The Adventures of Indiana Jones…Kind Of
Whenever I watch any of the Indiana Jones movies, I can’t help but think how cool it would be to live as this Harrison Ford character (excluding the last movie). I’d get to go on quests, have adventures, make discoveries. Apparently Jim L-G had the same idea and decided to set of on a journey of epic proportions. He made up his mind to find the oldest printed ampersand. At Penn State.
While most would be intimidated by this daunting task, our hero stuck to his guns and started doing what every great adventurer does – he sent out some emails. Indy had his whip, Jim has his laptop. He got in contact with Sandra Stelts, the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at PSU libraries, and asked for any leads on the oldest example of an ampersand. She told him that their oldest book “is a Latin work on ancient history that includes an early history of Germany. It was printed in Venice and published January, 31, 1476.” So he went in, looked through the book, and, sure enough, it had ampersands!
I did some research of my own. The ampersand dates back to Roman cursive writing in the first century A.D. That’s nearly 2000 years ago. Penn State’s ampersand? A little more than 500 years old. Now I’m not saying that I blame Penn State for not having anything older than 500 years old, that’s pretty impressive. And I do think it’s cool that Jim took the initiative to track down the oldest ampersand at Penn State, but come on, so what? It’s not like he even had to look very far. He found the oldest book at Penn State, there was an ampersand in it. Is anyone impressed? I think he could’ve set his sights a little bit higher, and been a little more productive with his time. I know I always am.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to spend a few hours killing terrorists on my Xbox.