The long (S) and short of it
Basically, what is the deal with the fs (effs) in place of s?
The short answer is that it isn't an f at all, but a "long s." Happily, there is a good discussion of the issue on Wikipedia. Short answer:
The long, medial or descending f (s) is a form of the minuscule letter s that was formerly used when the s occurred within or at the beginning of the word, for example finfulnefs ("sinfulness"). The modern letterform was called the terminal or short s.Incidentally, the long s was never identical with an f in any of the fonts in use. It is just that in modern fonts the long s doesn't exist, so here I am using an f to represent it.
How was it used? The short answer is: never at the end of the words, always in the middle and sometimes at the beginning. Thus, you will find examples like this: sufpicious and fufcipious but never fufpiciouf.
A question that might immediately spring to mind is, isn't that stupid? I mean, the letter form looks so much like an f! The answer is basically, yes, it was a little silly and potentially confusin--and eventually the practice was stopped. But the truth is that many letters resemble one another. Take u and v or h and n or q and g (well, in some fonts anyway!) or o and 0 or some forms of i and l and on it goes. Truth is, these are all easily confused (or confufed) with one another. Or take Hebrew, which is also full of letters that resemble each other. Examples: ר/ ד, ב/כ, ו/ז, ע/צ ,ג/נ are all confusing for someone just learning Hebrew, no different than ح/خ are when learning Arabic.
So f/f is just another quirky example, long since corrected. In fact, one of the interesting things I think will be apparent in this blog is that one can see the evolution of the long s from the beginning to the end of the 18th century. Pay attention to the dates of the examples I post and this will be apparent.