Christie’s Offering Up Highly Influential Neal Cassady Beat Era Letter

Eighteen-page document helped inspire 'On the Road' by author Jack Kerouac

June 12, 2016 7:00 am
Jack Kerouac
Author Jack Kerouac in 1965 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Christie’s is offering a rare piece of Beat Era literary history in its upcoming “Books and Manuscripts” auction set for June 16. Known as the “Joan Anderson Letter,” the 18-page, 16,000-word document was typed out; hand-edited; signed; and mailed by Neal Cassady in December 1950 to friend Jack Kerouac. In a ’68 issue of The Paris Review, Kerouac confessed to the publication, “I got the idea for the spontaneous style of On the Road from seeing how good old Neal Cassady wrote his letters to me[.]” The letter was lost for over 60 years, having passed through the hands of the late poet Allen Ginsberg—and has been referenced by him, Laurence Ferlinghetti, Herbert Hunke, among other Beat Era icons. Pre-auction estimates place the letter at $400,000–$600,000. To read more about the letter’s history, its provenance, and to register a bid, click here. Read an entire page of the letter below.

(Courtesy of Christie’s) (Courtesy of Christie’s)

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