What is sharp S

2»

Comments

  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 841
    edited February 2020
    > Blackletter and Fraktur …  this ugly and impractical typeface

    plain nonsense.

    It is true that beauty is an aesthetic judgment, and thus personal and subjective.
    Just as there are beautiful Scotch Roman typefaces - and hideous ones that were all too common in 19th Century printing - there are also good and bad Fraktur typefaces.
    Much of the difficulty of outsiders in reading Fraktur is, of course, due to it not being what they are used to. None the less, I am inclined to agree that Fraktur is objectively less legible than Roman type. Compare the two in old books where text in the vernacular is in Fraktur or blackletter, and text in Latin is in Roman type at the same point size. (Or perhaps that should be at the same size, the point system not being around back then.)
    The blackletter or Fraktur text is a dense forest of distracting details with curves and points all over the place, while the Roman text is simple and clear.
    But the Roman text would have been simpler and clearer if it had been sans-serif. If serifs make Roman text more readable, even if Fraktur is less legible, couldn't it also be more readable?
    Here, I think, is the crux of the disagreement. No typeface can be readable if legibility is an issue; you can't read something if you can't make out the letters it's written in. So if legibility is not an issue, because:
    a) one is used to Fraktur type and is familiar with its conventions, and
    b) one is a native speaker of the German language, and thus quickly recognizes whole words in that language
    then one will read merrily away when faced with a German-language text in Fraktur type, convinced that the complaints of outsiders are merely prejudice.
    For an outsider, however, just one look at a mass of text in Fraktur is enough to establish that Fraktur... is an acquired taste.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 639
    edited February 2020
    I have always associated the word "sharp" with the left foot of the letter (as opposed to the undulating and oval shape of the s or the right part of the eszett).

    In class I always used to write it out as a Greek beta without descender and that never caused a correction.

    Considering Scharfes Es at the beginning of words, I remember vaguely that it can be used in certain languages other than German. I remember something about a Himalayan language that uses it, fellow board memeber @Bhikkhu Pesala may have something more to say about that. Obviosuly it should be used in all cap texts.

    Yes, orthography dictates that eszett can be followed by and S and Z in compound words where the preceding words ends with eszett and the next one begings with the S or Z. By similar logic, words like "boat ride" - Schifffahrt - should have only the the first two f's ligatured, becase a Schiff is a ship and an f followed by the ligature would mean that the word is Ffahrt, which it is not. But that's perhaps a matter for the editor and not the type designer.

    I would keep German dialects out of the discussion, or else we would have to include the dialects of Austria, Schweizetuutsch, historical and recent Plattdeutsch, Ruthenish, German orhography in special cases used by local minorities like Sorbs, historical uses of the orthography in Austria-Hungary for all the minorities of the empire across centuries, and God knows what else.



  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 663
    edited February 2020
    > Schifffahrt - should have only the the first two f's ligatured, becase a Schiff is a ship. But that's perhaps a matter for the editor and not the type designer.
    Not necessarily. It's fairly easy to make a separate liga version for language DEU. Then the editor only has to mark the language.
  • > Schifffahrt - should have only the the first two f's ligatured, becase a Schiff is a ship. But that's perhaps a matter for the editor and not the type designer.
    Not necessarily. It's fairly easy to make a separate liga version for language DEU. Then the editor only has to mark the language.
    Yes, but that would mean that the designer would have to make a version for all kinds of triple consonants, like in Gotttreu and so on.
  • > Blackletter and Fraktur …  this ugly and impractical typeface

    plain nonsense.

    It is true that beauty is an aesthetic judgment, and thus personal and subjective.
    Of course. It's dark and for an association with graveyard, old fashioned times.

    No variation, no bold or semibold versions, because it's black = bold in the basic version. No cursive versions. They had to use letter-spacing instead of bold.

