Commonplace
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Publick Occurrences 2.0

March 14, 2008

Typographic question answered

Filed under: Journalism history — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 12:21 am

In answer to Rod Bell’s question below, the “f”-like “s” was standard in 18th-century type. The actual “f” was slightly different, and a more familiar-looking “s” could be used to end a word. You can see all this in the following random newspaper example:

Type example from 1798

I am not sure off the top of my head when this practice changed. If some type maven out there (or just at AAS) knows the chapter and verse on this, please supply.

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1 Comment »

  1. The so-called “long s” had fallen out of use in the United States by 1820 (slightly earlier in Britain). The “long s” was most commonly used at the beginning or middle of a word, almost never at the end.

    Often, the combination of an “s” followed by another letter with which it was frequently paired, such as a “t” or an “i,” would be cast as a single piece of type, called a ligature. In these cases (“sin,” “pestilence”, etc.) the “long s” would be used. One holdover of this is the “eszett” character used in German–the thing that looks like a capital B that stands for two esses.

    The use of the “long s” continues to present a challenge to the OCR software that is used in digitizing eighteenth and early nineteenth-century printed materials (terms such as “suckling pig” are predictably problematic).

    Comment by Mr. Sidetable — March 14, 2008 @ 10:02 am

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