Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hans Christian Andersen

Denmark, 2005 (Scott #1323)
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen was born April 2, 1805. For over 200 years, the world has enjoyed his many classic short stories that have resonated with readers worldwide.

H. C. Andersen, as he was also known, was born in Denmark. Rumors have swirled around that he was an illegitimate son of Danish royalty, although this seems to be mere rumor. What is known is that he was gifted, even at a young age, and that although his real family was poor, he was afforded the luxury of occasionally attending the theater as a youth. It was through these efforts that young Hans Christian began developing a love for the written and spoken word.

With the help of a sponsor, Andersen was able to attend Copenhagen University. It was a difficult transition, as he was from a poor family, but was socializing with the middle and upper classes during school.

Andersen loved literature and began writing at a youthful age. He authored numerous stories, many of which have become classics in literature. Some have become so ingrained in society that they have become catchphrases in everyday language. For example, the English phrases "ugly duckling" and the "emperor's new clothes" are derived from Hans Christian Andersen stories of the same name.

Denmark, 2005 (Scott #1324)
Paper Cutting and Scissors
Other well-known works include "The Snow Queen", "Thumbelina", and "The Little Mermaid". These stories that have delighted readers for almost 175 years.

Later in life, Andersen began expanding his audience base. He wrote travelogues and also tales for adults. He achieved wealth and fame while he was living, something that many authors fail to achieve.

In August, 1875, Andersen died after several years of declining health. At the time of his passing, he left a rich legacy of written works and is considered one of Denmark's greatest and most beloved writers.

To celebrate the bicentennial of the his birth, many countries issued postage stamps in his honor in 2005. Denmark, his native country, issued a 4-stamp set depicting his portrait, plus images that tie back to his life and stories.

One of the stamps, the 5.50k stamp shown nearby, features a paper cutting as the main motif. Cuttings are traditional crafts where a sheet of paper is cut to make special designs. Andersen was very skilled in generating intricate designs and many of his paper cuts still exist in museums. Often, stamp sets of Andersen will include one of his paper cuttings on them.

The 4-stamp Denmark set is listed as Scott numbers 1323-1326. There are several souvenir sheets also available with various extended designs. These stamps and souvenir sheets are available on popular auction sites for a very modest price.

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