first use of arrows to indicate directions...

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Russell McGorman
Russell McGorman Posts: 261
edited January 2016 in History of Typography
... On signage and in sign-writing specifically, but in typography, lettering and even technical drawings, maps and so on *, when did the arrow become a symbol for directions and ultimately, THE the universal symbol to say "go that-a-way" ? I have seen references to using a foot print shape carved in paving stones (as in "follow the foot prints to get to the brothel") and of course manicules have been used in typesetting since the 1500's, but when did arrows become symbols to show directions.

*as I type I keep thinking of more places they're used.
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  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
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    My bet would be long before written language, people scratched arrows in the dirt ;-)
  • Russell McGorman
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    I've heard of several primitive symbols for that. The foot print, mentioned above, which I think was in ancient Greece or Rome and Joe Clark once mentioned bird foot prints used in South America, which is fun thought because that's basically a backwards arrow. (Joe?) but what I am trying to track down is when did it become common place as a symbol? 

    Why I am asking? I've worked many with wayfinding signage and it was that work that got me into designing type, so I aways include directional arrows in my fonts. It's just a quirk, because so far, there is no practical purpose in doing so. Right now, I am currently working on a blackletter one and I want some arrow references that fit the style.
  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
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    What about medieval weaponry? There must be arrowheads from the time period of Blackletter?
  • Paul Davy
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    Article here seems to indicat that they first appear in the 18th C.
    https://printinghistory.org/arrow/
  • SiDaniels
    SiDaniels Posts: 277
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    I can imagine Robin and his merry men may have utilized them as graphic elements on the forest floor of Sherwood.
     
  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
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    "This Way to the Boars Head Inn" ;-)
  • Russell McGorman
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    @ Si Daniels; Or coming through the Sherif's window with a note attached.

  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    edited January 2016
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    Highgate Cemetery.

  • James Puckett
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    Columbarium is the most interesting word I’ve learned all month!
  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
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    Good thing Nick put a finger on the word for you, James ;-)
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
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  • Russell McGorman
    Russell McGorman Posts: 261
    edited January 2016
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    Thanks.
    So, here's where I left it a couple of days ago. I've since been looking at some illuminations showing archers and heraldic sources, thinking of the British Army's Board of Ordinance broad arrow symbol: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broad_arrow
  • joeclark
    joeclark Posts: 122
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    Joe Clark once mentioned bird foot prints used in South America, which is fun thought because that's basically a backwards arrow

    I was parroting the squawk from late lamented design peacock Paul Arthur, who crowed that anyone from a rural upbringing would view a standard arrow with 45° lines as pointing the wrong way because chicken footprints point behind them.
  • Russell McGorman
    Russell McGorman Posts: 261
    edited February 2016
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    Oh... Where'd I get south America from? Oh well. Thanks for reminding me
  • Russell McGorman
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    Thank you.
  • Luciano Perondi
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    Some days ago a friend of mine came across this: 

    http://trin-sites-pub.trin.cam.ac.uk/james/viewpage.php?index=453

    a glossed psalter from XII century. We are studying the manuscript, but the sign seems to be used to indicate. 
    In the same manuscript see also folio 33 recto and folio 35 recto.
  • Luciano Perondi
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    The phylakterium says "I'm different from others"
  • Luciano Perondi
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    The harpoon is always embraced by somebody, where it appears alone, the page is cut.
  • Nina Stössinger
    Nina Stössinger Posts: 151
    edited April 2016
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    What a fascinating discussion.
    I wonder about precise usage: The early example that Luciano Perondi’s article cites, from 1596, uses arrows as pointers to point to exact spots in an illustration. I’m not sure about the uses above (with the harpoon), do these point to specific lines in the main text?
    This got me wondering, what is the relation between the use of the (typographical) arrow from first pointing to a precise location — which would be congruent with the idea of an arrow in the sense of a weapon hitting a target — to indicating a rough, general direction (as seen nowadays on traffic signs etc, and the possibly 16th century painted one above), which is further removed from that literal idea and seems potentially like more of a stretch to make from a physical arrow? I wonder if the former came first & then gradually evolved into the latter.
  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
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    I think that the pointing arrow predates written language--even if it was just a way to keep from getting lost.
  • David Sudweeks
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    No answers from me, just another question: What about early examples of arrow-like points on a compass, or hands on a clock? It seems like these would have reinforced an iconographic meaning.
  • Luciano Perondi
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    Thanks! I remember a compass rose showing the 12 winds by Matthew Paris, 13th century. North is on the left East on the top, the triangles seems to point directions, but just 4 of the 12 directions. 

  • Luciano Perondi
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    About the image I sent yesterday, it is an attempt of harmonization between the 12 wind system and 16 wind system (sorry, I was a bit in hurry, going to take a train):

    The Book of Additions (Liber Additamentorum), British Library, Cotton MS Nero D I, fol. 185v
    http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/illmanus/cottmanucoll/t/011cotnerd00001u00185v00.html

    The "De Ventis" of Matthew Paris, E. G. R. Taylor, in Imago Mundi, Vol. 2 (1937), pp. 23-26
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/1149830?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    Matthew Paris, R Vaughan, Cambridge University Press, 1979
    https://books.google.it/books?id=xec7AAAAIAAJ
  • Luciano Perondi
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    About the Harpoon, I'm working with a friend to a translation of the smaller glosses (the others are well known classical glosses, probably also the others are well known, but we are rather ignorant on the subject), in order to be sure that the harpoon is pointing or highlight  something. Until now it seems so. When there is a small glossa, there is a Church father with the harpoon pointing the text and the explanation of what he wrote and a phylakterion "summarizing". But I prefer to wait when I have a more complete translation before saying something.
    What a fascinating discussion.
    I wonder about precise usage: The early example that Luciano Perondi’s article cites, from 1596, uses arrows as pointers to point to exact spots in an illustration. I’m not sure about the uses above (with the harpoon), do these point to specific lines in the main text?
    This got me wondering, what is the relation between the use of the (typographical) arrow from first pointing to a precise location — which would be congruent with the idea of an arrow in the sense of a weapon hitting a target — to indicating a rough, general direction (as seen nowadays on traffic signs etc, and the possibly 16th century painted one above), which is further removed from that literal idea and seems potentially like more of a stretch to make from a physical arrow? I wonder if the former came first & then gradually evolved into the latter.