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Re: Ye Olde Englishe



About those s's: in general, Western minuscule scripts until about the
early twelfth century use long s's in all positions in the word; a
sign of the emergence of Gothic hands is that short s's are used at the
ends of words, including the second s of double s's. This Gothic system
(long s initially and medially, short s finally) is the system inherited
by early typography. To complicate matters, the strictest practitioners of
Humanist scripts tried to be faithful to their Carolingian exemplars by
eliminating all short s's from their minuscule; this practice was picked
up in some early Roman types. Tall s begins to disappear in the latter
half of the 18th c. and is put to death for good by Didot in the 1780's.

James Mosley has a wonderful short essay on the subject, which I think is
only available from the St. Bride Printing Library.

At any rate, a nice introduction to early typography is Warren Chappell's
_A Short History of the Printed Word_.

Carin
cruff@chass.utoronto.ca

> In a message dated 96-11-06 11:54:03 EST, you write:
>
> << Does anyone out there know of any articles/books on early typography, i.e.
>  as in explaining the reasoning behind the long "esses" (you know what I
>  mean, the ones that -- sometimes -- look sort-of like "effs"), etc.?
>   >>
>
> Actually, from an historical point of view, you might more appropriately
> question the reasoning behind the *long* esses!
>
> My impression is that the use of the short ess throughout the word is a
> relatively modern occurrence:  My paleography books have long esses in the
> scripts from about 350 AD through the invention of the printing press.  The
> long esses in these examples are the *usual* ess, the short ess being used
> only at the endings of words -- rather like final letterforms in the Hebrew
> language.  I suppose that printing presses had some effect on the dying out
> of the long ess -- one less case to deal with -- but I don't really know.
>
> Beth
>
> Callibeth@aol.com
>


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