Signs have been a fundamental element in trade and have been around since human beings first began expressing themselves by drawing in caves. When thinking of the history of signs, few of us contemplate its presence in the ancient world however; in reality they were a huge part of human communication.
The first known use of signs was during the Palaeolithic age, around 18,000 BC, where signs were not only used to communicate, but were also ritualistic and spiritual in nature symbolism. The word ‘sign’ derives from the ancient Latin ‘signum’ and it means mark or token. The Romans were the first to recognise how valuable signs are and they introduced the first road sign system to indicate distances and direction.
From a historical perspective, the signs that get the most attention are the Pub and Inn signs found in England, Europe and North America. They became a method of advertising in 1393 when King Richard II passed an act stating that all alehouses must post a sign. This is because the pubs were encouraged to identify themselves to the official ale tasters rather than just to promote their establishments to the public. The practice caught on and the result was highly creative and unusual signs, with shop keepers ensuring that their names were above the door of business for promotional purposes.