I was reading a book, "Ancient accounts of India and China" which, I think, was published in the middle of 1856, and I see "S" was replaced by the "ʃ" symbol (in small letter s, it looks more like "f'). Or perhaps it is not ʃ.

Very curious about the reason behinds it, but can't find any info from google search.

  • In many old English texts, up until around 1850, you see a number of "strange" type fonts, with many letters being "odd" by current standards, in particularly the letters "s" and "f". Keep in mind that, back then even more than now, there were no "standards", so whatever the typesetter liked is what you got. – Hot Licks May 24 '17 at 22:36
  • The long, medial, or descending s (ſ) is a form of the minuscule (lower-case) letter s, which was formerly used where s occurred in the middle or at the beginning of a word (e.g. "ſinfulneſs" for "sinfulness" and "ſucceſsful" for "successful"). The modern letterform was called the terminal, round, or short s.

  • The long s was derived from the old Roman cursive medial s. When the distinction between majuscule (uppercase) and minuscule (lowercase) letter forms became established, toward the end of the eighth century, it developed a more vertical form.

  • During this period, it was occasionally used at the end of a word, a practice that quickly died but that was occasionally revived in Italian printing between about 1465 and 1480. Thus, the general rule that the long s "never occurred at the end of a word" is not strictly correct, although the exceptions are rare and archaic. The double s in the middle of a word was also written with a long s and a short s, as in Miſsiſsippi.


  • In general, the long s fell out of use in Roman and italic typefaces in professional printing well before the middle of the 19th century. It "rarely appears in good quality London printing after 1800, though it lingers provincially until 1824, and is found in handwriting into the second half of the nineteenth century" being sometimes seen late on in archaic or traditionalist printing such as printed collections of sermons. Woodhouse's The Principles of Analytical Calculation, published by the Cambridge University Press in 1803, uses the long 's' throughout its roman text.


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