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    Re: long s character in old text
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2009 Dec 31, 12:05 -0000

    Paul Hirose has produced an interesting posting on the use of the "long-s" 
    character in old documents, and ways to reproduce it on-line. That ability 
    could indeed be useful, and I have tried to follow his advice on my Windows 
    XP based system, but so far without success.
    
    I can find my way to the character map, but then, when Paul tells me it can 
    be found "among the Latin letters", I'm not sure exactly where he's 
    referring to, and would welcome some closer guidance.
    
    Perhaps there's a way in which it can be typed directly into e-mail, in a 
    similar way to the way I can type in a degree-symbol, which is (on my Dell 
    laptop) by holding down Fn and Alt together, then hitting JO7 in sequence, 
    for which I hardly have sufficient fingers (as a normally one-fingered 
    typist).
    
    ==================================
    
    Paul mentioned a comment of mine, made back in the previous discussion, in 
    October, as follows-
    
    "George Huxtable's position was that the modern reader is best served by 
    translating ſ to s. I won't argue with that. However, purists will be 
    pleased that a literal rendition is also possible, even in plain text 
    messages."
    
    I agree completely with that. What I argue against is the substitition for 
    ſ, in an old text, by f, which adds nothing but confusion. The long-s is 
    always subtly different from an f, though it looks so similar that confusion 
    is easy. The character ſ is easily distinguished from f, and adds no such 
    confusion.
    
    However, it depends on the intention of the transcriber, of an old document. 
    If his intention is to convey the meaning, I would contend that it's done 
    best by transcribing  ſ as simply s; there being no difference at all, in 
    meaning, from an ordinary s. Otherwise, the reader is distracted from the 
    meaning by the unfamiliar lettering, and wonders what it can possibly mean.
    
    On the other hand, it the transcriber's intention is to show that "this is 
    an old document", and wishes to reproduce the "feel" of it, at the expense 
    of the meaning (which may be irrelevant or unimportant) then it's fair 
    enough to choose computer typography that comes closest to the original 
    text.
    
    In my time, I've read enough texts, from the 18th century and earlier, that 
    I can now scan over those long-s characters without even noticing them, 
    simply accepting them as an s, as a reader living in that period would be 
    attuned to do. But to many modern readers, they appear as a stumbling-block 
    in the way of understanding.
    
    =============================
    
    There's another question about the long-s that has intrigued me, and I still 
    haven't got to the bottom of it to my satisfaction: and presume now that I 
    never will. If you read the sentence Paul presented as an example -"Whereas 
    the Publication of Nautical Almanacs conſtructed by proper Perſons, under 
    the Direction of the ſaid Commiſſioners..."  you will find a mixture of 
    long-s and short-s characters. What were the rules, if any, defining where 
    one should used rather than the other?
    
    Wikipedia has guided my to a fine posting on that topic by Andrew West, on 
    BabelStone, at-.
    http://babelstone.blogspot.com/2006/06/rules-for-long-s.html
    
    where this question is discussed in exhaustive detail, covering various 
    periods and languages. It's well worth a read.
    
    There seems to be one firm rule, which puts all the esses in Paul's example 
    into their correct form:  that a word is never ended with a long-s, always a 
    short one. But further that that, there are all sorts of additional 
    complications, to which, usually, exceptions can be found. To a large 
    extent, it seems to have been down to the whim of the author, or the 
    compositor.
    
    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.
    
    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: "Paul Hirose" 
    To: "Google nav list" 
    Sent: Thursday, December 31, 2009 6:58 AM
    Subject: [NavList 11367] long s character in old text
    
    
    Back in October there was a thread on how we ought to transcribe the
    "long s" in old text. For example, the 1788 Nautical Almanac says,
    "Whereas the Publication of Nautical Almanacs conſtructed by proper
    Perſons, under the Direction of the ſaid Commiſſioners..."
    (http://books.google.com/books?id=f_cNAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP8.)
    
    I thought surely Unicode would have that character (it seems to have
    everything else), but I found nothing. I should have looked harder.
    While idly browsing an unrelated topic on the Web today, I discovered
    Unicode's "Latin small letter long s". Look again at my quote from the
    Almanac. The long s should look different from the lower case F.
    
    This information was (indirectly) in the October thread, via a link to a
    Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_s). But it's one
    little paragraph in the article, and at the time I didn't notice it.
    
    In Windows, you can find long s in Character Map among the Latin
    letters. Copy it and paste it into your text. Of course your email
    software must be configured to write messages in Unicode. You'll
    probably see several encodings available. I recommend UTF-8. It's
    economical of bandwidth because all ASCII characters encode as one byte.
    Also, any halfway modern software will automatically handle UTF-8 in
    received emails. This even includes a late 1990s version of Netscape
    under Windows 98 (I've tested that).
    
    George Huxtable's position was that the modern reader is best served by
    translating ſ to s. I won't argue with that. However, purists will be
    pleased that a literal rendition is also possible, even in plain text
    messages.
    
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