The long range book; its global celebration
On April 23, World Book and Copyright Day was commemorated, as every year, an event that was born in Spain thanks to the initiative of publishers.
Last April 23 was commemorated, as every year, the World Book and Copyright Day, an event that Hugo Setzer, president of CANIEM, wanted to reflect on and share with Publishnews readers:
April 23 is celebrated worldwide to the book, in the words of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), as «one of the most beautiful inventions for sharing ideas and embodying an effective tool for fighting poverty and building sustainable peace.»
It also celebrates copyright, which is the legal framework that allows the book ecosystem to flourish. Thanks to copyright, thousands of authors and publishers around the world can invest time and money in publishing works that enrich society, safe in the knowledge that their efforts will be rewarded.
The celebration dates back to the Diada de Sant Jordi or St. George’s Day, which is the Catalan version of Valentine’s Day when people give each other red roses, but also books. This one-day festival, celebrated every year on April 23, is inspired by the legend of St. George, patron saint of Catalonia since 1456.
April 23, 1996, was a special day in Barcelona. The Congress of the International Publishers’ Union was taking place at the time, with the attendance of almost a thousand publishers and accompanying persons from 47 different countries, when World Book and Copyright Day was celebrated for the first time.
In November 1995, Federico Mayor, a Spanish scientist, scholar, politician, diplomat, and poet who served as director general of UNESCO from 1987 to 1999, sent a letter to Pere Vicens, president of the Federation of Publishers’ Guilds of Spain, informing him that UNESCO had unanimously decided to declare April 23 as World Book and Copyright Day.
The date was chosen because three great writers of their time died on April 23, 1616: Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Mayor makes it clear in his letter to Vicens that, although this timely initiative was suggested by the Spanish government, its paternity can be attributed to the publishers.
Subsequently, in November 2001, at the invitation of Koïchiro Matsuura, the director general of UNESCO who had succeeded Federico Mayor, Pere Vicens, who by then had been elected president of the International Publishers’ Union, had the opportunity to address the UNESCO General Assembly to present the proposal for a World Book Capital.
Six years after the launch of World Book and Copyright Day, the International Publishers’ Union came up with the idea, inspired by the successful experience of the city of Madrid, to nominate the best city program to promote books during the period between one Book Day and the next.
At the urging of the International Publishers Association, with the help of a proposal from the government of Spain and the support of many other countries, UNESCO’s General Conference decided on November 2, 2001, that the organization would lend its «moral and intellectual support to the conception and implementation» of the World Book Capital initiative, using Madrid’s successful event that year as a model and inspiration.
Madrid was retroactively designated as the first World Book Capital and since then 21 other cities have been recognized for their commitment to promoting books and encouraging reading, among them the city of Guadalajara, which just ended its year as World Book Capital on April 23.
The government of municipal president Pablo Lemus Navarro announced, with the support of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, an ambitious program around books and reading, which was carried out throughout this year. Next year’s World Book Capital will be the city of Accra, Ghana.
In Mexico, we have the opportunity to celebrate the book on two different dates. Due to his admiration for Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, President José López Portillo instituted, by presidential decree published on November 6, 1979, the National Book Day, to be celebrated on November 12 of each year, in commemoration of the birth of the tenth muse.
UNESCO has this to say about Book Day: «Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day on April 23, we can open ourselves to others despite the distance, and travel through imagination. This day pays tribute to books and authors and encourages access to reading for as many people as possible.» With information from The Fifth Quarter Century: The International Publishers Association 1996-2021, forthcoming from Penguin Random House’s Conecta imprint.