Two important relics of Beat Generation literature have sold for more than $340,000 at Heritage Auctions in New York
The company’s Rare Books Signature Auction offered a legendary letter by Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac’s original typescript from his 1958 novel The Dharma Bums.
Cassady’s letter, known as the ‘Joan Anderson Letter’, was written to his friend and travelling companion Kerouac in 1950. Written whilst on a three-day Benzedrine high, the letter ran to 16,000 words and told the story of Cassady’s various romantic entanglements.
The free-form rambling letter inspired Kerouac, and he used a similar writing style for his seminal novel On The Road, which documented his journeys across America with Cassady (who became the classic character Dean Moriarty).
Kerouac called the letter "the greatest piece of writing I ever saw", and he loaned it to poet Alan Ginsberg, but it then disappeared and was believed lost for 60 years.
Having recently been rediscovered in the archive of a San Francisco publisher, the letter was described as "a foundational document in the history of beat literature", and sold for $206,250.
The second artefact on offer was Kerouac’s typescript for The Dharma Bums, his 1957 follow-up to On The Road.
Having written his debut novel on a single scroll of paper which he fed into his typewriter, hammering away manically for days on end, he decided to repeat the process with his second novel.
Having finished The Dharma Bums in 11 days, he then retyped the stream-of-consciousness work onto individual sheets, along with his annotations, to be submitted to the Viking Press.
Kerouac was later furious with the large number of edits made to his novel by the publisher, and demanded his original words be reinstated.
The typescript offered at Heritage included his angry notes about these edits, and is marked on the front sheet in red ink "Dharma Bums, with Viking Press changes I rejected".
The highly rare typescript, one of the few from Kerouac’s career to ever appear for sale, achieved a final price of $137,500.