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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


Jack Kerouac book covers


left: Andre Deutsch (1958); right: Penguin (1972).

In a year filled with cultural anniversaries, here’s another. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is fifty years old next month and to celebrate this Penguin is publishing the book in its original form for the first time. Although the cover of the first edition described the text as “complete and unexpurgated”, names were changed to protect the innocent and/or guilty and other aspects, such as some very mild gay sex references, were removed. The same site I linked to last year with a great selection of William Burroughs book covers has another section devoted to Kerouac’s magnum opus.

The challenge with this book is whether or not to feature a road as the main image; some designers rise to that challenge better than others. The Ukrainian cover crudely modelled on a Jack Daniel’s label is a particularly unfortunate choice considering that the author died prematurely from cirrhosis of the liver. As with William Burroughs, some translations of the title work better than others: Unterwegs (German) sounds clunky to English ears while Sulla Strada (Italian) has more poetry than the original.

The Observer on the book’s fiftieth anniversary
Beat Scene magazine
Kerouac’s bisexuality explored at GLBTQ

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive



Posted in {books}, {burroughs}, {design}, {gay}.

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3 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Eroom Nala


    Think I prefer the Penguin 1991 cover


    Mainly for the expression on Neil Cassady’s face and also because I like seeing photos of people I only know through books.
    Have to try and read a biography of Kerouac one day although I’ve already seen a few documentaries on him with him reading a short extract from the book.

  2. #2 posted by Nathalie


    Eddie is also mentioning Kerouac this morning, it must be in the air…

  3. #3 posted by John


    I like the Penguin design from that period also?well-chosen picture box with (I think) Eric Gill’s Perpetua typeface for the font.






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