Jack Kerouac’s Hand-Drawn Cover for On the Road (1952)

This falls under the cat­e­go­ry, “If you want it done right, you have to do it your­self.”

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.

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Note: This fine draw­ing appeared on our site back in 2012.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Dri­ving Direc­tions & Pub­lished as a Free eBook

Four Inter­ac­tive Maps Immor­tal­ize the Road Trips That Inspired Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

The Music from Jack Kerouac’s Clas­sic Beat Nov­el On the Road: Stream Tracks by Miles Davis, Dex­ter Gor­don & Oth­er Jazz Leg­ends

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.