A magnificent single paragraph several blocks long, rolling, like the road itself ...
- Allen Ginsburg
I really wrote a great book, my very best, one of the best to be published this year anywhere (or next Jan.) and wrote it too in 20 days as I say and I feel the pull and strain of having to type with a rusty typewriter like this and a dull ribbon that won't enact my tones.
- Jack Kerouac, in a letter to Neal Cassady.
Jack Kerouac's manuscript for On The Road was written in a three week long, coffee and (supposedly) Benzedrine powered fugue in April of 1951. Instead of having separate, individual pages, the manuscript was typed on twelve foot long pieces of architectural drafting paper cut to typewriter size with fingernail scissors and taped together to form a scroll. 120 feet long and nine inches wide, the scroll is covered with typewritten text entirely devoid of paragraph breaks. There are hand-written notes and corrections, done in pencil; in some places whole blocks of text are stricken out, x'd over with a typewriter or opaqued with red crayon. Each end of the scroll is yellowed and frayed from Kerouac's rolling it out and showing it to people during his travel. The last twelve foot "page" is missing, with a penciled-in note at the bottom that reads -- DOG ATE (Potchky-a dog), referring to a dog owned by Lucien Carr.
Initially because of its formatting (How the hell can the printer work from this!? was the reaction of one editor), and later because of its content, the book was rejected by countless publishers. Six years later, in 1957, Viking/Penguin agreed to publish it in a 293 page volume, but only on condition of large changes and revisions to the work. As of 2000, it has sold nearly 3.5 million copies, and has consistent yearly sales of more than 100,000.
May 22, 2001 saw the scroll's auction by Christie's Auction House, after being displayed by Christie's in Chicago and San Fransisco. There was concern that the scroll would fall into private hands and disappear from public study, and there were even efforts to of a public trust to buy the manuscript, which was expected to go for between 1 and 1.5 million. Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, ended up buying the scroll for 2.2 million, and may display it in an Indianapolis museum.