Not every reader of this blog already knows the history of typography, so I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss a curious fact that many readers must have noticed about printing in the 18th century.
Basically, what is the deal with the f
s) 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
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
(well, in some fonts anyway!) or o
or some forms of i
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
are all confusing for someone just learning Hebrew, no different than ح
are when learning Arabic.
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.