8 Novelists Who Were Featured on International Banknotes


While American currency features former U.S. Presidents, Founding Fathers, and iconic landmarks, many other countries put famous writers, poets, artists, and novelists on their banknotes.

1. Hans Christian Andersen // Denmark

Danish author Hans Christian Andersen is mostly known for his classic fairy tales like "Thumbelina," "The Little Mermaid," and "The Emperor's New Clothes," which were published in the late 1830s. The Danish government issued Andersen's likeness on the 10 Kroner note in 1952 until Danish Councillor of State Cathrine Sophie Kirchhoff replaced the writer on the banknote in 1975.

In 2005, Danmarks Nationalbank issued five special 10-Kroner coins, as part of a year-long "Andersen Year" to celebrate the bicentennial of the writer's birth [PDF].

2. Robert Louis Stevenson // Scotland

In 1994, the Royal Bank of Scotland issued special commemorative £1 banknotes featuring Robert Louis Stevenson—author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the novelist's death. The banknotes featured Stevenson's childhood home in Edinburgh and his final resting place on the Samoan Islands.

3. James Joyce // Ireland

The Central Bank of Ireland issued £10 banknotes featuring Ulysses writer James Joyce in 1993. The back of the note features Joyce's signature and a line from his final novel, Finnegans Wake, which read, "Riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."

The Central Bank of Ireland discontinued the banknote and replaced it with the Euro in 2002. However, a special commemorative €10 coin was minted to honor James Joyce in 2013. The coin featured his portrait and an excerpt from Ulysses: "Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read..." 

4. Fatma Aliye Topuz // Turkey

In 2009, Turkey debuted a ₺50 (Turkish Lira) with Turkish novelist and women's rights activist Fatma Aliye Topuz on the reverse side (the country's first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, appears on the front of all Turkey's Lira). Born in 1862, she is one of the first female novelists from Turkey and has six novels to her name, including Useful Information, Dream And Truth, and Scenes from Life.

5. Henry Lawson // Australia

In 1966, Award-winning author Henry Lawson was showcased on the $10 Australian bill. Lawson's poems, short stories, and novels reflected the hardships and triumphs of the "underdog" class in Australia's outback without romanticizing them.

6. Sir Walter Scott // Scotland

Novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott is attributed with saving the Scottish banknote. In 1826, Parliament attempted to end production of all banknotes under £5. Using the pseudonym "Malachi Malagrowther" (one of the characters in his novel The Fortunes of Nigel), Scott wrote a series of letters to the Edinburgh Weekly Journal urging Parliament to give the right to continue to print money to the Bank of Scotland.

These letters elicited such a strong response from the population that Parliament issued the Bank Notes Act 1826, which allowed Scottish banks to print one pound banknotes. As a result, The Bank of Scotland printed every banknote with Scott's likeness on the obverse side to honor the writer.

7. Ichiyō Higuchi // Japan

In 2004, the Bank of Japan put novelist Ichiyō Higuchi on the ¥5,000 bill. She became the third woman to appear on Japanese yen, after Empress Consort Jingū (1881) and poet Murasaki Shikibu (2000) [PDF]. Higuchi gained popularity throughout Japan and its literary establishment for her stories about the plight of the women working in Tokyo's red-light district. In 1896, she died of tuberculosis; she was just 24.

8. Charles Dickens // United Kingdom

in 1992, the Bank of England issued £10 banknotes featuring celebrated writer Charles Dickens on the reverse side of the bill (Queen Elizabeth II was featured on the obverse side). In 2003, Charles Darwin replaced Dickens on the reverse side of the £10 note, and Jane Austen will replace Darwin on the banknote in 2017.

John P. Johnson, HBO
Charles Dickens Wrote His Own Version of Westworld in the 1830s
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

Charles Dickens never fully devoted himself to science fiction, but if he had, his work might have looked something like the present-day HBO series Westworld. As The Conversation reports, the author explored a very similar premise to the show in The Mudfrog Papers, a collection of sketches that originally appeared in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany between 1837 and 1838.

