Great collections: Johnny Depp's amazing rare books and manuscripts

Johnny Depp surely needs little introduction. The Golden Globe winning actor was born in Kentucky in 1963 but grew up in Florida, where he dropped out of school at 15 to become a rock musician, fronting various garage bands, the most famous entitled The Kids which opened for Iggy Pop.

The band moved to Los Angeles to find success, but found competition fierce. Depp had married the band's make-up artist and she encouraged him to try acting, which he did following a meeting with Nicholas Cage taking his first role in the world famous A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Fame came to his acting career with the TV show 21 Jump Street - although Depp wasn't initially keen. He took more enthusiastically to his 1990 role in the critically acclaimed Edward Scissorhands - the first of seven films he has made with director Tim Burton to date.

A rapid series of films followed. The box office results were unpredictable for Depp during the 1990s, and he commented that he tended to pick roles which interested him rather than those which were likely to be successful. (That remains true, though he is now much more reliable as a box office draw.)

Perhaps his most notable film of the time was the 1998 cult classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on Hunter S Thompson's work. Depp was a close friend of Thompson's and paid for much of the writer's funeral, including the specified fireworks and a huge cannon to shoot his ashes out of.

Depp is quite a serious collector, especially of books, often referring to himself as a 'guardian' of his collectibles. He has a close connection with books in general, as he takes the opportunity to read them whenever he has the chance to put down a movie script. His brother Daniel is also a novelist.

His interest in collecting was perhaps sparked when in 1991 he took a trip to Jack Kerouac's home town in Massachusetts. He'd read everything there was that was worth reading about the writer, and wanted to get closer to the man.

Depp managed to spend some time with Kerouac's brother-in-law, John Sampas, who took him round Kerouac's local bars and to his house and generously sharing his things, notably the writer's handwritten The Book of Dreams in little notepads with Kerouac's handwriting and illustrations.

Jack Kerouac On the Road
A first edition of Jack Kerouac's On the Road

Depp now owns a number of letters and manuscripts by Kerouac, as well as by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and French poet Arthur Rimbaud. He also owns Jack Kerouac's last typewriter.

The bulk of his collection is made up of first edition books, however, especially those of the Beat Poets which he built up during his relationship with Winona Ryder, as they shared an appreciation for the work.

Also included is a first edition of Edgar Allen Poe's work with original illustrations. Depp cherishes a memory of showing it to Vincent Price, who became tremendously excited at the book and especially the drawings.

Price began talking about Poe's short story (which became a film) The Tomb of Ligeia, and leapt up and recited it with great passion. Depp noticed when he looked up the book that Price had been absolutely word perfect.

Some other, non-literary collectibles are also part of his collection, including John Dillinger's derringer.

Depp of course played Dillinger in the 2009 film Public Enemies. It probably shouldn't be a surprise that he owns a piece of the outlaw as he clearly hoards collectibles for one of the best reasons of all: a connection with the character of the whoever had them first.


Join our readers in over 200 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today 

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock