1 November 2017 Susannah

Writers On The Money

Jane Austen bank note

Unless you are one of the lucky few, writing is not usually a lucrative profession. Many a writer has had financial problems, has written a pot-boiler just to reduce debt, or has died leaving only manuscripts behind. Somehow it always seems to redress the balance somewhat when a famous writer has been featured on a bank note or coin. Jane Austen has just gone on to the English £10 note and the £2 coin (making her the first person ever to simultaneously be on her country’s notes and coins), but which other authors have been honoured in this way?

I’ve had fun researching this and have produced the following list of writers on banknotes for you:

Australia: Banjo Paterson, Dame Mary Gilmore, Henry Lawson, David Unaipon
Denmark: Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Blixen
England: Jane Austen, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare
France: Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo, Molière, Blaise Pascal, Racine, Saint-Exupéry, Voltaire
Germany: Bettina von Arnim, Goethe, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Schiller
Ireland: James Joyce, Jonathan Swift
Italy: Dante
Japan: Ichiyō Higuchi, Murasaki Shikibu
Netherlands: Joost van den Vondel
Norway: Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, Bjørnsterne Bjørnson, Camilla Collett, Henrik Ibsen, Sigrid Undset, Henrik Wergeland
Scotland: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson
South Africa: Nelson Mandela
Spain: Rosalia de Castro, Cervantes, Benito Pérez Galdós, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Leopoldo Alas y Ureňa
Sweden: Selma Lagerlöf, Astrid Lindgren
Switzerland: Gottfried Keller, Charles Ferdinand Ramuz
Turkey: Yunus Emre, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, Rumi, Fatma Aliye Topuz

There are some surprising omissions – why is Katherine Mansfield not on a N.Z. note, or L.M. Montgomery not on a Canadian one? The USA features presidents on its notes (and of course some of those have been writers as well as politicians – Barak Obama’s autobiography, Jimmy Carter’s historical novel, are examples) so you don’t find writers such as Twain (how he’d have loved that!!).

Swedish banknote featuring Astrid Lindgren

Irish banknote featuring James Joyce

Have I missed any for the countries I chose to research? Which authors do you think should feature on bank notes? Tell me by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Jane Austen English £10 banknote
Body image credit- Swedish banknote Astrid Lindgren, Irish banknote James Joyce
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Comments (6)

  1. In Mexico Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz has been featured twice on banknotes, first in mid-1980’s on the $1,000 pesos banknote. She returned again on the $200 pesos banknote in 2008. IIRC, the only other author who has appeared on Mexican banknotes has been Netzahualcoyotl, the poet king of Texcoco, on the $100 banknote.

    • Addendum, also Justo Sierra was featured in the $2,000 pesos banknote back in the 1980’s. He was essayist, historian, poet, journalist, politician and philosopher.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for those additions to my list Cinthia. I once saw one of Sor Juana’s plays performed at Stratford upon Avon and it was fabulous. She certainly deserves to be on a bank note.

  2. Ruth wilson

    I was in the UK when the note was released and in the queue to stock up on gifts for my great grandchildren. Maybe it will be an investment in their reading if not their financial futures. The investment stakes were won by the Queen who received Number one , followed br Prince Phillip, and Theresa May came in third! Wouldn’t Henry Austen Banker be impressed! Thanks again Susannah for the monthly reading banquet

    • Susannah Fullerton

      That is fascinating, Ruth. I didn’t know that the Queen got no.1. But it’s not fair that Phillip got no. 2 – that is two in the same family and I doubt he will appreciate it. Henry would be so delighted by it all!

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