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WHEN did the appearance of the quarter rest in music change from its original appearance — as a backward looking number 7 (old style quarter rests symbol - like a modern style eight rests but backwards) ) to its current look (modern quarter rest symbol - a vertical zigzag with a hook)?

I have been searching the Internet with no luck. I know the original quarter rest looked like a backward eighth rest, so the design was changed completely. I just cannot find anywhere WHEN the change took place. It would also be nice to know WHO decided on the change.

2 Answers 2

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I have "researched" quite a bit and collected some interesting examples, see below. As can be seen, we have a huge geographical impact, France (I have numerous additional examples) seemed especially fond of the backward-7 notation, keeping it up to the middle of 19th century, while the Bach autograph from ca. 1723-1730, the Walsh print of 1795 and the Liszt-Diabelli example I added to the Sqiggly-symbol question point to earlier migration to a new symbol decades or even a century earlier.

Jancourt print 1849: Méthode de basson

Bach autograph, ca. 1723-1730: Violin concerto

Walsh print, unknown composer, 1795: Walsh print

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  • That Walsh print is one of the clearest intermediates I've seen. On the one hand, it very nearly looks like a modern rest, slightly tilted to the side, but on the other hand, the check mark, upstroke, and curved cross-bar are all still visible. Sep 26, 2014 at 13:30
  • This is EXCELLENT RESEARCH! THANK YOU sooo much for your time, effort, and insight! It IS appreciated!
    – Barbara 53
    Sep 29, 2014 at 18:36
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    @Barbara53: You are welcome, actually the currency here on stack exchange is upvoting and accepting ;)
    – guidot
    Sep 30, 2014 at 8:19
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Possible duplicate of: Origin of the 'squigly line' used for quarter note rest?

There are several scans of manuscripts (from Corelli to Mahler) linked from that page that show many intermediate forms. It seems to have been a gradual evolution due to handwriting, rather than a dictatorial all-at-once change. In addition, each composer had their own handwriting, of course.

As a whole, they show that the backwards-7 quarter rest gained a 'check mark' on the bottom, in addition to the upstroke and crossbar. The upstroke got slanted in various directions, and the crossbar became curved, which can create a form closely resembling the modern form.

What, unfortunately, hasn't quite been demonstrated on that page is the final step from the modified squiggle to the modern printed form. For that answer, I think you'll have to look at the history of music printing, and see what symbols were being used by the publishing houses, printing presses, and "music typewriters". This page might provide a good jumping off point.

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