Observed | Essays

The Strange Paragraph Symbol

We're big fans of Design Decoded over on the Smithsonian blog, and this week's post we just had to share. Most of us have encountered the weird, backwards, double lined, uppercase p — the paragraph symbol — in hand written edits from those who hand write edits. In his book, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks, software engineer and writer Keith Houston looks into punctuation, symbols and other typographical marks. According to the post
Most of them are familiar, like “quotation marks” and the @ symbol, but others are less widely used, such as the interrobang and the manicule. The fascinating study in obscure typography opens with the single symbol that inspired the entire book, a symbol that has ties to some of the greatest events in human history, including the rise of the Catholic Church and the invention of the printing press: the pilcrow. Also known as the paragraph mark, the pilcrow, for such a humble, rarely used mark, has a surprisingly complex history. Indeed, as Houston writes, the pilcrow is “intertwined with the evolution of modern writing.”

Posted in: History, Typography

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