In 1950, when Jack Kerouac released his first novel, The Town and the City, he was less than impressed by the book cover produced by his publisher, Harcourt Brace. (Click here to see why.) So, in 1952, when he began shopping his second novel, the great beat classic On the Road, Kerouac went ahead and designed his own cover. He sent it to a potential publisher A.A. Wyn, with a little note typed at the very top:
Dear Mr. Wyn:
I submit this as my idea of an appealing commercial cover expressive of the book. The cover for “The Town and the City” was as dull as the title and the photo backflap. Wilbur Pippin’s photo of me is the perfect On the Road one … it will look like the face of the figure below.
Wyn turned down the novel, and it wouldn’t get published until 1957. It would, however, become a bestseller and be published with many different covers through the years. They’re all on display here. The image above comes to us by our favorite Wired writer Steve Silberman (aka @SteveSilberman)
Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.