Understand the Ampersand: Triple Power at Your Command
by NANCY UPPER, Founder & Creative Director of Uppersand™
Born of a casual attachment, the ampersand grew to capture the world’s heart.
“The ampersand’s got it all,” said London sign maker Paul Goodwin in 2012, “cheeky curves and coy looks that hide hidden depths. It’s the Marilyn Monroe of punctuation.”
Wait a minute.
In 1869, a poet wrote in London’s Punch magazine:
Of all the types in a printer’s hand,
Commend me to the Amperzand,
For he’s the gentleman, (seems to me)
Of the typographical companie.
The Roman scribes who conceived ampersands were men and women, so naturally ampersands have male and female traits. The ampersand’s true parents — the letters e and t of et, Latin for and — bestowed their own genes on the offspring : e’s rounded contours and t’s linear sinew.
Understand the Ampersand is the —
First book to tell the full story of the ampersand’s history and development, from its forebears to its digital progeny.
First book to show worldwide uses of the ampersand symbol, word, and meanings.
First book to reveal the symbol’s psychology — how ampersands fill our needs for connection, belonging, identity, attention, structure, variety, and creativity.
First book to unite and interpret in one volume the ampersand knowledge, designs, news, lore, and voices now spread around the world.
The eureka moment occurred when scribes saw that coupling e and t created a character they could shape in infinite ways. Their realization marked the moment when the scribal hand gave the ampersand life beyond the alphabet.
Where there is life, there is behavior. Where behavior, interaction with the environment. Ampersands behave as connectors, communicators, and conveyors of meaning.
Over the centuries, the ampersand’s environment expanded from the velum page, to the printer’s tray, to the world stage. Today, international minds, emotions, and events inspire ampersand designs and usage. Understand the Ampersand transports you into ancient and modern motives and human affairs.
The narrative arc of Understand the Ampersand ascends across more than 20 chapters from BCE trough the Roman Empire, medieval scriptoria, the invention of printing, and books that taught alphabets with & as the last letter. The arc ascends through cities that turn into ampersand empires, where &s connect business names and trades. The arc soars into advertising where ampersands turn heads.
Artists, writers, and poets hop the curve and swing it into paintings, novels, and verse. The arc swirls around the globe, catching décor, education, fashion, music, food & beverage, love & marriage, nature, science, travel, sports, and popular culture in its ampersand web. In the 21st century, the arc rockets into a pyrotechnic display of digital ampersand graphics and brands.
Suddenly we realize that Understand the Ampersand is a metaphor for everyone’s dream. The dream of rising from humble to significant. The dream of finding the context that fits your style, and a context where you make a difference to enhance the whole.
To complement Upper’s original writing and confirm the ampersand’s global reach, important people from many lands to contribute ampersand images, essays, stories, poems, recipes, and quotes to the book. Contributors receive full credit in print, credit when their work is shown or quoted in Upper's presentations, and credit online when their work is shown or quoted on this website.
BEYOND THE BOOK
In the realm of Ampersandia, new material surfaces daily. Understand the Ampersand: Triple Power at Your Command brings you the best of each chapter's drama. Plenty remains to fill sequels, movies, events, presentations, and broadcasts.
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