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Subject: Elongated S
Question:
When did the elongated s fall into disuse, particularly in the southeastern United States? I am in posession of several documents from around 1812 which make use of the elongated s in the double s instance, but not always with the first, lowercase s. I am trying to get a better idea of the dates, though I'm relatively sure they range from about 1770 to just prior to 1820. Thanks.




Reply:
I have no idea about the S.E. of the USA, but your dates sound about right for
Britain which I imagine set the pace in such matters then. I know that the
first typeface to have been created with no long s at all was the one cut by
John Bell, and I did know the date -- I've forgotten, you'd have to look it
up, but it was about the end of the 18th or early 19th C. That implies that
enough people had given up using long s that there was no penalty for a printer
who could not print it. But of course there was no sudden switch: there was
not a year when the whole country plus colonies was told ''No more long S's from
now on''. The only clue I have ever seen to when it finally died out even in
individual handwriting was in Winifred Holtby's novel _South Riding_, published
some time in the 1930s, in which a rather eccentric elderly local squire is
described as the last man in England to continue to use them in handwriting:
but that has always struck me as novelist's licence, I guess they had died out
rather earlier than that.


Geoffrey Sampson MA PhD MBCS ILTM
Professor of Natural Language Computing

Department of Informatics
University of Sussex
Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, England

t +44 1273 678525
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Reply From: Geoffrey Sampson     click here to access email
Date: Jan-22-2004

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