& another thing
I love the ampersand. It’s a little bit of Latin that’s leftover in our modern English. The Latin “et” means “and” and was, you know, its own word. So naturally, the “e” and the “t” were connected, like any word. That was back in the 1st century (year 1 AD).
Much later, in the Middle Ages, scribes kept the “et” as part of their lexicon. Without a printing press, these monks needed every advantage. So they saved themselves a letter or two using the “et.” God bless them.
Then we get to the Renaissance. The Italians had a field day with the “et”. Instead of just “e” as any modern Italian might say “and,” the Renaissance Italians went nuts with the “et” and did their thing. God love them.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, English school children are taught the Latin stand-alone (or “per se”) and as a 27th letter of the alphabet. Their sing-songy A-B-C song ends with a long forgotten coda: “W-X-Y-Z-and per se and.” Our friend has a new name: and per se and.
Since then, typographers have used the Ampersand as a pet project to make their fonts unique: sometimes an homage to classic typefaces of centuries ago, other times a whimsical treatment or a bold statement. Our 27th letter, per se, is still hanging around, giving our type its Latin flair.