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    Transcribing old text, and long-esses
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2009 Oct 18, 11:52 +0100

    Brad quoted, in [10175] from a 1780 text by Wakely, as follows-
    
    "Then if you fee the Center of the Sun or Star at the upper end of the
    Crofs, and the Horizon at the lower end, the Crofs ftands as it ought".
    
    Just a suggestion about transcribing such texts, which include the
    "s"-character, sometimes written normally, sometimes written as a long-s,
    which looks very like an f, when printed.
    
    As I understand it, it started off in handwritten text, when a letter-s was
    often written this way, with a flourish. That embellishment was given only
    to some of the esses, according to rules which I have never understood, and
    were not rigidly followed, concerning matters like if it was at the end of a
    word, if it was a double-s; stuff like that. If anyone can enlighten me on
    that score, it would be welcome.
    
    Anyway, those long-esses also came into printed text, with a special
    font-character that at first sight looks very like a printed f, but usually
    has small differences, if it's examined carefully. Usually, the length of
    the cross-bar is subtly altered.
    
    To those unfamiliar with it, transcribing as an f gets in the way of
    understanding such old text, and in my view those long-esses, when
    transcribed into modern form, should always become an s, and never an f,
    which the author certainly didn't intend. The problem particularly arises
    when using optical character recognition (OCR) software, which will usually
    lack any discrimination between a long-s and an f.
    
    If on transcribing such text, those characters all become esses, that's not
    tinkering with an author's spelling, it's following his intentions.
    
    Another slightly more difficult matter, is what to do about u's and v's,
    which around Bourne's date (late 1500s) were commonly interchanged from
    present usage. If, in a transcription, they are interchanged back again,
    that makes things much easier for a modern reader, without interfering with
    the author's intentions.
    
    However, actually correcting a writer's spelling is another matter, that I
    don't wish to pronounce on.
    
    I have no qualications to pontificate on such matters at all, except that
    I've read rather a lot of old texts.
    
    George.
    
    contact George Huxtable, at  george@hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    
    
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