A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: long s character in old text
From: George Huxtable
Date: 2009 Dec 31, 12:05 -0000
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. -- I filter out messages with attachments or HTML. -- NavList message boards: www.fer3.com/arc Or post by email to: NavList@fer3.com To unsubscribe, email NavListemail@example.com -- NavList message boards: www.fer3.com/arc Or post by email to: NavList@fer3.com To unsubscribe, email NavListfirstname.lastname@example.org