Proofing old texts

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DP Official Documentation - Proofreading
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Long s

In older texts, there are two different forms of the lower-case letter s: long s and round s. Here are some examples from different fonts:

f Long s Round s
F roman.png Longs.png Round s.png
F ital.png Long s ital.png Round s ital.png
F bl.png Long s bl.png Round s bl.png
F another.png Long s 2.png Round s 2.png

The round s looks like the modern letter s; it is normally used at the end of words. The long s looks more like the modern letter f with part or all of the crossbar missing; it is used in the beginning and middle of words.

Some texts use long s in pairs, as in “miſſing”, while others use long s for only the first one, as in “miſsing”.

There is only one form of the capital S, which looks like the modern letter (just a larger round s).

The long s is usually proofed simply as s, without marking it specially. However, some project managers may request that proofers mark it as [s] or [f].

(In blackletter texts, a kind of squiggle looking a bit like a long s at the end of words may be an abbreviation symbol that represent -es or -is. See Proofing blackletter for more information on blackletter conventions.)

ss symbol

In addition, occasionally a long s is joined to round s, like this:

Ss lig.png

Some PMs request that this be proofed as ss, and others as ß.

Usage of u/v and i/j

In the 1600s and before, the letters u, v, i, and j were used differently than they are today. Often v was used only at the beginning of a word, while u was used in the middle and end, as in these words: vpon, vntil, haue, giue. In addition, usually i was used where we have a j today: iudge, obiect. The letter j may occur in Roman numerals, though, such as iij. In capital letters, there usually was no U or J; only V and I were used.

Unless the PM gives special instructions otherwise, proof these just the way they appear in the image. Do not modernize the spelling.


Refer to the Proofing blackletter page for details on the much more extensive range of abbreviation symbols used in blackletter texts. Only the subset of abbreviations that survived in non-blackletter texts after the beginning of the 16th century is described here.

Latin Abbreviations

Some old Latin texts have a large number of abbreviations. Instead of matching the scans, some Project Managers choose to have proofreaders substitute in the full words for the abbreviations in order to make the text more readable for Latin readers. This practice is acceptable to Project Gutenberg, but it is preferable in such cases that the Post-Processors include a table in the Transcriber's Note to list the abbreviations that were expanded/substituted.

Nasal abbreviations

Sometimes an n or m is abbreviated by putting a mark over the preceding letter:

Image Meaning
Ground.png ground
France.png France
Complete.png complete

These may be proofed as macrons [=u], tildes [~u], or according to the meaning (i.e. u[n] or u[m]), depending on the project manager's instructions.


Abbreviations may also be indicated by superscripts:

Image Meaning
Praeface ye.png or Assemble the.png the
Praeface yt.png or Assemble that.png that
Assemble thou.png thou

Often these are proofed as superscripts, such as y^e, but sometimes they are proofed according to the meaning instead, as [the].

-que symbol

In Latin, words ending in -que are sometimes abbreviated, using various symbols:

Que1.png Que2.png Que3.png Que4.png Que5.png Que6.png

Various notations have been used for these symbols, including [que] and [*que].


In older texts there are often flourishes connecting letters, particularly the letters 'ct' and sometimes 'st':

Ct lig.png Ct lig ital.png St lig.png

These are not noted specially in proofing, so just proof them as the two letters (i.e., 'ct' or 'st').


Frequently in older texts you will see a single word at the bottom of the page, which is the same as the first word on the next page. This is called a "catchword," and can be omitted in proofing just like any page footer. See the Proofreading Guidelines for details.

Punctuation and Other Symbols


These are some examples of ampersands (&) in different fonts:

Amp.png Amp ital.png Amp bl.png Amp bl2.png

The one that looks like a numeral 7 is called the Tironian ampersand. In unicode it can be found in General Punctuation: ⁊. For some projects, the PM may ask that it be proofed differently from the ordinary ampersand, for example as [et].

As in many books through the 1800s, the phrase et cetera may be abbreviated as &c. rather than the modern etc. Leave it as the author wrote it.

In blackletter texts, et cetera may be abbreviated as &c. with a macron over the c:


Question Marks

Question marks may look like the modern ?, or part of the top may be cut off, like this:


Proof them as the modern question mark: '?'.


These are some older forms of the pilcrow, or paragraph symbol (¶):

Pilcrow.png Pilcrow2.png


In some early blackletter texts, a forward slash (/) was used as a comma. Proof it as / unless the PM instructs otherwise. See Proofing blackletter for more on blackletter punctuation.

See also

External links

To comment or request edits to this page, please contact jjz or John_NZ.

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