Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Jack Kerouac papers, 1945-1971

Summary Information


Novelist and member of the Beat Generation. The collection includes a small amount of correspondence, manuscript material and ephemera by and relating to Jack Kerouac.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0708
Bib ID 4078982 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969; Lavigne, Robert
Title Jack Kerouac papers, 1945-1971
Physical Description .5 linear feet (1 document box)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in 2 series.



This is a collection of material related to Jack Kerouac pulled together from various sources and donors. It includes correspondence and ephemera as well as manuscripts of small poems and prose fragments and proofs of Desolation Angels and Tristessa.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1945-1971

    This series consists of letters sent to Kerouac by friends and associates, as well as letters sent by Kerouac to fans and admirers. This series also consists of a few letters about the author sent to and from Kerouac's family and acquaintances. These include 35 letters of William Burroughs to Jack Kerouac which deal with his daily life and thoughts in Louisiana, Mexico, and Morocco, with his writings and those of Kerouac, and with their mutual friends including Allen Ginsberg. Several examples of Burroughs' experimental prose are included.

  • Series II: Manuscripts and Miscellaneous, 1960-1965, undated

    This series consists of a small number of manuscripts of Kerouac's poetry and prose fragments as well as proofs of two of Kerouac's novels, Desolation Angels and Tristessa. This series also includes clippings and reviews and some of Kerouac's published work. It includes Big Table 1 which contains the first installment of Kerouac's "Old Angel Midnight" as well as Evergreen Review no.33 which contains the second installment. There is also a memorial portrait of Kerouac by Robert LaVigne

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML does not hold the copyright to most materials in the collections, and Columbia University Libraries will neither grant nor deny copyright permission regarding such materials.

Reader must use microfilm or photocopies of materials specified above.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Jack Kerouac Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material-- At Columbia

William S. Burroughs Papers Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Jack Kerouac Papers, 1920-1977, bulk (1935-1969). Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature New York Public Library


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Alternate Form Available

William Burroughs letters available on: microfilm.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Lucey, Ellen. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1970. Accession number--M-70.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 07/--/89.

Revision Description

2010-03-11 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American literature -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Authors, American Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Beats (Persons) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bohemianism -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Louisiana -- Description and travel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lucey, Ellen Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mexico -- Description and travel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Morocco -- Description and travel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Portraits Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Jack Kerouac, born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, was born in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts to French Canadian parents. Kerouac spent much of his youth engaged in sports and other physical activities. His athletic prowess earned him a football scholarship to Columbia University where he matriculated in 1940, but he left Columbia in the Fall of 1941 after sustaining an injury that left him unable to play football.

Upon leaving the University Kerouac joined the Merchant Marine and later the US Navy, but retained close ties to members of the Columbia community. He lived on Manhattan's Upper West Side with his girlfriend, later first wife, Barnard student Edie Parker and her friend Joan Vollmer. It was through Parker that Kerouac met Columbia students Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr and their friends William Burroughs and Herbert Huncke. This group of friends and writers which would later form the nucleus of the Beat Generation, was the inspiration for much of Kerouac's work.

Kerouac married Edie Parker in 1944 and moved with her to her home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, but their marriage lasted less than a year. Upon the annulment of the marriage, Kerouac returned to New York and his bohemian friends and began to write the novel which would become The Town and the City-- this novel, Kerouac's first, was published in 1950 to mild acclaim.

Kerouac's next novel, One the Road proved to be much more commercially and critically successful. This novel, published in 1957 documents a trip Kerouac took across the US and Northern Mexico with Neal Cassady. This fictionalized account of Kerouac and his friends introduced the beats to America solidified the image of the beatnik with his interest in sexual freedom, jazz, and drug use in the popular imagination.

Though Kerouac's goal had long been to be a writer, the success of On the Road never sat entirely well with its author. Kerouac continued to write his thinly veiled autobiographical novels chronicling his bohemian, literary circle of friends, but in his personal life he began to pull away from the public eye and distance himself from his Beat Generation associated. He moved to Northport, Long Island to care for his aging parents and growing more personally and politically conservative.

Kerouac died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1969.