    I read it from my childhood on. Most books of my parents and grandparents where printed in Fraktur. I still read very much in Fraktur, because old books are my focus. But look at it in detail. The long-s has nearly the same shape as the f. Both appear in similar combinations with other letters in German. It's slower to read, because you need a closer look sometimes. I am a very fast reader. Antiqua ist faster to read for me, faster then some sans-serif like Helvetica.

    That's the most popular shape used for text from 16th to 20th century:



    In smaller grades you can mismatch u/n, r/x. Compare K/N/R, B/V, C/E/G. They are easy to mismatch in fast reading. Words in caps only are not easy to read. Therefore they seldom used capitals. Only for GOTT and JESUS.

    From a calligraphic point of view they are interesting, especially the more flourish larger grades used for title pages. They have their place and lovers. But 400 years nearly no variation and more of the same everywhere? 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,732
    Q: This letter of the German alphabet appears to be a ligature of long s and s.
    A: What is sharp S.
  • Q: This letter of the German alphabet appears to be a ligature of long s and s.
    A: What is sharp S.

    You've really put yourself in jeopardy with that one!
  • Q: This letter of the German alphabet appears to be a ligature of long s and s.
    A: What is sharp S.
    Can you rephrase that so that the question is actually marked as a question? :wink:
  • The blackletter or Fraktur text is a dense forest of distracting details with curves and points all over the place, while the Roman text is simple and clear.
    is that meant to be a joke?!
  • The blackletter or Fraktur text is a dense forest of distracting details with curves and points all over the place, while the Roman text is simple and clear.
    is that meant to be a joke?!
    Unfortunately, no, although it is true that "curves" isn't really the right word for anything found more in Fraktur than in Roman. Fraktur is very "busy" in appearance, a great deal of detail is present in Fraktur text in addition to that which is relevant to distinguishing the letters.

  • Adam Jagosz Again, theory. Are you aware of the difference between [] and // IPA-notation?

    [ʃ] is a phone, where /ʃ/ is a phoneme. Phones allow to distinguish (local, individual) variants of phonemes. In an ideal world phonemes (not phones) are mapped 1:1 to graphemes (visual units) to form a writing system.
    What you’re describing is an ideal alphabet. It’s worth noting, though, that while alphabetic writing is common in Europe, the majority of the world’s writing systems are *not* alphabets. Most represent some combination of syllabic and morphological information rather than phonemic information.

    André
  • @ John Savard:
    On the other hand, I find Chinese and a bunch of African Scripts rather complicated and distracting while I try to read them.

    – Jokes aside. Your notions about Fraktur are a judgement without insight. If you are not familiar with Fraktur type and/or the German language, that is not a problem per se. But the actual statements you make say that you are not comfortable / used to read German and/or Fraktur. That says much about you, yet very little about Fraktur typography as such.
    As a matter of fact, Fraktur text is as smoothly legible as any Roman setting, if you are familiar with it. Moreover, especially for German, Fraktur type has some little advantages in visualising that language, compared to the average Roman Latin type setting – but that is another matter.
    I have been reading kilograms of bulky volumes of adventure literatur in Fraktur when I was 11; millions of Germans (and of other nations) have lived with it quite comfortably for centuries … I just invite you to take this into consideration before you make too harsh a verdict about a typographic style you seem not to be actually familiar with.

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,106
    @Andreas Stötzner
    I used to think this way too. Later, I realized that I was mostly familiar with elaborate display Fraktur. But when I went to Germany and saw contemporary books set in Fraktur, they looked pretty smooth. They didn't have wild, spiky, high contrast type except for titles and headings.
  • I think that we are talking about different things.
    I am willing to admit that Fraktur may be highly readable, at least for the German language, for reasons I am not qualified to appreciate.
    But the legibility of a typeface, on the other hand, requires no familiarity with the language or writing system to assess. That is simply a measure of how much effort is required to visually distinguish between several different marks on paper. Objective tools like a two-dimensional Fourier transform are useful, rather than irrelevant, in assessing legibility.
    If Fraktur is highly readable for those who have learned it, and therefore must have at least adequate legibility, then perhaps it is not fair to dismiss it as "impractical", however off-putting it may be to outsiders, and to children first learning to read. After all, it is an accident of history, not the considered choice of millions of German readers, that explains why Germany uses Antiqua instead of Fraktur today, so that is not evidence.
  • John,
    Ok I got it, you really dislike fraktur. You are free to feel this way, of course. But.

