Keith Houston’s new Shady Characters (“The secret life of punctuation”) is the most delightful blog I’ve seen in a while; not only is it well written, the typography is gorgeous (even if Houston is, as he says in the About section, “a complete amateur in the worlds of punctuation and typography”). In his introduction he explains that his interest in these topics was sparked by his discovery of the pilcrow in Eric Gill’s An Essay on Typography (1931):
In the end, my notes on the pilcrow took in references to the birth of punctuation, the ancient Greeks, Charles the Great, medieval writing and England’s greatest 20th century typographer. I started to research other marks of punctuation — not only those, like the pilcrow, which hovered on the margins, but also everyday characters such as the ampersand (‘&’) and the hash mark (‘#’) — and what emerged was an ever more diverse set of episodes, actors and artefacts: the creation of the internet; ancient Roman graffiti; Venetian trading shorthand; Cold War double agents, and Madison Avenue at the peak of its powers. Their stories wove a fascinating trail across the parallel histories of language and typography.
These shady characters, these typographic raconteurs hiding in plain sight, were too good to miss. Shady Characters is here to bring them into the light of day.