Dublin: UNESCO City of Literature and a New Stamp

unesco city of literature stamp

When I walk Dublin’s grey-flecked flagstone pavements I am only dimly aware of the ghostly echo of the literary giants who once trod those selfsame routes. The roll call of the great and good of Irish writers of yore who have connections with Dublin is lengthy: Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce …

Dublin also has a veritable battalion of talented living writers, too many to list. In Dublin, and in Ireland as a whole, literature is not seen as a thing apart as it is deeply woven into the weft and warp of everyday life and words are a highly valued currency.

leopold bloom

Fittingly for a city where prose and poetry are king and queen one of our greatest writers James Joyce said about his quintessentially Dublin novel Ulysses: “I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.” According to Wiki Ulysses is two hundred and sixty-five thousand words long. Gosh!

statue and plaques

In 2010 UNESCO designated Dublin as a City of Literature. The other UNESCO Cities of Literature are: Edinburgh, Iowa, Reykjavík, Norwich and Melbourne.

unesco city of literature stamp

In May of this year An Post (the Irish postal service) issued a stamp commemorating Dublin’s status as a City of Literature. An Amsterdam based creative partnership, run by Irish brothers and twins Declan and Garech Stone, know simply as ‘The Stone Twins’ designed the sixty-cent stamp.

Appropriately given what it commemorates the stamp carries no images or graphics but instead printed in black on the stamp’s bright yellow background is the text of a prize-winning short story by teenager Eoin Moore. His story seeks to capture the essence of Dublin and does so admirably in just two hundred and twenty-four words. That’s quite a lot fewer than James Joyce used!

w b yeats

As I said at the beginning of this post I am often only subliminally aware of the Dublin’s rich literary heritage when I walk around it. However the new stamp impinged on my consciousness so I looked anew at the city’s vibrant streets and I discovered many reminders of the capital’s literary past: commemorative plaques, statues, buildings mentioned in novels, exhibitions …

I also realized that are so many places in Dublin connected to its literary past that I have never visited. I need to change that.


Filed under Books, Culture, Dublin, Ireland

15 responses to “Dublin: UNESCO City of Literature and a New Stamp

  1. Lovely post, B. I didn’t know about the UNESCO City of Literature appointment. Being a greedy reader, I think it is a wonderful initiative and your country with its amazing artists sure deserved and deserves such honor. I love the commemoration stamp and the fact that they chose words rather than a picture. You must be very proud of your country. 🙂

    • Thanks Francesca. Yes I am proud of my country’s literary tradition. And I am also very glad that there are many initiatives to keep it alive and to encourage a new generation to try their hand at writing. For example the story on the stamp came out of competition for young writers.

      Take care B 😉

  2. Great post honoring the longstanding Irish literary tradition, and great photographs to go with it. Thank you for sharing, B.

  3. I haven’t been to Dublin in years…I think I must change that before long.

  4. Very inspiring. I’ve just done a session on ‘mail art’ which is a totally new thing – ie to acknowledge that mail in its very nature of production of stamps and envelopes and written communication is art. The stamp and envelope here are wonderful – I will share them with my fellow struggling students of art

  5. Great post on Dublin, beautiful photography. I spent 12 days there last year, far too short, literary Dublin is fantastic. I’m in North Norfolk now, only 20 minutes from Norwich, the city of literature 2013. It’s a pity they don’t do more literary events, it’s “dead” compared to Dublin.

    • Thank you very much Dina for the compliment.

      I hope you are having a good time in North Norfolk. I have never been to Norwich but it’s sad to hear that there is not more to celebrate its literary connections.

      Hopefully you will get back to Dublin one day to explore further. 😉

  6. John Byrne

    What a brilliant idea by the Stone Twins design team for a ‘story on a stamp’ and an open competition for the lucky writer. Love the first day cover by these twins.

    • Thank you for your comment. I agree the the ‘story on the stamp’ is a brilliant idea. I think Eoin Moore’s short story captures the essence of Dublin and his writing bodes well for the future of Irish literature.

  7. Pingback: La pas prin Dublin, un fermecător oraş al literaturii | Bookaholic

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