Re: The glyph of the CAPITAL SHARP S

From: Adam Twardoch (
Date: Wed May 09 2007 - 18:43:01 CDT

  • Next message: Asmus Freytag: "Re: The glyph of the CAPITAL SHARP S"

    In most of the middle ages and the period up until the 19th century, the
    long s ("ſ") and "f" were closely related, "f" being simply a "ſ" with a
    stroke going through. The same, very primitive graphic relation exists
    between the prototypic shapes of the Greek letters gamma (Γ) and digamma
    (Ϝ). Since the minuscule "f" always has been a "ſ" with a middle stroke,
    then the capital "F" might also be considered an uppercase "ſ" with a
    stroke going through. Of course an uppercase long s never existed, but
    this relation may be helpful when constructing the uppercase ß.

    Because I think that *if* the Latin alphabet ever used or needed another
    capital S, the preferred shape could be that of a gamma (Γ). This is a
    simple, effective shape that maintains a stylistic relation to the
    lowercase long s that is typical of other uppercase-to-lowercase relations.

    If we look at the relations between Aa Ee Ff Mm Pp, we will notice that
    sharp, edgy connections in the uppercase are related to more smooth,
    round connections in the lowercase. If "F" developed into "f" in a
    cursive hand, then it is very easy to imagine that a cursive rendition
    of the "Γ" shape might, indeed, look very much like "ſ".

    This is an important observation when thinking about the shape of an
    uppercase "ß": I assert that the shape of uppercase "ß" must be "edgier"
    than the lowercase. In short, I think that the left part of uppercase ß
    should be "Γ".

    What about the right part? Here, I would call to exploit the double
    origin of "ß", which developed paralelly as a ligature of "ſs" as well
    as of "ſz" (where the "z" historically used the "ʒ" shape, so "ſʒ").

    These days, the lowercase "ß" is typically derived from the ligated form
    of "ſs". For visual dissimilation purposes -- to strongly set apart the
    lowercase and the (new) uppercase "ß" I would derive the uppercase "ß"
    from a ligation of the hypothetical uppercase "ſ" (i.e. "Γ") and the
    shape of "the other" origin of "ß", i.e. of the historical "Z" shape.

    In short, I believe that the best graphical rendition of an uppercase
    "ß" will be a well-designed ligature that incorporates these shapes: "ΓƷ"

    I have made a small simulation using Garamond Premier (please excuse my
    poor drawing abilities):

    On a related matter, at the exhibition "Neue Baukunst. Berlin um 1800",
    which is on display at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin until May 28,
    I have discovered a fantastic calligraphic lowercase "ß" shape, in which
    the "long s" part connects to the BOTTOM and not to the top of the
    following "short s". Please take a look:

    This got my imagination going.

    I have collected and summarized the points that I made so far on this
    list, and opened a new topic at Typophile:

    Typophile may be more appropriate to discuss questions of glyph design.


    Adam Twardoch
    | Language Typography Unicode Fonts OpenType
    | | |

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed May 09 2007 - 18:44:15 CDT