The History of Ambigrams

Apr 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Ambigram Gallery

Dan Brown states in his novel “Angels and Demons” that ambigram words are four hundred years old. However, the known historical data is actually much shorter.

One of the earliest published ambigrams (June, 1908)

One of the earliest published ambigrams (June, 1908)

Here are the known milestones in ambigram creation history:

  • 1893 First known ambigram published by Peter Newell (THE END / PUZZLE)
  • 1902 Second known ambigram published by Peter Newell (THE END / PUZZLE2)
  • 1908 The Strand publishes 10 custom ambigrams by four different artists
  • 1964 Peter Jones and Douglas Hofstadter start creating ambigrams
  • 1965 Dmitri Borgmann reprints ambigrams from The Strand, calling them “vertical palindromes”
  • 1969 Raymond Loewy creates NEW MAN logo
  • 1972 Tom Carnase creates 72
  • 1974 John Langdon creates STARSHIP ambigram logo
  • 1974 Robert Petrick creates Canned Heat and Non Sense logos (receiving a Philadelphia Art Directors’ award in 1975)
  • 1975-1976 U&lc magazine publishes ambigrams by Petrick and Langdon, starting with SANTA/ELVES by Petrick in June, 1975 issue
  • 1975 DMC, the logo for the De Lorean Motor Company, first used
  • 1975 Robert Petrick creates the ANGEL ambigram logo
  • 1976 Angel (the band) starts using Angel ambigram (through 1992)
  • 1976 Jefferson Starship uses Starship ambigram
  • 1979 OMNI publishes ambigrams by Scott Kim in Scot Morris’s “Games” column
  • 1979 Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, published, with 3-D ambigrams on the cover
  • 1980 OMNI publishes ambigrams by Langdon and Petrick
  • 1981 Scientific American publishes ambigrams by Scott Kim in Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Games column
  • 1981 “Inversions: A Catalog of Calligraphic Cartwheels” by Kim is published
  • 1984 Douglas Hofstadter coins the term “ambigram”
  • 1987 The book “Ambigrammi” is published (in Italian) by Hofstadter
  • 1992 Wordplay: Ambigrams and Reflections on the Art of Ambigrams by Langdon is published
  • 2000 Angels & Demons by Dan Brown is published
  • 2007-2011 Technical architect Mark Hunter develops the first true Ambigram Generator, enabling web-based ambigram creation.
  • 2009 The movie adaptation of “Angels & Demons” is released, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks

(milestones in ambigram history originally assembled by Roy Leban)

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6 comments
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  1. [...] Editor placed an interesting blog post on The History of Ambigrams (Ambigram.com)Here’s a brief overviewIn Angels and Demons, Dan Brown states that ambigrams are four hundred years old, but the known history of ambigrams is quite a bit shorter. … 1979 OMNI publishes ambigrams by Scott Kim in Scot Morris’s “Games” column; 1979 Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, published, with 3-D ambigrams on the cover; 1980 OMNI publishes ambigrams by Langdon and Petrick; 1981 Scientific American publishes ambigrams by Scott Kim in Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Games column … [...]

  2. When i first learned about ambigrams.. I thought it was the coolist thing to been ever been put together.. then i had the thought that the illuminate must have been doing this for years to code letters right in front of the persons face, because if you are unaware of this artifact it would look like a regular word just fancily drawn.. while the illuminatiest would be standing in the room directly in front of the person reading the same paper that the person is reading with a different message. un aware to the person the letter was written for the person standing with the person waiting to dipose of the message. So that it doesnt fall into the wrong hands diposing their secret lettering technique.. But Angels and Demons was a great movie as well as book even though the book is better because its not hollywooderized to make it better(Less boring) for the big screen.. So I wonder the % of the movie was acurate and not glorified.So this is my idea hope you like

  3. C. George, i like the way your thinking about it. I hope the editor would post much better history of the ambigrams back at the ancient times. Also hope they would respond to us.-Xènon

  4. [...] Scott Kim’s 1996 book on balance is called Inversions; John Langdon’s work can be found in his 2005 book, Wordplay: The Philosophy, Art, and Science of Ambigrams. There is a website dedicated to a story of ambigrams here. [...]

  5. [...] Scott Kim’s 1996 book on symmetry is called Inversions; John Langdon’s work can be found in his 2005 book, Wordplay: The Philosophy, Art, and Science of Ambigrams. There is a website dedicated to the history of ambigrams here. [...]

  6. [...] Scott Kim’s 1996 book on symmetry is called Inversions; John Langdon’s work can be found in his 2005 book, Wordplay: The Philosophy, Art, and Science of Ambigrams. There is a website dedicated to the history of ambigrams here. [...]


 
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