“Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe”

More about deciphering eighteenth century handwriting.

Readers will, of course, have seen the sign “Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe” when looking for a place to have a cuppa. The “y” in the sign is a thorn and represents “th”; therefore one should say “The Olde …” The thorn is used in other words too.

Lower and upper case letters of the alphabet in their handwritten forms can be difficult to recognize and differentiate. Nouns were often capitalized but not consistently. The writer will sometimes capitalize a noun on one line but not on another. Or … use the lower case for a proper noun. Cast your eyes on these samples of upper and lower case letters.

Doesn’t the capital “L” look like an “S”? Many’s the time my colleagues and I have conferred in a manuscript library over the handwriting in a letter, trying to decide whether a particular word begins with a capital “G” or a lower case “g”.

One of the more confusing writing conventions met with in reading and transcribing eighteenth century letters and diaries is the “long s” that looks like the present-day “f;” it was used in the middle of words though not at the end. The words shown are “Congress” and “possible.”

I’m off shortly to help a friend examine a cache of family letters. Maybe the tips and examples given will help you decipher old family letters or diaries, if you’re lucky enough to have them.

The source for this post is “What Does That Say?” Series, Pt. I found HERE.

posted November 16th, 2017 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Primary sources


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