Of late I’ve been doing some research for the upcoming Shady Characters book, and as such I’ve been investigating the histories of some characters other than those already covered here. In particular, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the hyphen, or ‘-’: this simple bar has, through its role in hyphenation and justification, exerted a stubbornly persistent influence on typesetting and printing ever since Gutenberg’s famed 42-line bible was published in the late 1450s. I will, of course, go into much more detail in the book, but if you’re interested in the subject of printing I’d heartily recommend John Man’s excellent, readable history of Gutenberg and his invention.
Also related to printing, and especially its venerable, hand-set form, Danny Cooke’s short but sweet video on the subject — named “Upside Down, Left to Right” for the appearance of typeset letters bound in their forme, ready to be printed — is more than worth a few minutes of your time. And, as a bonus, the pilcrow makes a guest appearance around 4:58.
The interrobang is fifty years old this year, as noted by Alex Jay of the blog Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, and in honour of this anniversary Alex delves into the life and times of its creator, Martin K. Speckter. Along with some contemporary newspaper articles reporting the character’s creation, Alex has unearthed some incredible images of the interrobang as drawn by Richard Isbell for inclusion in his Americana typeface, providing an intimate look at the character as it wound its way from conception to moveable type.