A Brill Calendar: April 23
World Book Copyright Day
Few calendar days are nowadays free to be just a calendar day.
Indolence on their behalf is not ‘allowed’ when it comes to attracting world-wide attention to meaningful and valuable topics. ‘Mother’s Day’, institutionalized in the United States of America in 1914 may be the first of a breed of 366 individuals. Since then, the cultural proclivity of diurnal festive commemoration keeps extending itself over all daily children of the sun and the planet’s rotation.
One of them is April 23. During the General Conference of UNESCO, Paris, 1995 it was decided to name that calendar day henceforth the ‘World Book and Copyright Day’. No random choice, but ‘e pluribus unum’. The two absolute masters of the world’s most widely used supranational languages, Shakespeare and Cervantes, both died April 23, in the same year, 1616. (In this context it is seldom considered, by the way, that the calendar day serves of course as a birthday too; for instance of Elijah ben Solomon (Sielec, Lithania, April 23 1720 – Vilna, Russian Empire, October 9 1797), known in scholarly tradition as ‘the scholar who never wrote’.)
However, Christianity has celebrated April 23 since days of yore. On this day, Saint George, a 3rd century martyr who became patron saint of England; as well as of Catalonia, where the same holy hero is called ‘San Jordi’. And it is in that Spanish State and fiercely independent culture, where the charming custom originated that purchasing a book on that date is reciprocated by the bookseller by offering a rose – San Jordi’s attribute – to the esteemed customer.
UNESCO’s aim in the initiative – a world-wide tribute to books and authors – was to encourage ‘everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading’. From one thing comes another, as they say; and since 2001 UNESCO elevates each year a metropolis to the prestige of the ‘World Book Capital’; with Madrid – not Barcelona – for starters in that year. Alexandria, New Delhi, Antwerp, Montreal, Turin, Bogota and Amsterdam – bien étonné de les trouver ensemble – followed. In 2009 it’s the turn of Beirut.
(P. S. Elija’s students compiled from their master’s notes a monument of some 40 volumes.)
2013, May 17
2013, April 11
2013, April 11