University Archives

Lot 181

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Jack Kerouac Signed Check to San Francisco's City Lights Books -- Fantastic Beat Association!

A check fully engrossed by Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the famous mid-century American writer who brought us "On The Road" (1957), and signed by him as "Jack Kerouac" on the payee line. Provenance: The lot will be accompanied by an estate certification signed by John Shen-Sampas, executor of the Kerouac Estate by descent. John Shen-Sampas is the son of John Sampas, who was the brother-in-law of Jack Kerouac, and the brother of Stella Kerouac, Jack's wife.

Check #297 in the amount of $50.09 was paid to the order of "City Lights Books." The check was dated September 13, 1960 and issued from the Security National Bank in Northport, New York. Kerouac's printed name appears above that of his mother, Gabrielle-Ange Lévesque Kerouac, at upper left. Bearing the usual perforated marks and stamps. Expected wear including large vertical folds and isolated edge and corner wrinkles. Else very good. 6.25" x 2.75."

It's unknown what titles Kerouac purchased that autumn, but he evidently stocked up on the latest avant garde poetry, politics, philosophy, spirituality, and fiction, as well as hard-to-obtain translations and editions, that City Lights had to offer. In 1960, $50.09 was the equivalent of nearly $450 in 2020 currency. This material would have been shipped to Kerouac's home at 49 Earl Avenue, Northport, New York, where he lived with Gabrielle between August 1959 - April 1961.

City Lights Book Sellers was co-founded by experimental poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in San Francisco in 1953, and the fringe book shop quickly became a Mecca for Bohemians and Beatniks. It established a press in 1955; one of the first works they published was "Howl," Kerouac's close friend's Allen Ginsberg's controversial poem, in 1956. Both the book store and publisher are still in operation today. Its website describes City Lights as a hub of "alternative culture" and "insurgent thinking" imbued with "anarchic charm."

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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August 19, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

Wilton, CT, US

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