It’s January, 1776. You’re a printer in Delaware, one of thirteen restive American colonies chafing against British rule. The Continental Congress, the colonies’ nascent collective government, has recently passed an act creating its own currency and you’ve been tasked with creating Delaware’s issue of banknotes.1 This is your response:
A true miscellany for your perusal this week! On with the show.
First, a punctuation story that self-destructed almost as soon as it appeared. In mid-April, Levi Stahl, a publicity manager at the University of Chicago Press, posted to his blog about “The first emoticon?”. Stahl had come across a familiar-looking pairing of ‘:)’ in a 1648 edition of a poem by Robert Herrick. The lines in question went as follows:
First, thank you to everyone who came along to the Waterstones Christmas Cracker on Thursday! It was great to see so many familiar faces there, and to meet some new ones too. James Robertson, who read from his new novel The Professor of Truth, asked me a question as were were packing up to leave: what is the name of the ‘§’ symbol?