History and Variations of the Ampersand



The origins of a symbol that has always struck me somewhat arbitrary.

 
 
Cameron Chapman gives a short intro to its origin and helpfully shows what a pretzel ampersand would look like.
The ampersand can be traced back to the first century AD. It was originally a ligature of the letters E and T (”et” is Latin for and). If you look at the modern ampersand, you’ll likely still be able to see the E and T separately.
The first ampersands looked very much like the separate E and T combined, but as type developed over the next few centuries, it eventually became more stylized and less representative of its origins.
You can see the evolution of the ampersand below (1 is like the original Roman ligature, 2 and 3 are from the fourth century, and 4-6 are from the ninth century).
 
 
 

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