PICTURE: THINKSTOCK The first time the “@” symbol was used — which was 480 years ago — it had nothing to do with e-mail or identity, but rather weight.Florentine merchant Francesco Lapi used the now ubiquitous symbol in a letter written on May 4 1536, to describe the weight or volume (known as an amphora) of terracotta jars.These jars were used to hold liquid or grain when they were transported on ships, according to the Italian academic who first uncovered the letter.“There, an amphora of wine, which is one thirtieth of a barrel, is worth 70 or 80 ducats,” Lapi wrote, referring to the price of goods aboard three Spanish ships that had arrived in Seville from the Americas. In his elegant handwriting the word “amphora” is represented by the @ symbol.Lapi’s letter was uncovered by Prof Giorgio Stabile of La Sapienza University, who told The Guardian in 2000: “Until now no-one knew that the @ sign derived from this symbol, which was developed by Italian traders in a mercantile script t...

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