In the land of Ampersand

[Alyson Kuhn] What a nice device the ampersand is. An ampersand can be crisp or curvy or curly … or even curious. An ampersand can save space if you need it to, but it can also beautifully fill space. And, for purposes of this post, I would posit that, of all punctuation marks, ampersands are the dandiest in 3D.

Graphically, the ampersand started out as shorthand for et, the Latin for and. The ampersands in some fonts look much more “et-like” than in others. In business, ampersands appear primarily within company names: Town & Country, Yvert & Tellier, the girl & the fig. In the social realm, ampersands have found their way onto wedding invitations: i.e., the couple as brand, One Name & Another Name. In a sentimental setting, the ampersand is a doubly unifying element. Whatever your typographic taste, whichever your line length, an ampersand can suit your style & float your flourish.

Above are some ampersands from Timeless Treasures in San Francisco, in assorted sizes & materials: a huge (18-in.) metal sign letter; little bisque ones with pins sticking out the back, for affixing to a signboard; a wooden rubber stamp. The big ampersand still lives in the shop; the smaller ones live with me.

And — or rather, & — here are some ampersandifacts in the collection of David Schimmel, the founder & principal of And Partners, including metal signage type, a postcard by J.I. Kleinberg from the and/or gallery in Seattle, and a glorious decal. I am a smudge disappointed the decal has not found its way onto the door at And Partners, but am kuhnsoled by its elevation to the firm’s web portal. Speaking of which, my 12-year-old friend Jack taught me last week that favicon is the official name for a micro-logo in front of a web address. (I am nominating logobite instead. Jack has countered with logobyte, but I think my spelling is, well, snackier.)

The observant reader will note I have used ampersands in place of and throughout this article. This is our homage to Eric Gill, who felt — & eloquently so — that ampersands absolutely deserved to be used within blocks of text.

Don’t we wish we could have a typography retreat at a beach resort called The Ampersands? At recess, we could play Chutes & Ladders, sip beverages with ampersands in their names, and toast ampersandwiches! In the interregnum, you can get a refreshing daily dose of ampersands right here.

Opportunity for bonus points: Send us stuff (photographed) or stories (pithy) about ampersands you have known & loved. We will kuhnsider them for a follow-up post. For now, thanks to Ilene Strizver for setting Eric Gill’s quote & arranging an assortment of ampersands.

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Comments (6)

  1. Posted by Jim Lukens-Gable on 03.12.10 at 6:59 am

    Last month, on a little intellectual quest, I began my search the oldest example of a printed ampersand at Penn State. I thought it would be months, if not years of slow research through archives. Instead it was a less than two weeks:

    My wife and I also have a blog where we write about ampersansd we encounter:

  2. Posted by christine toner on 03.12.10 at 9:12 am

    thought you all might enjoy this photo shoot we were a part of inspired by the ampersand:

  3. Posted by Bill Senkus on 03.12.10 at 3:10 pm

    Alyson –

    Thanks for tipping me off to favicons! I had noticed them showing up everywhere in my browser, but never stopped to wonder how or why. Check out the Wikipedia entry – “A favicon (short for favorites icon), also known as a website icon, shortcut icon, url icon, or bookmark icon is a 16×16, 32×32 or 64×64 pixel square icon associated with a particular website or webpage.[1] A web designer can create such an icon and install it into a website (or webpage) by several means, and most graphical web browsers will then make use of it. Browsers that provide favicon support typically display a page’s favicon in the browser’s address bar and next to the page’s name in a list of bookmarks. Browsers that support a tabbed document interface typically show a page’s favicon next to the page’s title on the tab. Some programs allow the user to select an icon of his own from the hard drive and associate it with a website.”

    I have added one to my website,

    Alphabetilatelically yours, Bill

  4. Posted by Pam Williams on 03.12.10 at 3:12 pm

    Great post on the ampersand and enjoyed seeing the collection. Christine, thanks for the link to your recent photo shoot, too. Beautiful site!

  5. Posted by Christopher on 03.16.10 at 5:00 pm

    I too find ampersands compelling, beguiling and seductive! I made a large ceramic one last year which sits proudly on my dining room table. I breakfast with and ampersand everyday!

    (scroll down a bit to find it!)

  6. Posted by paperlover on 03.20.10 at 8:30 pm

    For all the Ampersandians (or Ampersandinistas) out there:

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