    1st, your use of the terms readability and legibility is confused, all but convincing.

    2nd: “… it is an accident of history” – sorry but I’m having a hard time trying to believe that you state such a thing with any serious intent.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 841
    edited February 2020
    2nd: “… it is an accident of history” – sorry but I’m having a hard time trying to believe that you state such a thing with any serious intent.

    I was simply, I thought, stating a known fact. The reason Germany in the postwar era didn't use Fraktur any more wasn't because most Germans were fed up with it andpreferred Roman. No; it was one man's decision - to facilitate propaganda efforts, because foreigners had trouble with Fraktur.
    Since World War II did not last a whole generation, however, why didn't the Germans go back to what they were used to and comfortable with? That question might be seen as evidence against Fraktur. But is it strong evidence? I can't claim that. In the post-war era, what with the Common Market, Germany was more closely integrated with the rest of Europe; they didn't have only themselves to please. And despite the source of the change to Antiqua, anything distinctively German had negative symbolism attached.
    So I do admit I have no evidence to suggest that the Germans themselves ever had any problem with Fraktur.
    I don't think, though, that among non-Germans, I'm alone in "really disliking" Fraktur. But it's not even just Germany. In England, in Spain, everywhere in Europe after printing was invented, the convention had been to use blackletter or something like that for the "vernacular", and, after Roman type was invented, to just use it for text in Latin.
    Most people today (at least outside Germany, in the Latin-alphabet world) take one look at really old books in blackletter, and wonder, "what were they thinking?".
    Is this only a prejudice - because they happen to be used to Roman, and the two are equally good?
    I disagree with that view. I think that one can point to objective metrics, such as the proportion of the area of a character that is different between that character and a similar one, that address legibility.
    But being objectively less legible is not, in itself, a reason to say people shouldn't use Fraktur. Even if Roman is highly legible, sans-serif is even more legible - and yet it's widely agreed that Roman with serifs is more readable. So maybe the initial effort of acquiring Fraktur is well worth it. I admit the issue is complicated.


  • So I do admit I have no evidence to suggest that the Germans themselves ever had any problem with Fraktur.
    From history they had.

    Gutenberg himself cut a simpler typeface than Bible-Textura for non-relgious texts, a sort of Bastarda. The French first used Textura and very fast designed their Batard. England used Textura longer.

    In Germany Schwabacher established as next step. It has nearly the same small letters as the later Fraktur, but simpler capital letters.

    Fraktur was a design ordered by emperor Maximilian to impress his new wife with a morning gift. It was calligraphy, especially the capitals very detailed and swashed, more like initials than normal letters, and far away from Antiqua shapes.

    But it established. Typecutters used simpler forms of capitals for smaller sizes, e. g. L, and more and more swashed for larger sizes.

    At the end of the 18th century some poets changed to Antiqua for their German texts. The answer of the typecutters was to simplify Fraktur especially to make the capitals more legible and nearer to the shape of Antiqua. With help of Didot Unger designed such a modernised fraktur, know known as Unger-Fraktur and Breitkopf the Jean-Paul-Fraktur. Both have simpler capitals, are lighter and have less contrast.

    In the 19th century more and more was printed in Antiqua, but Fraktur still dominated prints for the average reader. After 1850 (Neoclassicism) we can find more modern typefaces and classic ones. Art Nouveau brought very new ones. Type foundries also tried to improve Fraktur, to get rid of the disadvantages. Lighter versions, semi-bold, bold, white, shadowed, cursive.

