ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ

As ſpecial collections librarians, we have an abiding intereſt in the hiſtory of printing, books, and manuſcripts. As ſuch, it pains us that ſ, the long s, has not only been ſwept into the waſtebin of hiſtory, but also has no ſuitable digital equivalent.

Logo for the Society for the Restoration of the Long STo this end, we have founded the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ, a group dedicated to bringing back this neglected character. We invite you to join us by pledging the oath:

I, ________, ſolemnly ſwear to ſuſtain ſyſtematic uſe of the long ſ, in manuſcripts and print, on ſcreens and perſonal devices, for the ſake of myſelf and my ſociety.

The ſ has a ſtoried hiſtory. Before 1800, the lowercaſe letter s appeared in two forms, the one we uſe today and ſ, which typically looked like an f without the right half of its croſſbar. The italic form of ſ (ʃ) lacked the half-croſſbar.1 Our modern ſcreen equivalent also lacks this half-croſſbar, a development we deteſt and oppoſe!

Inaugural members of the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ after pledging the oath of memberſhip.

Inaugural members of the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ after pledging the oath of memberſhip.

The ſ goes back as far as Roman inſcriptions. By the 12th century, people uſed ſ at the beginning and middle of words, and s at the end of them. The ſ did not replace the capital letter s. Printers continued theſe conventions, as do we (with one exception: the capital S in our ſociety name).1

The ſ was on its way out beginning in 1782, when our ſociety’s menace, François-Ambroiſe Didot, cut a new “modern” typeface without the character. Other printers followed his lead.1 By the 19th century, the era of ſ in print (if not in handwriting) was over everywhere but Germany, where it remains today in the form of the Eſzett, or double s (ß).2,3

Join us! Petition Apple, Samſung, Microſoft, and other tech companies and printers to reinſtate the historic ſ! And ſhare your efforts on ſocial media.

Below we preſent a ſelection of collection items featuring ſ and ʃ, bolſtering our argument for the letter’s ſuſtained uſe. Click on an image to learn more.


1. Moſley J. The Long ſ. Print Hiʃt ʃoc Bull. 1991;31(Winter):32–33.

2. International Encyclopedia of Linguiʃtics, Volume 4. Oxford Univerſity Preſſ; 2003. Available at: Acceſſed March 16, 2016.

3. Gilder Lehrman Inſtitute of American Hiſtory. Inſide the Vault: The “Long ſ.” 2016. Available at: Acceſſed March 16, 2016.

Program Announcement: Interlibrary Snacking

As announced last month, our programming theme for 2015 is Eating Through Time.

We are thrilled to introduce a new pilot program, the Reciprocal Library Snack Cooperative, or Interlibrary Snacking, to go along with this theme. Our library boasts more than 10,000 volumes relating to food and cookery. For this new program, library staff will prepare recipes from the collection and send them to requesting libraries, who will in turn offer prepared recipes from their collections. All service providers will undergo thorough food safety training. In addition to white cotton gloves, cookbook users will receive hairnets.

Library snacks will focus on locally sourced, sustainable items. We are building a bespoke refrigeration unit based on the 1890 volume Mechanical Refrigeration and are taking into consideration cold storage advice from Into the Freezer—And Out (1946).

We are building a refrigeration unit based on his illustration from Mechanical Refrigeration, scheduled for completion in September 2016.

We are building a refrigeration unit, scheduled for completion in September 2016, based on this illustration from Mechanical Refrigeration.

The plan for our cold storage organization closely adheres to that shown in Into the Freezer—And Out.

The plan for our cold storage organization closely adheres to that shown in Into the Freezer—And Out.

Men Like Meat, an undated pamphlet from the American Can Company. Disclaimer on back cover: "We manufacture cans. We do no canning."

Men Like Meat, an undated pamphlet from the American Can Company. Disclaimer on back cover: “We manufacture cans – we do no canning.”

Before we tackle perishables, however, our focus will be on more shelf-stable foodstuff. Our collection includes a selection of items on canning, preserves, canned meats, food drying and dehydration, and other expiration-extending technologies.

The practice of developing new technologies to enable the safe transportation of food from one place to the next is an old story. As early as the 1850s, commercially canned goods—especially sardines, tomatoes, condensed milk, and fruits and vegetables—found an eager consumer audience in the Western United States. Cowboys bought oysters from Baltimore and canned tomatoes in bulk. In the early 20th century, canning facilitated the introduction of regional fruits like the California fig and the pineapple nationwide. Coast to coast, commercial canning introduced Americans to new foods, but often at the expense of freshness and taste.1

After the 1930s, supermarket foods were increasingly packaged: boxed, frozen, canned, dried, bottled, or combined in ready-to-eat forms. Advertisers marketed these in bright colors with catchy names that increased sales and added preservatives to ensure a longer-shelf life. Convenience usually trumped taste, and boredom at the family dinner table led many families increasingly to dine out.1

Our aim will be to use technologies like canning to enhance flavor. Along with the Reciprocal Library Snack Cooperative’s mission to include local, sustainable foods, we will also embrace more traditional methods of preservation. Goodbye chemical preservatives, hello pickling! Here is an example of a recipe currently in the works.

In addition, our program will have a secondary focus on recipes featuring new cooking technologies at the time of their publication. We have already had the soft-launch of the program: Our first item sent was inspired by this recipe from 1911.

The first recipe successfully made and sent as part of the Reciprocal Library Snack Cooperative.

The first recipe successfully made and sent as part of the Reciprocal Library Snack Cooperative.2

Want to know more about food history? Attend our Eating Through Time programming.

1. Hooker RJ. Food and drink in America: A history. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill; 1981.
2. Special thanks to Juan at Sterling Affair for preparing historically accurate toast.

Program Announcement: The Beginning of the Ends

CenterforBookendScholarship_logoThe Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health is excited to announce the founding of its newest program, the Center for Bookend Scholarship. Through the Center for Bookend Scholarship, we aim to foster knowledge and appreciation of the most underappreciated object in the history of the book. We will encourage scholarly and public interest in the bookend through exhibitions, public programs, and research opportunities.

Book storage methods as shown in Fasciculus Medicinae, published in 1495.

Book storage methods as shown in our 1509 edition of Fasciculus Medicinae. Click to enlarge.

Early libraries did not need bookends. People arranged books horizontally into the 16th century (and perhaps longer). Only once enough books existed to fill up a bookshelf—which only started to resemble the furniture of today in the 16th century—without falling over did libraries begin to store books vertically.1

It took even longer for people to shelve books spine-out. Many Medieval and Renaissance libraries chained books to lecterns and shelves; in order to attach the chain without causing damage, these libraries stored books fore-edge out. In the 16th century, books began to include authors and titles on their spines, though not universally, a sign that shelving practices included spine-out configurations. By the next century, nearly all books had bibliographic information on their spines.1

Bookends are a relatively new technology. The familiar L-shaped metal kind were first patented in the 1870s.1 It took some decades before the term became common parlance: the Oxford English Dictionary records 1907 as the first year the term “book end” appeared in print.2

The New York Academy of Medicine Library has long held an interest in the bookend. Since our founding in 1847, we have intentionally amassed thousands of bookends. Strengths of the collection include American and functional bookends, but we are beginning to add to our European and decorative holdings. Through the Center for Bookend Scholarship, we will now dedicate more time and attention to these objects as we move forward in building the world’s preeminent collection.

Below is a selection of bookends from our collection.

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1. Petroski, H. (2000). The book on the bookshelf. New York: Vintage Books.

2. book, n. (2014). OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from