I am honored to introduce you to a long-time AmperArt subscriber who knows even more about ampersands than I do. Nancy Upper is an ampersand historian, although she calls herself an “ampersandologist.” Her research is thorough & her knowledge is vast & her stories about the ampersand are fascinating.
Nancy wrote me a comprehensive letter about all things ampersand, and was I ever intrigued. We connected by email, then eventually “met” on a 2‑hour phone call. Nancy is a delight to listen to, with her upbeat personality, wide spectrum of knowlege (not just about ampersands), and fun, innovative ideas. One of those ideas is a book she’s writing about all things “ampersandia” as she says, and I’ll let you know when it’s out. Another idea is for our collaboration on ampersand-related projects, and that will fun & exciting & exploding with synergy, I’m sure of it.
Nancy is even responsible for submitting the beautiful Sophia font ampersand to represent the letter R in the ampergram SEPTEMBER 8, which is World Ampersand Day. —Chaz DeSimone
Uppersand™ Means Ampersands
A glimpse can change your life.
As a graduate student at Brown University, Nancy Upper saw a secretary make an ampersand like this:
Always striving to be distinctive, the character showed Upper a way to stand out. She made ampersands like this ever after.
Two decades later, Upper’s letter to the regional manager won her a job in the New England office of Adobe Inc. The graphic design in Adobe Illustrator manuals and the ampersands on Adobe Type products spoke to her creative passions. When the company discontinued the job, Upper returned to her first love, ballet (she had studied since childhood and danced professionally for nine years), but the ampersands stayed vivid in memory.
The next decades took Upper from volunteering and writing program notes for Boston Ballet, to writing Ballet Dancers in Career Transition: Sixteen Success Stories (McFarland, 2004), to writing public relations material for MIT. After leaving MIT, she assisted with PEN New England events, organized the Phi Beta Kappa Boston lecture series, did freelance writing, and helped to start the Boston Athenæum Ambassador program.
In 2010, Upper devised, for colorful wall art, a series of 8.5 x 8.5‑inch panels each featuring an ampersand. Upper called her panels Uppersands™.
To find the punchiest ampersands for her Uppersands™, Upper studied typefaces and spoke with type designers. The more she researched, the more her fascination with the symbol grew.
Suddenly life came together. In the ampersand’s posture, vitality, allure, creativity, and meaning were the dance, energy, spirit, ingenuity, and harmony that had shaped her life. She resolved to write a book about the glyph to show the world the ampersand’s power.
In 2012, Upper turned her panels project into an expanded Uppersand™ business that will lunch in full when her book is published. Over the years, she has amassed an enormous library of ampersand references, and has developed products, events, and presentations around ampersands in all their forms.
When published, Upper’s ampersand book (title to be decided) will be the:
- First book to tell the full story of the ampersand’s history and development, from its antecedents to its digital progeny.
- First book to show worldwide uses of the ampersand symbol, word, and meanings.
- First book to reveal the symbol’s psychology — how ampersands fulfill our needs for connection, belonging, identity, attention, structure, variety, and creativity.
- First book to unite and interpret in one volume ampersand knowledge, designs, news, lore, and voices from around the world.
Before Upper’s book hits the market, visit nancyupper.com right now for glimpses of the book’s contents and weekly ampersand news and thrills.
Founder & Creative Director