In the story "Full Report of the Second Meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything," a scientist describes his plan for a park where rich young men can take out their aggression on "automaton figures." In Dickens's story, the opportunity to pursue those cruel urges is the park's main appeal. The theme park in Westworld may have been founded with a slightly less cynical vision, but it has a similar outcome. Guests can live out their heroic fantasies, but if they have darker impulses, they can act on those as well.

Instead of sending guests back in time, Dickens's attraction presents visitors with a place very similar to their own home. According to the scientist's pitch, the idyllic, Victorian scene contains roads, bridges, and small villages in a walled-off space at least 10 miles wide. Each feature is designed for destruction, including cheap gas lamps made of real glass. It's populated with robot cops, cab drivers, and elderly women who, when beaten, produce “groans, mingled with entreaties for mercy, thus rendering the illusion complete, and the enjoyment perfect.”

There are no consequences for harming the hosts in Westworld, but the guests at Dickens's park are at least sent to a mock trial for their crimes. However, rather than paying for their misbehavior, the hooligans always earn the mercy of an automated judge—Dickens's allegory for how the law favors the rich and privileged in the real world.

As for the Victorian-era automatons gaining sentience and overthrowing their tormenters? Dickens never got that far. But who knows where he would have taken it given a two-season HBO deal.

[h/t The Conversation]

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
15 Funny Quips from Great American Humorists
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The art of social satire is a tough one, but a great humorist's keen observations, witticisms, and turns of phrase continue to ring true even decades later. "Humor is something that thrives between man's aspirations and his limitations," the musical comedian Victor Borge once noted. "There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth." (In other words, it's funny 'cause it's true.) Here are 15 more quips from some of America's most astute commentators.

1. MARK TWAIN (1835-1910)

Mark Twain
Rischgitz, Getty Images

"Familiarity breeds contempt—and children."

2. DOROTHY PARKER (1893-1967)

Dorothy Parker looks at the camera. There is a man in a tuxedo and wine bottles in the background.
Evening Standard, Getty Images

"That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment."

3. JAMES THURBER (1894-1961)

James Thurber smokes a cigarette sitting in an armchair.
Fred Palumbo, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"Last night I dreamed of a small consolation enjoyed only by the blind: Nobody knows the trouble I've not seen!"

4. NORA EPHRON (1941-2012)

Nora Ephron smiles for press at an event.
Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images

"Summer bachelors, like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be."

5. GORE VIDAL (1925-2012)

Gore Vidal
Central Press, Getty Images

"The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so."

6. ARTEMUS WARD (1834-1867)

A sepia-toned cabinet card of Artemus Ward
TCS 1.3788, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"They drink with impunity, or anybody who invites them."

7. GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1946)

Gertrude Stein sits at a desk with a pen in her hand.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

"The thing that differentiates man from animals is money."


Franklin Pierce Adams sits at a desk that's covered in papers.
Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory."

9. ETHEL WATERS (1896-1977)

Ethel Waters leans in a doorway.
William P. Gottlieb, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"All the men in my life have been two things: an epic and an epidemic."

10. ROBERT BENCHLEY (1889-1945)

Robert Benchley sits at a desk in a scene from 'Foreign Correspondent.'
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with that it's compounding a felony."

11. AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1914)

A seated portrait of Ambrose Bierce
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited."

12. MAE WEST (1893-1980)

A portrait of Mae West
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

"When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before."

13. GEORGE S. KAUFMAN (1889-1961)

A seated portrait of George S. Kaufman
The Theatre Magazine Company, photograph by Vandamm, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"At dramatic rehearsals, the only author that's better than an absent one is a dead one."

14. VICTOR BORGE (1909-2000)

Victor Borge plays the piano.
Keystone, Getty Images

"Santa Claus has the right idea—visit people only once a year."

15. GEORGE CARLIN (1937-2008)

George Carlin doing a stand-up set
Ken Howard, Getty Images

"Atheism is a non-prophet organization."


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