23 April: a symbolic date for world literature for on this date and in the same year of 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors such as Maurice Druon, K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo. [It is also the birth date of the decidedly unprominent author Brenda Coulter.] It was a natural choice for UNESCO's General Conference to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity.
The idea for this celebration originated in Catalonia where on 23 April, Saint George's Day, a rose is traditionally given as a gift for each book sold.
That's very sweet, but why the roses? A little digging turned this up at Wikipedia:
The connection between 23 April and books was first made in 1923 by booksellers in Catalonia as a way to honour the author Miguel de Cervantes who died on that day. This became a part of the celebrations of the Saint George's Day (also 23 April) in the region, where it has been traditional since the mediaeval era for men to give roses to their lovers and since 1925 for the woman to give a book in exchange. Half the yearly sales of books in Catalonia are at this time with over 400,000 sold and exchanged for over 4 million roses.
World Book and Copyright Day has been celebrated since 1995.
In preparing this post, I looked at several web pages about World Book and Copyright Day, and every one mentioned that April 23 was chosen in large part because it's the anniversary of the deaths of Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Inca Garcilasco de la Vega (not to mention St. George, the Dragon-slayer). Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's a little weird to celebrate the day those guys died? I mean, doesn't that suggest the world was well rid of them?