The so-called “butcher” cover of Yesterday And Today sparked outrage on its release in the US in 1966 as it showed the Fab Four smiling while posing in white coats and covered in pieces of raw meat and decapitated baby dolls.
Taken by Australian photographer Robert Whitaker, it was suggested the cover was the Beatles’ protest against the Vietnam War.
The controversy led to it being withdrawn and replaced by a more public-friendly cover showing the band standing around an old fashioned steamer trunk.
Despite the last-minute change, the damage was done to the Beatles’ record label, Capitol, and it was reportedly the only Beatles’ album to lose money for the company.
Lennon’s personal copy of the album is now going under the hammer with an estimated selling price of £136,000.
The record was on the wall of Lennon’s The Dakota apartment in New York until he gave it to Dave Morrell, a Beatles fan and bootleg collector.
It is signed: “To Dave from/ John Lennon/ Dec 7th 71.”
Lennon, who was gunned down outside the apartment building in 1980, scrawled a sketch on the back of the cover, showing a man holding a shovel with his dog in front of a setting sun.
The cover also includes autographs by Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, which Morrell obtained later. This is believed to be the only original “butcher” album bearing three Beatles signatures.
Gary Hein, a Beatles expert, said: “There is no Beatles album in the world that compares with this one in terms of both rarity and value.
“This important world-class pop culture piece would add significantly to any Beatles collector, art, pop culture or record collector’s collection.”
The rare album is among a collection of Beatles memorabilia going under the hammer at Julien’s Auctions’ annual event Music Icons: The Beatles In Liverpool.
Also on sale is a Lennon-owned and signed guitar strap from his 1956 Les Paul Junior guitar used at the One to One sessions at Butterfly Studios in New York. That has a guide price of between £15,000-£23,000.
Lennon’s detention record from his teachers at what was then known as Quarry Bank High School has an estimate of £2,200-£3,800.
A baseball signed by The Beatles and given to Mike Murphy, manager of the San Francisco Giants Clubhouse during the Beatles’ final concert in the United States at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966, has an estimate of between £60,000 and £75,000.
Darren Julien, chief executive of Julien’s Auctions, said: “Julien’s Auctions is honoured to have been a part of Beatlemania history.”
The auction will take place at the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool on 9 May.