“A completely attention-grabbing mix of historical past, layout, sociology, and cultural poetics―extremely really helpful.”―Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

A captivating and essential excursion of 2 thousand years of the written phrase, Shady Characters weaves an interesting path around the parallel histories of language and typography.

Whether investigating the asterisk (*) and dagger (†)―which alternately illuminated and skewered heretical verses of the early Bible―or the at signal (@), which languished in obscurity for hundreds of years till rescued by means of the Web, Keith Houston attracts on myriad assets to chart the existence and instances of those enigmatic squiggles, each unique (¶) and on a regular basis (&).

From the Library of Alexandria to the halls of Bell Labs, figures as numerous as Charlemagne, Vladimir Nabokov, and George W. Bush go paths with marks as difficult to understand because the interrobang (?) and as divisive because the sprint (―). Historical Roman graffiti, Venetian buying and selling shorthand, Chilly Warfare double dealers, and Madison Street spherical out an ever extra numerous set of episodes, characters, and artifacts.

Richly illustrated, ranging throughout time, typographies, and international locations, Shady Characters will pleasure and entertain all who cherish the unpredictable and unexpected within the writing existence.

2-colour; 75 illustrations