A couple of years ago I posted about Keith Houston’s blog Shady Characters (“The secret life of punctuation”); now he’s written a book, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks, and he’s got a New Yorker blog post sharing some of his findings. He discusses the hashtag/octothorpe, the paragraphos/pilcrow, the ampersand, the manicule (see this LH post), and the diple:

Quite unlike the manicule, however, the diple underwent a rapid transformation from critical mark to authorial one: a scant few centuries after its creation, Christian writers began to use the diple to mark not noteworthy text but Biblical quotations in an era when Christian books outnumbered all other works four to one. Over time, a number of variations on the diple began to appear as citation marks: some writers added a dot between the wedge of their marks (featured here, in the margins of an eighth-century psalter), while French manuscripts from that period appear with the dotted diple rotated to create a “V”-shaped mark. By the end of the eighth century, the original diple had fallen out of use. Its final demise, like the manicule’s, was caused by the advent of the printing press. Type designers were strangely reluctant to cast the diple in lead, and almost overnight that mark, and its variations, were replaced by double commas (,,) hung in the margins around cited portions of text. The diple was dead, and the modern quotation mark was on its way.

Enjoyable reading, and the illustrations are gorgeous. Thanks, Terry!

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