry for September 21, 1939; page 1 from:
Jack Kerouac, “:–Journal–: Fall, 1939.” Holograph
manuscript, signed, September 21-25, 1939.
The New York Public Library, Berg Collection,
Jack Kerouac Archive. © and reproduced
courtesy of John G. Sampas, legal representative
of the estates of Jack and Stella Kerouac.

Diaries, manuscripts, snapshots, and personal items of Jack Kerouac, the visionary author whose pioneering work helped to established the Beat Movement in the United States, will be on display in Beatific Souls: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, 1957 – 2007, an exhibition on view at The New York Public Library November 9, 2007 through March 9, 2008. The exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of Kerouac’s landmark novel, On the Road, which has captured the imagination of several generations and established its author as a major figure in American literature. The exhibition will be drawn almost exclusively from the contents of the Jack Kerouac Archive, housed in the Library’s Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, and will display many unpublished Kerouac materials as well as typescript and manuscript drafts of On the Road. A major highlight of the exhibition will be the famous “scroll” typescript, on loan from James Irsay, owner of the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts, of which the first sixty feet will be unrolled in a specially-designed set of interlocking display cases. The exhibition will be located in the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Admission is free.

A host of literary and physical artifacts displayed in the exhibition will bring to life Kerouac’s career as a writer, from his earliest journals to typescript and manuscript drafts of his novels, short stories, essays, and poetry to diaries, journals and correspondence. Kerouac was an assiduous diarist and journal keeper. In a 1939 journal entry, recorded upon arriving in New York to attend the Horace Mann School for Boys, he wrote, “I wish to say that this journal is a continual refreshing resource for my castle, which surrounds me; it keeps me aloof from teeming humanity; it keeps me in contact with myself. By that I mean that a continual flow of ideas from my turbulent mind find their way into these pages invariably.” His journals, diaries, and correspondence reveal a mind consumed with the goal of finding a way to give his experience of life on and off the road its most effective creative expression, and the drafts of his fiction, poetry, and essays record the history of those efforts.

Kerouac’s minutely detailed fantasy baseball and horse racing materials, which he created as a boy and played with throughout his life, will also be on display. In addition, the exhibition will include photographs of Kerouac, his family and friends, as well as objects that Kerouac treasured throughout his life, such as the crutches he used following a football injury while playing for Columbia University, and items memorably described in his writings, such as his harmonicas, his Buddhist bells, and his railroad track lantern.Other sections of the exhibition will be devoted to Kerouac’s youth and passion for sports; his early literary influences, such as William Blake, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, and Thomas Wolfe, illustrated by the Berg’s rare editions and manuscripts, as well as by books from Kerouac’s library; and his spirituality, which drew from both Buddhism and Roman Catholicism. Most of Kerouac’s principal novels, such as The Town and the City (1950), On the Road (1957), Maggie Cassidy (1959), and Big Sur (1962), will be displayed in early drafts or rare editions, as will a representative sampling of his unpublished poetry. The richness of the Beat movement will be documented in a major section that will display a few selections from the Berg Collection’s newly acquired William S. Burroughs Archive, as well as manuscripts, rare publications, and drawings by and photographs of Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other Beat notables. This section will also include a few examples of the media-driven “Beatnik” phenomenon, through the lurid cover art of pulp paperbacks.

A companion volume to the exhibition, written by curator Isaac Gewirtz, will look at Kerouac’s life and works through the lens of the journals, diaries, and other materials in the Kerouac Archive, much of which has not previously been available to scholars. This hardcover book will be extensively illustrated in 4-color with items from the archive, including not only manuscripts and typescripts, but also Kerouac’s paintings and drawings and selected items relating to his fantasy baseball games. In addition, the Donnell Library Center will organize a complementary film series.

Beatific Souls: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, 1957 – 2007 is on view November 9, 2007 through March 9, 2008 in the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall at The New York Public Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library, located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. Exhibition hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. beginning September 9; closed Mondays; Sunday, November 11; Thursday, November 22; Sunday, December 9; Tuesday, December 25; and Tuesday, January 1. Admission is free. For more information, call 212-869-8089 or visit

Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Mahnaz I. and Adam Bartos, Jonathan Altman, and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III.

About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. It comprises four research centers – The Humanities and Social Sciences Library; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and the Science, Industry and Business Library – and 86 Branch Libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items, including materials for the visually impaired. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English as a second language. The New York Public Library serves over 15 million patrons who come through its doors annually and another 21 million users internationally, who access collections and services through the NYPL website,

About the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature
The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature was assembled and presented to The New York Public Library by Dr. Albert A. Berg, famous New York surgeon and trustee of the Library, in memory of his brother, Dr. Henry W. Berg. Both men found relaxation from their medical careers in collecting the works and memorabilia of English and American writers. The original collection, which numbered 3,500 items, has grown through acquisitions and gifts to include some 35,000 printed items and 115,000 manuscripts, covering the entire range of English and American literature.

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