    Meanwhile other countries changed form Fraktur to Antiqua, some earlier like Czech, some short before 1900 like Sweden, Finland, some after 1900 like Norway, Denmark.

    A book printed 1929, Handbuch der Schriftarten (Manual of Typefaces), listing typefaces of German typefoundries along with specimen, has 72 pages Blackletter (including 29 pages Fraktur) out of 296 pages. That's 76% non-Blackletter and a signal for a demand.

    1930 Tannenberg was designed, a "broken Grotesk". It still had the character of the 45 degree pen, but strokes of unique thickness, and reduced in design. 

    So we see that scientists and artists had problems with Blackletter and Fraktur and the change wasn't only an accident in history. 

    We can also ask, if other countries or languages use Antiqua just for fun or had serious problems with Blackletter.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 841
    edited February 2020
    One thing to note as well: part of the reason I perhaps have a prejudice in favor of legibility in the brute-force sense as an attribute is because I relate to 19th Century printing in the English-speaking world. There, legibility was at a premium, because inexpensive books were sometimes set in 6 point type - and the classified ads in newspapers could even be set in 4½ point type. To expect people to read that, easily - and even, when replying to a classified advertisement, to spell people's names correctly (they could be foreign names, so one wouldn't always be able to rely on bouma) - implies the typeface used had better be legible.
    So if one's ingrained habits say a typeface, to be usable, must be legible even at 4½ points, one will place a high premium on legibility.


    Gutenberg himself cut a simpler typeface than Bible-Textura for non-relgious texts, a sort of Bastarda. The French first used Textura and very fast designed their Batard. England used Textura longer.

    In Germany Schwabacher established as next step. It has nearly the same small letters as the later Fraktur, but simpler capital letters.

    1930 Tannenberg was designed, a "broken Grotesk". It still had the character of the 45 degree pen, but strokes of unique thickness, and reduced in design.

    We can also ask, if other countries or languages use Antiqua just for fun or had serious problems with Blackletter.

    On the other hand, given that Blackletter seems so obviously bad, why was it ever used at all?
    Here, there is an obvious answer: Roman type may be something that can be produced by the punch-cutter's art, but one wouldn't expect people to actually write that way. Handwriting is normally less legible than type, and before printing, books were hand-lettered.
    So the force of habit made blackletter seem to be the dignified clothing for the written and printed word. As a speaker of English, a language whose orthography is a by-word for atrociousness, I certainly can understand the mentality.
    Certainly, a typeface can have calligraphic characteristics and still be legible, as your examples of modified versions of Fraktur prove. While I may be unfair to blackletter and Fraktur, on the other hand, I think those kinds of type deserve to be seen more often. Not only for their own merit, but because they could evolve in the direction of even greater legibility in a different way, leading to alternatives to Roman type.





  • Perhaps it would be best to split the thread, guys. It has gone too off-topic, IMPO.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 841
    edited February 2020
    To return, then, to the topic of this thread, since a thread about the legibility or lack of same of Fraktur really serves little purpose, I have gone back to the old thread about the acceptance of the capital eszet to get background information.
    Indeed, the long s + s ligature was just borrowed from use in other languages to have something to stand for an eszet.
    In Fraktur, a long s + z ligature was the traditional form for the eszet. The current common form for the eszet that looks almost like a Greek Beta is the Sulzbacher form.
    And that the eszet is a letter, and not a ligature? Even if that were debatable before, the 1996 orthographic reform of German leaves no doubt; the rules for its use in spelling mean that it is being treated as a letter, with very definite rules as to where it may or may not be used. And so one has words with "sss" in them where, because of the nature of the preceding vowel, it is no longer possible to change the first two "s"s into an eszet.
    And this is connected with the Adelung versus Heyse theories of German orthography, one school working best with Fraktur, and with the ascendancy being reversed by the 1996 reform.

Sign In or Register to comment.