Literary Stamps That Are Worth a Lick
Take your collection up a notch with stamps featuring literary greats like Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, and more.
The United States Postal Service’s longstanding tradition of printing postage stamps featuring American authors, children’s book characters, and classic series may be your best shot at getting up close and personal with these legends of lit.
Herewith, some personal favorites. And to avoid mailing it in, there’s some literary trivia that’ll impress your book-nerd friends.
Pearl S. Buck
What’s more impressive than earning a Pulitzer Prize? Earning a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize. Pearl S. Buck, author of more than 40 books, including The Good Earth (for which she was awarded the Pulitzer), Peony, and Imperial Woman, was also honored by the USPS as part of its Great Americans series. (Issued June 25, 1983)
This collection of Forever stamps includes several poets laureate: Elizabeth Bishop, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, and William Carlos Williams, as well as E. E. Cummings, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, and Wallace Stevens. (Issued April 21, 2012)
Katherine Anne Porter
The 22nd stamp in the Literary Arts series features Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Anne Porter, best known for her 1962 novel, Ship of Fools. The book was adapted for the silver screen in 1965, and the film earned two Academy Awards. Note the ship in the background. (Issued May 15, 2006)
The remarkable image of Ralph Ellison, author of seminal novel The Invisible Man, was based on a photograph by celebrated artist Gordon Parks. (Issued February 18, 2014)
Edgar Allan Poe
MVP of the short story, the poem, and horror genre, Edgar Allan Poe’s value has gone up 39¢ in 59 years. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth, award-winning artist and author of The Portraits & Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe, Michael J. Deas, was commissioned. His traditional rendering was made with oils on a wooden panel. (Issued October 7, 1949 and January 16, 2009)
Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain)
Perhaps the only American author to appear twice on U.S. postage under two different names, Clemens/Twain has made an impression. See how the classic etching style of the 10¢ stamp (issued February 13, 1940) compares to the impressionist Forever postage (issued June 25, 2011).
The circulation of this Ogden Nash gem had the potential to be controversial: It marks the first time the word “sex” would appear on a USPS stamp. See it? (It’s from his poem “The Turtle.”)
Part of the Black Heritage series, Langston Hughes was honored on the centennial anniversary of his birth (February 1, 1902) with this 34¢ stamp. A standout poet featured in The 20th Century in Poetry, Hughes was also a novelist, playwright, and trailblazer for the Harlem Renaissance. (Issued February 1, 2002)
Theodor Seuss Geisel
Better known as Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel shares the philatelic stage with some of his most beloved characters, including The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch. Not actually a doctor, Geisel’s alma mater, Dartmouth, conferred a Doctor of Humane Letters degree upon her “loyal son.” (Issued March 2, 2004)
Inspiration from in your mailbox (even if—d’oh!!!—Maya Angelou isn’t the author of this lovely message): “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Controversy aside, the USPS suggests you use the hashtag, #MayaForever, when writing about the stamp. It is a Forever stamp, naturally, as her works will be celebrated until the end of time. (Issued April 7, 2015)