The ampersand symbol is a combination of the letters "et," which is Latin for "and." In an article by award-winning design consultant Max Caflisch on the Adobe Systems Inc. Web site (www.adobe.co.uk/type/topics/theampersand.html) he writes that "one of the first examples of an ampersand (is) on a piece of papyrus from about 45 A.D."
If you follow the link, we get a few more details inter alia:
One of the first examples of an ampersand appears on a piece of papyrus from about 45 A.D. Written in the style of early Roman capital cursive (typical of the handwriting of the time), it shows the ligature ET. A sample of Pompeian graffiti from 79 A.D. (fig. 1) also shows a combination of the capitals E and T, and is again written in early Roman script.
Anyone know about this papyrus (I'd be very interested to see papyrus from 45 A.D. written in Roman caps)? The 'sample of Pompeian graffiti' referenced on the page isn't a photo ... anyone know the inscription which contains it?