Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

A set of eight stamps issued by Royal Mail on August 10 celebrates the 40th anniversary of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, the series of fantasy novels with total worldwide sales of more than a hundred million copies.

Born in Beaconsfield in 1948, Pratchett wrote 41 novels in the Discworld series, starting with The Colour Of Magic in 1983 and ending with The Shepherd’s Crown, which was published shortly after his death in 2015.

Set in the same fictional world, they feature a range of characters who take turns to be centre-stage, and several recurring themes, such as industry, crime and death. Aficionados therefore divide the series into related sub-series.

Pratchett’s writing style was economic, making it easy to read, and descriptive, painting pictures in the reader’s mind. Interwoven with humour, it parodied science fiction, wider literature, mythology and folklore, and satirised aspects of culture, science, technology, politics and business.

The stamps were designed by So Design Consultants (the agency responsible for the 2011 Magical Realms set, which also included two Pratchett characters), and illustrated by Paul Kidby, Pratchett’s artist of choice for the later Discworld books.

Printed in litho by Cartor, they come in horizontally se tenant pairs.

1st class RINCEWIND
The Egregious Professor of Cruel & Unusual Geography at the Unseen University, Rincewind is a failed wizard with an aptitude for languages and an anxious expression. He spends much of his time running away from problems of his own making, or from people who want to kill him.

A con artist who is given the choice of being executed or becoming Postmaster General, Moist von Lipwig chooses the latter option, resurrecting the fortunes of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office and creating a series of definitive stamps. In recognition of his achievements, he is awarded a winged golden hat.

At the Unseen University Library, a multi-dimensional repository of magic books, the Librarian is a former wizard who was transformed into an orangutan by a magical accident. He chooses to remain in this form because having prehensile toes makes it easier to climb around the bookshelves.

Despite being the doyenne of witches, Granny Weatherwax uses magic only as the last resort, preferring to rely on ‘headology’ (psychology). She can get into the minds of others using a technique called ‘borrowing’, and manages to play cards with Death, and win.

Once a lowly copper, Sam Vimes rises through the ranks to become Commander of the City Watch, which polices the multicultural, multispecies melting pot that is the city of Ankh-Morpork. Cynical and grizzled, he is a man with strong views on justice, which is not necessarily the same thing as the law.

A black-robed, scythe-carrying skeleton, Death’s job is to guide souls from this world to the next, but he has sympathy for humanity and has become frustrated with the unfair inevitability of death. He likes cats, enjoys a curry and takes on an apprentice, a gangly young man named Mort.

A young witch who wears hand-me-down clothes and big boots, Tiffany Aching is just nine years old when she discovers her talent in magic. Becoming aware of unwanted incursion into her own world by creatures from Fairyland, she does battle with the very unpleasant Queen of the Elves.

Discworld is a flat, circular plant revolving on the shoulders of four giant elephants who in turn stand on the shell of a giant star turtle called Great A’Tuin. It swims through the universe propelled by massive flippers, giving the population sea-sickness when it has to manoeuvre to avoid asteroids and comets.

The presentation pack, with text from the Discworld Emporium, explores the stories behind the characters featured on the stamps. A first day cover and stamp cards are available as usual.

Set of 8 stamps £12.60
Presentation pack £13.50
First day cover £15.80
Stamp cards £3.60

It’s yet another stamp issue inspired by a fictional world, although one conjured up by a celebrated British author

The illustrations have some authenticity, having been specially commissioned by Pratchett’s favoured artist

The images won’t mean much to onlookers, except of course to Discworld fans