What though on hamely fare we dine, Wear hoddin grey an' a' that? Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine, A man's a man for a' that.

Robert Burns

The idea of a formal 'City of Literature' designation came about because four book lovers thought that Edinburgh, and indeed Scotland, should take on responsibility for the future development of a literary culture that has distinguished and enlightened our country's past.

They wanted to share the literary culture of this capital city with the world, to celebrate the literary greats of the past and to embrace and encourage future literary developments. Edinburgh was proposed not as the city of literature but as part of a growing network of cities. The idea was not about competition but about aspiration and partnership.

The idea of such a designation was widely welcomed amongst the Edinburgh arts community and gained the backing of both the Scottish Arts Council and the Scottish Executive. A formal project team was put together, then a charitable trust established and grants secured: the move towards gaining the UNESCO City of Literature title gained pace.

In October 2004, a delegation from Edinburgh, led by Patricia Ferguson, Scottish Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, presented the city's case at UNESCO's Executive Board. Within hours of the formal submission of the bid, the proposal was given absolute approval and praised enthusiastically by more than 100 ambassadors in attendance. This marked the beginnings of a global enterprise, a network of cities of literature celebrating, sharing and developing their literary culture.