AscenderFonts Designer's Toolbox - "Ands & Ampersands"
Ands & Ampersands
Frederic W. Goudy is known today for many of his fantastic contributions to the font menu – Goudy Old Style, Copperplate, Californian (aka ITC Berkeley Old Style) and Forum to name a few of the hundred. Goudy also wrote and letcured extensively on various topics related to printing, design and typography.
His book from 1936, Ands & Ampersands is a study of the development of the ampersand and is, perhaps, the first exposition on the matter. Originally concieved as a simple Christmas keepsake, it became a thorough investigation of the history of the symbol.
‘What in Sam Hill is an Ampersand?’
Goudy was asked this question frequently – he says that he usually answered: ‘it is a short form of and’ and ‘let it go at that’. But he also points to several ampersand designs in his book which are actually wider than the word ‘and’ and he muses ‘what’s the point?’
Goudy points out that the word ampersand is a shortening of the English and Latin phrase ‘and per se and’. The letters ‘e’ and ‘t’ from the Latin word et are represented in the most commonly seen ampersand symbols – though at times it requires a stretch of the imagination to find either or both of these letters!
Goudy’s research shows a long progression of forms starting with a simple two stroked ‘7’ found in a system of shorthand used in the 1st Century B.C. He goes on to describe over sixty other ampersands found in various manuscripts and early printing – over 2000 years of the symbol’s evolution.
Ands & Ampersands is a remarkable little book and offers a seldom considered perspetive on the origins of a letterform whose evolution continues even today.
Some typefaces include extra styles of ampersand to add to the modern designer’s palette. Goudy Forum Pro includes four related versions of the ampersand.
Using the Ampersand
The symbol is harder to find these days but still enjoys use in logos, book titles, headlines and invitations. The ampersand can add an element of panache, elegance or even simple utility to short phrases and comes in handy when space is at a premium.
Mixing and Matching
Using the & as a graphical element can add a new dimension to a design or document. Exploring its origins can help inspire new ways of designing and implementing this symbol in modern times.
Next month we’ll dig deeper into OpenType fonts – from alternative letter shapes to unique ligatures – which add a professional enhancements to many different types of documents.