The Time Traveler
Twilfit & Tatting's, upscale clothing shop; Gambol & Jape's, sellers of practical jokes; Flourish & Blott's, suppliers of textbooks; Slug & Jigger's, apothecary and source of powders and herbs - all these shops appear in the Harry Potter books. I list them here because they all share one symbol. You'll notice the'&' symbol is used to link the two halves of each name. The '&' symbol is on every keyboard and appears on many store fronts, but very few of us know its correct name. In case you're wondering, it's called the ampersand. The main surviving use of the ampersand is in the formal names of businesses, such as Johnson & Johnson and Dolce & Gabbana. The '&' symbol delicately marries the two halves while elegantly giving equal weight to both sides.
This curious squiggle has a long history and first appeared in the first century AD. The Latin word for 'and' is 'et' and Romans created the symbol when they linked the letters 'e' and 't' while writing. The illustration below shows how the ampersand evolved from a simple joining of e and t (1-3) in the Roman days through to themodern stylized symbol that has little connection with its origins (4-6).
The ampersand that we recognize today was created in medieval manuscripts but made its way into printing in the late 1500s. As the printed word took off in the 16th century new typefaces were designed. Throughout the centuries, designers have looked to the ampersand to give their typeface a recognized identity. While the letters in a font remained purely functional, the ampersand flourished to become an elegant work of art as well.
For a brief moment in the 1960s designers toyed with the idea of dropping the curvy ampersand. They planned to replace it the functional '+' sign - easy to write, easy to understand, but oh, so boring to look at. But in the 1970s, a new revolution arrived, led by Steve Jobs. While at college, Jobs studied typography. He knew it wasn't a practical course and wouldn't lead to employment, but he enjoyed studying the subtle designs. As a result of that course, Jobs insisted that the Macintosh computer he helped to create was the first computer to have beautiful typography. Thanks to Jobs, the ampersand arrived safely in the digital age! That continues today with designers of new typefaces for tablets using the ampersand to express their more creative side. The ampersand is a time traveler emerging 2000 years ago, evolving in manuscripts, charming its way into printing and now being re-designed in digital print.
And let me finish with a short explanation of how thiselegant symbol gained the name ampersand. It seems that the ampersand often appeared at the end of the Latin alphabet, and similarly '&' was often added to the end of the English alphabet (Yes! for a while it was the 27th letter of the alphabet!). Children in the 1800s would chant their way through the alphabet, but rather than finish with: 'X, Y, Z, and' - which would have been a little confusing - they ended with: 'x, y, z and per se and.' "Per se" is a Latin expression meaning "by itself" and was used here to mean that the'&' symbol could stand by itself in the alphabet. Over time, the children slurred this ending from "and per se and" to ampersand! And that's why the former27th letter of the alphabet is an old symbol with a modern name!