Was it a donation or a loan? This is the question to be answered in costume on the original manuscript of Jack Kerouac

An original manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s first published novel, “The Town and the City”, is at the center of a lawsuit brought by the executor of the beat generation author’s estate against the Northport-East Public Library Northport.

John H. Shen-Sampas, 36, estate manager of the so-called “King of the Beats”, filed a lawsuit in March with the Riverhead State Supreme Court, alleging that the library had not loaned than the manuscript and refused to give it back.

Library officials claim that Kerouac donated the document to the library in 1964.

“There is no basis for the claim that the manuscript ‘The Town and the City’ has simply been ‘on loan’ to the library for 56 years and, to the best of our knowledge, no evidence to support it,” according to a statement released by Melville-based attorney Andrew K. Martingale, who represents the library.

The story begins in 1958, when Kerouac spent what was six years on and off living in Northport. He moved to the village with his mother that year, a year after the publication of his iconic and iconic literary work, “On the Road”. The book was hailed as “historic” and a “genuine work of art” in a New York Times book review in 1957.

According to Shen-Sampas, it was in 1964 that the library took possession of the manuscript, but Kerouac only asked library officials to “keep the manuscript safe” during his trip to Florida. The writer died in 1969 in St. Petersburg, Florida, before he could retrieve the document.

Shen-Sampas said he offered to purchase the document and compensate the library for all the years spent hosting the manuscript, but the library refused, prompting him to take legal action.

“I want him to come back to preserve it,” said Shen-Sampas, who lives in San Francisco. “I’m afraid they sold it to someone else without my knowledge and that person is not sharing it with the public.”

He said the last time he saw the manuscript was in 2018 and it had been bound like a book, was deteriorating and not being properly preserved.

“A manuscript is meant to be loose pages,” Shen-Sampas said. “The margins where they glued the book are words, notes written by Jack.”

The library’s statement says the original manuscript is insured and stored in a temperature-controlled fireproof safe.

“Initially, the manuscript was on the open shelves of the Reference Collection; however, over time preservation won out over access and a microfilmed copy was created, which for decades served as a “use copy” for researchers and Kerouac. fans, “the statement read.

Shen-Sampas said that unless there is a document from Kerouac showing the intention was to give the manuscript as a gift, it is not a gift.

“It’s not for me to show it wasn’t a gift,” Shen-Sampas said. “When they say they accepted it as a gift, the intention of a gift is not proven by the recipient.”

The library’s statement said that while it was required to maintain ownership of the manuscript in court, “the library is well prepared to do so.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the courts, no further action has been taken in this case.


The Beat Generation was a literary movement of young authors whose writings focused on and influenced post-WWII American society and politics. It began in the late 1940s and was popularized in the 1950s. Zen Buddhism, modern jazz, free sexuality, anti-materialism, and recreational drug use were favored activities by the group. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are among the names most associated with the movement.

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