It’s been a few weeks into the 2012 American Antiquarian Society Seminar, and as we delve into the actual collection of texts on “Reason, Revival, and Revolution”, a simple question has lead to a continually developing answer. Early in the semester, the question of why some texts contain two different styles of the letter “s” arose, such as the image below:
While usually, a re-printing of these famous texts would no longer include the letter variation, the opportunity to work with the collection at the Antiquarian Society allows us to ask questions we may not have even considered thinking about before.
The thing I’ve found most interesting is the different answers I’ve received. The first answer was that it was a matter of the printing press, that it was convenient and a commonly done thing. This answer then provided the next answer, from another professor; that the long “s” was even included in American printing because it was based off of British printing, which soon brought on the question of how this “s” made its way into the British printing process. It seems to have been influenced by German printing when the British throne was taken over again by a German bloodline. Later, this led to the topic of the original different writing styles from the middle ages, which were then transferred over to printing machines.
I think the point I’m trying to make here is that being able to examine these primary sources, courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, allows students to ask interesting questions. These questions then aren’t limited to our seminar topic, but expand beyond the course and continue to rattle around until larger connections are made.
I hardly think I understand everything about the literal printing process, or even the stylistic variations of the letter “s” yet, but I’m eager to see where this question will continue to lead and what other small questions or observations made in the seminar will pop up and spiral into interesting areas.