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Quirks of Old Documents: Spelling, Tildes, Ampersands, and the Long S





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Uploaded on Jan 7, 2010

Produced for the Shaping the Constitution Web portal at the Library of Virginia's Digital Collections Web site,

Maria Kimberly, educational resource coordinator, explains a few strange or confusing things that readers encounter in eighteenth-century documents and uses a resolution drafted by Patrick Henry in 1775 and an early printing of the United States Constitution as examples. Kimberly talks about how spelling has changed over time and the fact that writers have not always had ready access to dictionaries. She explains how English writers utilized the tilde (˜) to omit letters in some words and what an ampersand is and what it might look like. She gives several examples and a good explanation of the use of the long s, which is commonly mistaken by modern readers for an f.

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