1536: Francesco Lapi, a Florentine merchant, uses the @ symbol while penning a letter. It’s the first recorded use of the “at” sign outside a monastery.
Ubiquitous in today’s internet culture, the “at” sign most likely owes its origin to a monk with writer’s cramp. Before Gutenberg showed up with his printing press, forever changing human communication, the Holy Scriptures were considered among the few written works worth copying for wider distribution.
The texts were transcribed by hand, a laborious process that encouraged typographical shorthand.
The most plausible theory is that the at sign evolved from the grave-accented “a” (à, which is also “at” in Italian). The compressed symbol allowed the transcriber to complete the letter in a single stroke. This is just one of a handful of theories, mind.