When in the course of human events...
... it becomes necessary for one person to understand something strange, weird, or unexpected, they often turn to a Search Engine.
And with that Sentence, I illustrate the Challenge for today.
As you probably noticed, my use of capital letters was a bit odd in the preceeding couple of sentences. These days, we understand what gets capitalized: Initial letters of sentences, proper names, words for emphasis, and specialty terms (e.g., "Search Challenge").
But this wasn't always the case. If you look at just the text of the US Declaration of Independence from the Archives.gov website, you'll see:
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Note where the capitals are in those few transcribed sentences: "Declaration" and "State of America" (and most notably, not "united").
But it gets even weirder when you look at one of the earliest copies of the Declaration (which I've marked up here to point out some of the interesting and odd typography). The capitals seem scattered almost at random:
All of the f-shaped characters are, of course, the "Long S" character. (It's interesting to note that "happiness" is spelt "happineſs." And yes, I used the correct character there.)
But notice the pattern of capital letters. In the Archives.gov version, "Events" isn't capitalized, but "Course" is! On the other hand, in the earlier version, lots of other words get capitals (highlights in pink rectangles). Course, Events, People, Political, Powers, Earth, Station... they're all capitalized.
And then there are all of the little "connectors" that link two letters (some of which are pointed to by my red arrows). What's up with that?
This leads to today's Challenges:
1. What's the story with the Capital letters in the 18th century? Were they just throwing in caps at random, or is there a Rhyme, and Reason to their capitalization?
2. Related: How / why / when did our practice of capitalization change to what it is currently? (And, for extra credit, do other countries follow the same pattern of capitalization that we English-speaking types do? For that fact, is the practice of capitalization the same in the US as in the UK?)
3. What are those funny connectors between characters? What are they called, what pairs of letters have them, and how can I get those on MY computer?
As is our Usual Practice, please let us know HOW you found the Answers in the comments below.
(And, just to remind you: The "Danish optical instrument" Challenge is still open. I have some new leads, but I'll write to you tomorrow about that.)