ampersands: a creative combination of E & T

by Leslie Hossack

Ampersand Abstract #2, Vancouver 2010

© Leslie Hossack

An ampersand (&) is a written character that represents the word “and” in both printed text and handwritten script. The ampersand symbol is a ligature of the two letters, E and T,  found in the Latin word et, which means “and” in English.

The ampersand can be traced all the way back to the first century AD. If you look at a variety of modern ampersands, you may still be able to make out the creative combination of the letters E and T in certain fonts.

In 2010 I took a letterpress printing workshop at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver. There I became fascinated with wooden type. I spent more time in the letterpress room photographing the beautifully handcrafted blocks than typesetting. This series of images celebrates the expressive art of traditional letterpress printing.

With the abstract photographs presented here, I set out to explore the intricate relationship between contemporary photography and traditional printing. Letterpress images are printed by hand, one colour at a time, when a raised inked surface is pressed into paper. Today in the digital darkroom, photographs are still crafted one image at a time and then printed on an inkjet printer.

Of all the typographical characters that I encountered in the type drawers, the ampersand was my favourite. I photographed every ampersand wooden type block that I could find; I also printed each one by hand on a table top printer in the letterpress room. The ampersand abstracts in this series were then created in my digital darkroom by combining the original photograph of the wooden type face and a representation of what that character would look like when printed using black ink.

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