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This question already has an answer here:

I came across a different symbol for the letter 'S' on Wikipedia:

Paradise Lost advertisement

Paradise Lost advertisement

What is the symbol called, replacing the letter 'S' in "Paradise" and "Lost" (and lower down in many other words, like "Bishopsgate-street")?

Further, why does it only replace some 'S' symbols? It seems that when used for pluralization, the modern 'S' is used. Examples in the image above are "Books" and the first and final 'S' in "St. Dunstons", but not the 'S' in the middle of that word.

What are the rules for when to use one vs the other?

The symbol looks rather like a lowercase 'f'...

marked as duplicate by sumelic, Laurel, RaceYouAnytime, Edwin Ashworth, choster Jun 17 '17 at 1:04

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • The rules for use are not entirely consistent, but as you can see the 'long s' is only used as a lowercase letter, and generally was not used at the end of a word – sumelic Jun 17 '17 at 0:39
  • Thanks for the link, @sumelic! That answers the first half of my question, but not the second half. – Jamin Grey Jun 17 '17 at 0:41
  • I've gotten the impression that a lot of this sort of thing was up to the particular printer/typesetter. – Hot Licks Jun 17 '17 at 0:47
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This is known as a long s and it is archaic outside of calculus, where a variation of it is used as the integral symbol.

In English, the rules were fairly complex:

  • short s is used at the end of a word (e.g. his, complains, ſucceſs)
  • short s is used before an apostrophe (e.g. clos'd, us'd)
  • short s is used before the letter 'f' (e.g. ſatisfaction, misfortune, transfuſe, transfix, transfer, ſucceſsful)
  • short s is used after the letter 'f' (e.g. offset), although not if the word is hyphenated (e.g. off-ſet)
  • short s is used before the letter 'b' in books published during the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century (e.g. husband, Shaftsbury), but long s is used in books published during the second half of the 18th century (e.g. huſband, Shaftſbury)
  • short s is used before the letter 'k' in books published during the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century (e.g. skin, ask, risk, masked), but long s is used in books published during the second half of the 18th century (e.g. ſkin, aſk, riſk, maſked)
  • compound words with the first element ending in double s and the second element beginning with s are normally and correctly written with a dividing hyphen (e.g. Croſs-ſtitch, Croſs-ſtaff), but very occasionally may be written as a single word, in which case the middle letter 's' is written short (e.g. Croſsſtitch, croſsſtaff)
  • long s is used initially and medially except for the exceptions noted above (e.g. ſong, uſe, preſs, ſubſtitute) long s is used before a hyphen at a line break (e.g. neceſ-ſary, pleaſ-ed), even when it would normally be a short s (e.g. Shaftſ-bury and huſ-band in a book where Shaftsbury and husband are normal), although exceptions do occur (e.g. Mans-field)
  • double s is normally written as double long s medially and as long s followed by short s finally (e.g. poſſeſs, poſſeſſion), although in some late 18th and early 19th century books a different rule is applied, reflecting contemporary usage in handwriting, in which long s is used exclusively before short s medially and finally [see Rules for Long S in some late 18th and early 19th century books for details]
  • short s is used before a hyphen in compound words with the first element ending in the letter 's' (e.g. croſs-piece, croſs-examination, Preſs-work, bird's-neſt)
  • long s is maintained in abbreviations such as ſ. for ſubſtantive, and Geneſ. for Geneſis (this rule means that it is practically impossible to implement fully correct automatic contextual substitution of long s at the font level)

(The Rules for Long S, Andrew West)

  • It is a pity that you still chose to post after this was flagged as a duplicate. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 17 '17 at 0:56
  • The rules you quote actually contradict your statement "for the most part it never appeared ... when there were two sequentially": "double s is normally written as double long s medially". Maybe you could revise that part? – sumelic Jun 17 '17 at 1:11
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    @EdwinAshworth - I started writing this before it was flagged, and my answer is more comprehensive than anything found in the duplicate post, so I stand by my answer. – SomethingDark Jun 17 '17 at 1:12
  • Correct procedure is to add a better answer at the original thread. And to add all the relevant parts of a quotation ('Usage in 16th and early 17th century books may be somewhat different (see Rules for Long S in Early Printed Books for details), and books in English published in continental Europe may not apply the same rules'). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 17 '17 at 13:50
  • I've also seen scenarios where an answer was so good that the older question was marked as a duplicate of the newer one. – SomethingDark Jun 17 '17 at 13:51

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