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Long-s in Late Modern English manuscripts

  • LYDA FENS-DE ZEEUW (a1) and ROBIN STRAAIJER (a2)

Abstract

It is a generally accepted fact that the use of long-s, or <ſ>, was discontinued in English printing at the close of the eighteenth century and that by the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century this allograph had all but disappeared. This demise of <ſ> in printing has been fairly well documented, but there is virtually no literature on what happened to it in handwritten documents. The disappearance of <ſ> and <ſs> (as in ʃeems and buʃineʃs) in favour of <s> and <ss> is generally ascribed to the printers’ wishes to simplify their type-settings. But at what point and to what extent did this simplifying process influence private writing of the period? In this article we have documented the rules, as observed by printers, for the use of long-s in the Late Modern English period, and we illustrate how printing practice during this period compared to the usage of this particular grapheme in letters written by two well-known codifiers of the English language, the grammarians Joseph Priestley and Lindley Murray.

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Letter collections

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Long-s in Late Modern English manuscripts

  • LYDA FENS-DE ZEEUW (a1) and ROBIN STRAAIJER (a2)

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