A Brief History of the Hashtag, and Other Unusual Punctuation Marks : The New Yorker

Left, from the pen of Isaac Newton; right, detail from Johann Conrad Barchusen’s “Pyrosophia” (1698). Courtesy the Othmer Library of Chemical History, Chemical Heritage Foundation.

In his new book, “Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks,” Keith Houston reveals the stories behind esoteric punctuation marks, from the pilcrow ¶ to the manicule ☞ to the octothorpe, a.k.a. the hashtag. Many of these have their roots in ancient Greece or Rome, and have evolved over time in Medieval religious texts, Renaissance scholarship, and modern printed works not to mention the Internet. Here, Houston, who lives in Scotland and also runs a Shady Characters blog, tells the origin stories of some of these marks.

via A Brief History of the Hashtag, and Other Unusual Punctuation Marks : The New Yorker.