World Book Day
Ahead of World Book Day, we caught up with Assistant Curator Georgina who takes us through her favourite books appearing in stamp designs.
There are so many stamps that look at or feature literature that I found it very hard to pick just a few to talk about here. But to celebrate World Book Day on the 2nd of March lets explore some classic stories and the stamps they appear on.
Enid Blyton – Noddy
Enid Blyton is mostly remembered for her famous five books, however she also wrote stories for younger children exploring the life of Noddy. Noddy is a wooden toy puppet who lives in the fictional town of Toyland along with his friends Big Ears and Mr. Plod. The Noddy series originally spanned 24 books from 1949 to 1963 and went on to be a TV show. The original book illustrations were produced by Harmsen Van der Beek, to whom Blyton was introduced to, along with his initial sketches of Toyland and its characters before she wrote the first Noddy story.
Roger Hargreaves – Mr Men and Little Miss
The first character to be produced by Roger Hargreaves was Mr Tickle whose arms are 20 bananas long. Useful when you want to reach the fridge from the comfort of your bed. The Mr Men books came first and it wasn’t until 1981 that the first Little Miss book was introduced. After the death of Roger Hargreaves his son took over the production of Mr Men and Little Miss books producing new and wonderful characters for children.
Jane Austen – Emma
I am a big fan of Austen and love her books, though the character of Emma Woodhouse is initially difficult to like. She is quite a spoilt and headstrong character at the beginning of the book, but as she grows up during the story she becomes a more likable figure. The story looks at the initial friendship and inevitable love story of Emma Woodhouse and George Knightly. Jane Austen wrote stories from a very early age until her death in 1817. Her books have now been translated into numerous languages across the world.
Elizabeth Gaskell – North and South
North and South was published by Elizabeth Gaskell in 1855 and it explores the romance of Margaret Hale and John Thornton. I really enjoy this novel, even though in places it can be quite bleak. The story explores the industrial north of England, looking at the lives of those who manage and work in the cotton mills. Gaskell was a friend of Florence Nightingale and part of the book was actually written in Nightingale’s home.
Mystery and Spy
Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express
I have always been a fan of the Agatha Christie stories, probably due to my dad’s love of mystery books. Christie wrote 66 detective novels during her life, featuring two independently famous characters – Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. The stamp above looks at her story Murder on the Orient Express, which follows Poirot on the Orient Express from Istanbul back to London. In the story their train gets stuck in a snow storm, that was inspired by real events when the Orient Express was stranded in snow for five days in 1929.
Ian Flemming – James Bond
Ian Flemming wrote one of the most famous spy characters of all time, James Bond. Flemming himself had worked for Naval Intelligence during the Second World War and used this experience and the people he worked with as an inspiration for his stories. He wrote most of these stories at his Jamaican estate ‘Goldeneye’, publishing his first book Casino Royale in 1953. Dr No was published in 1958, one of Flemming’s most extravagant novels to date with an underground lair and giant squid. It is the first novel, where you hear the name of service armourer Roger Boothroyd, better known as ‘Q’.
Terry Pratchett – Discworld
Terry Pratchett is best known for his invention of Discworld, a fantasy world which consists of a flat disc balancing on the back of four elephants that stand on top of a giant turtle. The first book The Colour of Magic was published in 1983 and the series consists of 41 books in total. The stamp above depicts the character Nanny Ogg, a witch and mother of 15, famous for making extremely strong cider.
Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, however this did not prevent him from writing and he continued to do so until his death in 2015.
C.S.Lewis – The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first book written by C.S. Lewis in his seven novel series The Chronicles of Narnia. Set during wartime Britain, the wardrobe acts as a doorway for the children into another world – full of magical creatures and adventures. C.S. Lewis was a friend of Tolkien and a fellow member of the University of Oxford literary group The Inklings.
As an avid reader myself, currently lost in a Victorian murder mystery, I love to see literature celebrated in stamps. I can’t say I’ve read all of the books mentioned above but maybe I should. It’s always good to step out of your reading comfort zone and give a new author or genre a try.
2017 will see the release of Royal Mail’s Ladybird book stamp issue, which shows continuing importance of literature in stamp designs. I hope you have as much fun celebrating World Book Day as I have. I will certainly be joining in the conversation on social media following hashtag #WorldBookDay.
-Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)