The poet ruth weiss was the first person to ever tell us about Horst Spandler. Soon after we moved to San Francisco in 2006, ruth mentioned she had this amazing friend who lived in Nuremberg, and that he was instrumental in the translation and publication of her poetry in Germany.
Later I was told by other friends who also knew Horst that he held another distinction related to the Beat Generation. For years, Horst had sought out and acquired what many considered to be the largest collection of On the Road from all around the world. He owned dozens and dozens of copies in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Greek, Romanian, Czech, Danish, Turkish, Serbian, Portuguese, Russian, and Chinese. I contacted Horst, and we came to an agreement that the Beat Museum would exhibit his collection in a 2010 exhibit called On the Road Around the World.
We billed it this way: The Beat Museum’s latest exhibition opens July, 2010, featuring Horst Spandler’s vast and colorful collection: 100 different editions of On the Road in 25 different languages. This wide array of books is a testament to the international appeal of Jack Kerouac’s classic, and provides interesting insight into the book’s appreciation abroad.
The exhibition was an immediate success. The very week we opened it to the public, a visitor from Brazil walked up to me at the counter and said, “I have a copy of On the Road I don’t see in the exhibit. I’ll mail it to you when I get home, so you can present it to Horst to add to his collection.” A week later someone from Australia said the same thing. Beat fans sharing what they love.
In fact, the On the Road Around the World exhibit was such a hit, we extended it for another year, and people continued to mail their personal copies to add to the collection. When it came time to send the collection back to Horst, the number of unique copies was approaching 120.
We arranged to take the exhibition down in December 2011, but were able to time it to coincide with another unique event. Walter Salles, the director of the movie On the Road (2012), was gifting us the 1949 Hudson used in the movie, and actor Garrett Hedlund, who played Neal Cassady,was driving it up from Hollywood to the Beat Museum that very week. Both John Allen Cassady and Al Hinkle (who was featured in both the book and the movie as “Big Ed Dunkle”) were in the car with him for that memorable drive.
We held a ceremonial photoshoot with both Garrett Hedlund and Al Hinkle with all of Horst’s copies of On the Road scattered around them. The photoshoot was a real hoot. Just half a dozen guys sitting around drinking beer and talking about the Beats. Sharing what we love.
We’re estimating it will cost between $700-$1000 to ship Horst’s collection from Germany to San Francisco so it can reside in the Beat Museum’s collection permanently. We base this on the fact it cost $650 to ship in 2010 so we can’t imagine it will be less in 2023.