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When creating a new font we also need to take care of special German characters. As it is fairly easy to create an Umlaut there are several variations on how to create an Esszett. Below there are only some of many examples:

enter image description here from Wikimedia

Are there any official typography rules that we could apply when creating an Eszett in a font?

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In the first moment I thought we already had this question. Then I found the article and I saw, that you gave the top voted answer :D – Em1 Jan 24 '12 at 10:17
Have fun with your own font :)… – John Smithers Jan 24 '12 at 10:29
To be honest: I fail to see the real problem. Sure there are a lot of variants but that is true for many letters, e.g. a, g, w, and &. And these are only latin letters. (Admittedly, I'm no type designer but merely a typography geek.) – musiKk Jan 24 '12 at 10:34
Come to think of it, this question is actually off-topic. There is a graphic design site that should be better suited. – musiKk Jan 24 '12 at 20:18
The sz-ligature in your picture is somewhat incorrect. In fact, the ligature originated from "sz", with the "Langes S" and "Altdeutsches Z" ligatured together. The ß is not a ligature of "ss", but actually of "sz". However, the diphthong "sz" is practically nowhere used in the German language anymore. The origin seems to be in the shadows a bit, but the ligature did not originate from "ss", we simply use it interchangeably sometimes. – polemon Jan 25 '12 at 5:40

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There does not seem to be an official rule. The orthographic conferences tried to define some things with the letter and how it should be written (over hundred years ago, the single letter did not exist), but it seems there is nothing official left today. There are definitions how the letter(s) should be written, but they are only defined for a single font, e.g. for Antiqua, which is the base of many other types. Other typographists came up with other forms of the letter. The Grimms wanted to have a letter/ligature, but just used the letters sz instead.

Since the Eszett (note that you're not supposed to eat this (; ) evolved, as can be clearly seen from your picture, from a ligature of the letters ss/sz (long s with round s, or long s with z (z with Unterschlinge), it is in typography typically created as such. The modern form is no longer a ligature, but a distinct letter, with a typical form that is somehow similar to the Greek Beta. There does not seem to be an official rule. ISO/IEC 10646 / Unicode defines a form of the letter (and also for the upper-case Eszett), though the glyphs are not normative.

According to Wikipedia, where your image is from, the non-ligature letter is the Sulzbacher Form and is very common in most modern fonts, but a lot of fonts (especially those not made for long texts, but rather for signs) use one of the ligatures. I think that is similar to the usage of the ampersand. Many clear fonts use a simplistic ampersand, but some of the more beautiful fonts use the Et-ligature (et is Latin for and, and also French). I don't have a Duden handy, but I don't think I've ever seen something about the letter in it.

The picture also misses several variants, like the typical sz-ligature found on street signs: Petersburger Straße / Bersarinplatz

(also from Wikimedia. Note that the second sign shows the tz-ligature, which is rare today).

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+1 for the Berlin street signs – Portree Kid Jan 24 '12 at 16:43

No, there are no official typography rules (I searched for them about a year ago — for the same reason: to create a costum font.)

The image above looks like a window into the history of "ß". The most common form is version 4, followed by version 2. The others have more historical value and might even confuse readers.

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it is the hardest character, and for me it sometimes makes the difference if I use a free font or buy one. To make it fit into I usualy take "B" and "b" as base. – blindfold Jan 24 '12 at 10:16

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