Friday, November 11, 2005

The Italic Ampersand

I didn't quite get it right. When I opened the Arts & Life section of the Vancouver Sun this morning I found that in the text they did indeed use the & character. However, in the advertising the ampersand appears in its other form, as a distinct 'et' ligature. I understood that this might be the italic form of the & so I am checking a few fonts for the right shape.

I haven't done an exhaustive search but I did scroll through a few fonts and found that Palatino Linotype does the job! Here it is &. This is the bold italic version of the Palatino Linotype ampersand and shows the et ligature which is found in this movie poster.

Now for a few more images. Six different ampersands appear here. I can see from this that Palationo Linotype is not the font used in the poster. It is close - but not a match.

And the true derivation of the et ligature is demonstrated here. (Actually I am not too sure about this one.)

An even more wideranging discussion of this character appears here.

I would love to find out what this page in Japanese says about the use of the cross as 'and' in this Romeo + Juliet poster.

Update: Thanks to Emeth Hesed for providing a translation from the Japanese.

What is an ampersand?

Well, let’s take a look at the picture on the left. It is the DVD jacket for Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes’ Romeo & Juliet.

And, because it’s in white it’s hard to see, but can you tell it says “hope & despair, tragedy & love”? Inside the red cross beneath there is a black “&”.
This “&” mark means “and” of course, but why?

Actually, this comes from Latin (a dead language not spoken by anyone anymore). It is a stylish way of writing “et” (meaning “and” in English). As you can see in the chart below, there are various designs.

This mark is called “ampersand.”

A long time ago, when learning the alphabet at school, children memorized it by saying from A, “A-per-se-A, B-per-se-B, ...” (A by itself A, B by itself B). And then, when they finished Z, there was an “&” and they said, “and-per-se-and.” That became “ampersand.” Continue here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. I've blogged a translation of the Japanese page you mentioned.

1:15 AM  
Blogger michael farris said...

Scrolling rapidly, I thought for a moment you were writing about the Sinhalese writing system and only when I slowed down did I see that it was an ampersand chart.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to illustrate this here is Sinhalese.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Emeth Hesed,

Thanks so much for the translation. It is tantalizing to see some recognisable characters and wonder what is being said.

11:37 AM  
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