HOW SCRIBES CREATED THE # SIGN. I posted here on how the new official word for the # sign in French is “mot-diese”. T.E.L. in the TlS (September 20) has some history of the # sign in English based on SHADY CHARACTERS by Keith Houston, a book about “typographical curiosities”. The use of # began in medieval England where it was used as an abbreviation of “libra pondo” (a “pound by weight”). The term would have been frequently used and so a contraction developed—the letters “lb’ with a mark across the middle of the letters to indicate that it was a contraction. The next step in shortening the work of the scribes turned it into #. I heard it referred to for years as “the pound sign” without making the connection to the unit of weight.

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