National Ampersand Day

ampersand symbol in gold on white backaground

(I’m posting this now because Thursday September 8th is also International Literacy Day.

National Ampersand Day is celebrated on September 8th every year to acknowledge this terrific little symbol. Its creation has been attributed to individuals from Roman orator Cicero’s secretary Tiro to 19th century French physicist and mathematician Andre-Marie Ampere to a Leipzig typographer born in 1902 named Jan Tschicold. However, what can be proved is wall graffiti in Pompei from the 78 CE eruption of Vesuvius that buried the city in ash.

First Appearance

This character first appeared in 1011 at the end of the Latin alphabet in Byrtheferd’s list of letters. Then in 1455, printers in Europe made extensive use of both italic and Roman ampersands after the invention of the printing press. The Concise Manual on Typography officially recognized the ampersand in 1899 as a sign interchangeable with the conjunction “and.” In everyday handwriting, the ampersand is sometimes simplified in design as a large lowercase epsilon Ɛ or a reversed numeral 3, superimposed by a vertical line.

Letter of the Alphabet?

Until the late 1800s, the ampersand also used to be the last letter of the English alphabet, a Latin script and a logogram (a character representing a word or phrase) with the graphic form dating back to the 1st century. It originated as a ligature joining the lowercase Roman letters “e” and “t” (et, meaning “and” in Latin). that represents the conjunction “and.”

Blame It on the Children!

Apparently it was confusing for the schoolchildren reciting their ABCs to  say “X, Y, Z, and.” Instead, they said, “and per se and.” “Per se” means by itself, so the students were essentially saying “X, Y, Z and, by itself, ‘and’.” Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together into the word we use today: ampersand.

Movie Poster Insider Info

Here’s an interesting distinction for our ubiquitous symbol. In movie credits, sometimes two names will be joined with an “&” and others with the word “and.” The Writers Guild of America uses the “&” symbol to say two writers collaborated directly with one another, while the word “and” means the writers worked on the script individually, at separate times,

From movie posters to jotting notes to branding corporate names, this quirky little character is useful. There are many different visual styles of the ampersand, each done to complement the typestyle for which it is designed. Here are some examples:

poster with different styles o f ampersand symbols

(I apologize, but I made these notes so long ago I lost my references)