50th anniversary of the National Library of Canada / Canadian authors

September 08, 2003

The National Library of Canada is dedicated to being a world-class national resource that enables Canadians to learn more about their country through the published heritage of Canadian scholars, authors and musicians. To mark the 50th anniversary of the National Library, and to celebrate Canada's creativity and culture, Canada Post issues a set of four domestic rate stamps honouring five Canadian authors, available to collectors in a booklet of 8.

On January 1, 1953, the National Library of Canada came into being under the administration of Dr. W. Kaye Lamb. This institution was created to gather, protect and make accessible to the citizens of Canada all that is published in the country. Today, the library preserves a unique and comprehensive collection of some 16 million distinctly Canadian items including books, periodicals, sound and video recordings, microforms and electronic documents. The collection continues to grow at a rate of 600,000 items per year. The library also boasts a bibliographic database to assist libraries, the book trade and other information providers, and a reference, research and referral service for all Canadians.

SUSANNA MOODIE (1803-1885)
Susanna Moodie (née Strickland) and her sister Catharine Parr Traill are two of Canada's most important 19th century writers. Born in England only 23 months apart, the sisters became precociously engaged in writing after the death of their father in 1818. The two immigrated with their husbands to the backwoods of Ontario in 1832, where they recorded and interpreted their experiences as pioneers, writing until their deaths. Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush (1852) is her best-known work, which combines her steadfast moral vision and fascination with differences in character - with a generous measure of wit and playfulness. The book, along with its sequel, Life in the Clearings (1853), formed the basis of her reputation as an author.

Pioneer writer and botanist Catharine Parr Traill (née Strickland) is most famous for her book The Backwoods of Canada (1836), an interesting factual and scientific account of her first three years in Ontario. With pragmatic and optimistic vision, Parr Traill wrote using the kind of realistic detail that has become a tradition in Canadian literature.

Novelist, short-story writer, journalist and broadcaster, Morley Callaghan was born in Toronto and educated in law. Although he was called to the bar in 1928, he was persuaded by friend Ernest Hemingway to give up the profession for literature. With Hemingway's help, Callaghan published his first stories in Paris in this Quarter (1926) and Transition (1927), followed by his first novel, Strange Fugitive in 1928. Recipient of numerous awards, Callaghan worked as a journalist in Toronto and Montreal while publishing in various literary magazines. His later novels include The Many-Coloured Coat (1960), A Time for Judas (1983), and his masterpiece, The Loved and the Lost (1951), which earned him the 1951 Governor General's Award.

Great-grandson of the historian François-Xavier Garneau and grandson of the poet Alfred Garneau, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau was cousin of poet and novelist Anne Hébert. His writing marks a turning point in the history of Quebec poetry, with de Saint-Denys Garneau emerging as the province's first truly modern poet. Radical in its form, with unrhymed lines of various lengths, lack of punctuation and broken syntax, de Saint-Denys Garneau's poetry was equally original in its themes and its ironic distance. Between 1934 and 1937 he associated with the young Catholic intellectuals responsible for the magazine La Relève, and during this time, also kept his Journal, which was published posthumously in 1954.

ANNE HÉBERT (1916-2000)
Quebec poet, novelist and playwright Anne Hébert was guided toward a literary career very early in life by her father, Maurice. Friend and cousin of Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau, Hébert carried on the family's literary tradition spectacularly. In 1942, Hébert published her first poetry collection, Les Songes en équilibre, which was followed by two other major works. Her first volume of prose, Le Torrent, was published in 1950 and has since become a classic. In 1970 she once again demonstrated her virtuosity in the great novel Kamouraska. Hébert, who won numerous literary honours and awards, often felt compelled to write about a Quebec dominated and oppressed by the clergy.

This set of four stamps commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Library of Canada was designed by the Toronto-based designer Katalin Kovats. The authors' commemorative issue consists of four stamps, each one paying tribute to important Canadian authors. In this design we see the image of the five selected authors, alongside their open books to serve as a quick visual reference about the topic. Along with the books, we can read their handwriting. The hand scripts lend a unique, individual character to each stamp and symbolize the action of writing. Katalin believes that one of the biggest challenges and an important aspect of her design, was to convey the feeling that the authors physically wrote on the stamp paper, making them powerful witnesses of their living presence through their work.

Booklet of 8 stamps; 4 designs se tenant (unsealed)

Booklet of 8 stamps; 4 designs se tenant (unsealed)


  • Product #: 413549111
  • Denomination: 4 x 48¢
  • Design: Katalin Kovats
  • Dimensions: 40 mm x 24 mm (horizontal)
  • Printer: Canadian Bank Note
  • Printing Process: Lithography in 9 colours
  • Quantity: 3,000,000
  • Gum Type: P.V.A
  • Illustration: National Library of Canada; National Archives of Canada
  • Perforations: 13+
  • Tagging: Printed bars
  • Photography: Hans Blohm, Yousuf Karsh, Michael Kohn, Harry Palmer
  • Paper Type: Tullis Russell Coatings
  • OFDC Cancellation Location: Ottawa ON
Booklet of 8 stamps; 4 designs se tenant (sealed)

Booklet of 8 stamps; 4 designs se tenant (sealed)


  • Product #: 113549
Official First Day Cover

Official First Day Cover


  • Product #: 413549131
  • OFDC Cancellation Location: Ottawa ON