As you can probably tell from the Huffduffer logotype, I like .


Most ligatures are formed by the combination of the lowercase letter f and a subsequent letter—although the gorgeous includes a few more unusual ones.

There’s an old letter that looks a lot like the lowercase f and that’s .


Up until the 19th century, this was the default way of writing the letter s at the beginning or in the middle of words. Our letter s—called the short s—was mostly used when a word finished with an s or when an s followed an s (the word Congress on The Declaration of Independence matches both criteria).


I was in Warwick last weekend, the day before Richard’s wedding. While Jessica and I were exploring the crypts, I found some ligatures that were new to me.


This looks like a regular ft ligature but actually it’s a long s followed by a t—look at the way the crossbar on the long s doesn’t go all the way across the vertical stem like it would on an f. Another dead give-away is the fact that the word being spelled is Christian.

Christian ligature

On another headstone I found a ligature formed by the combination of a long s and the letter b, used to spell the word Husband.

Ligature Husband ligature

While there is a corresponding f-based ligature, I can’t remember ever seeing it in the wild. The combination of f and b is rare in the English language. The only examples I can think of are compound words like halfblood or halfbreed; words more often spelled with a hyphen separating the f and the b.

My photographs of the subterranean ligatures didn’t turn out great—my little point’n’shoot camera isn’t very good with low-light conditions—so I whipped out my sketchbook, put a page in front of the letters and recorded some pencil rubbings for posterity.

Have you published a response to this? :

Previously on this day

15 years ago I wrote Dear Auntie Beeb

In the article “Real ‘frees’ Apple’s iPod player”, the following paragraph appears:

16 years ago I wrote Blog Change Bot

I’m trying out a new service called

17 years ago I wrote clagnut

I got a nice email from Richard Rutter who has a great blog called Clagnut.

17 years ago I wrote Behind the Typeface: Cooper Black

Here’s a real labour of love. Informative and funny, it’s a look at the history of one typeface: Cooper Black.

17 years ago I wrote NetNewsWire Lite

If you’re using OS X on a Mac, you should check out this great new application from Ranchero.