Behind the Wordsworth Coin Design


Categories: collect

David Lawrence is an established artist whose designs have graced several coins struck by The Royal Mint, including Britannia in 2018 and 2019, a coin commemorating the works of Agatha Christie and contributions to our series marking the centenary of the First World War.

For this coin design he has featured lines taken from ‘Lines Written a few miles above Tintern Abbey’, one of William Wordsworth’s most celebrated poems. He has incorporated the words into a design that also shows the type of landscape that inspired Wordsworth’s singular vision and poetic expression.

We caught up with David to find out more about the artistic process behind his latest design.

“The inspiration for the design is Scafell Pike in the Lake District, England’s highest peak, which is shown on the coin rising above a tranquil lake.

Behind the Design

“I decided early on to try and bring together two strands, one that was typographical and the other that was based on landscape.

“Wordsworth’s love of nature, as expressed in his poetry, is what many people today can relate to. The Napoleonic Wars are known to have been a dark and frightening time. The conflict had destroyed lives, buildings and churned up land. In response Wordsworth shone a light on the natural world and celebrated landscape in all its glory.

“I visited Dove Cottage near Grasmere which was Wordsworth’s first family home in the Lake District, to get a feel for the place in which he wrote as well as the surrounding environment that inspired him.

“I read many of Wordsworth’s poems but found it hard to find a short, typical line from his work that would work well on the small surface of a coin. This is because his work tends to flow from one line to the next, with ideas and words running into each other.

“Eventually I hit upon, ‘Nature never did betray the heart that loved her’ from ‘Lines Written a few miles above Tintern Abbey’ and set about making the words work within the confines of a coin. I experimented with fonts and the layout of the lines to achieve legibility in a harmonious composition. It would be fair to say that I tried quite a few variations!

“The landscape I settled on for the design is based on a place near Ullswater where Wordsworth is said to have seen daffodils with his sister Dorothy and that led to him writing his most famous poem. I then brought the two strands together in the design. Funnily enough, I was in Grasmere when I was called to say my design had been successful. 

Behind the Design (Supporting Image)

“The rays of sunlight coming through the clouds represent the elemental forces that Wordsworth was in awe of and expressed in his work. On my part it was a conscious reference to the rugged beauty of the environment that he loved.

“He was one of the first writers to draw people’s attention to nature and its raw beauty. This idea of respect for nature is evident in his poetry and this is what makes Wordsworth relevant to this day. What I really wanted to communicate was Wordsworth’s belief that the natural world can enrich our emotional and spiritual lives. It’s a privilege to have been chosen to commemorate one of the greatest figures in British literature and I hope that anyone who has been inspired and moved by his poetry feels the same way about the coin.”

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