History of quote marks

kcheng's picture

I've read (in Malcolm Parkes's book on the history of punctuation) that the modern quotation mark is a descendent of an older punctuation called the 'double comma'

bieler's picture


Don't know when the quotation mark first appeared in metal but both single and double quotes were not uncommon in foundry cast fonts. Monotype could also be ordered with single or double quotes though Monotype "foundries" tended to furnish only single quotes with fonts. The use of inverted commas didn't always work, it depended upon the typeface. The unit settings for Monotype did not often allow for a proper look to double quotes that were, in actuality, composites (of single quotes).

I haven't read the Parkes book but I have read or heard that the "long comma" (a thought divider that looked like a slash or double slash) was an early manuscript form from which most other punctuation was later derived.

hrant's picture

One foundry where this became a pivotal issue was ATF. Because many of their fonts had very short descenders (making it impossible to simply flip sorts 180), and because the pantograph facilitated flipping while in the past it was easier to rotate the punch/matrix/sort 180-degrees, ATF introduced "rationalist" quotes (towards the beginning of the 20th century, with their Bodoni I think), which were flipped-99 and 99, instead of the traditional 66 and 99. And those ATF quotes were necessarily cast separately.


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