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I am new to the graphics design part of SE, my home is TeX, hence I hope this is the right place to ask this:

Are Th ligatures used in the German language for typesetting? I am right now in the process of typesetting a book and before we used a font that didn't offer this ligature, but in Adobe Garamond Pro, you can use it: Th ligature in Adobe Garamond Pro

  1. So first of all, are Th ligatures used in German language typesetting?
  2. If they are used, what are the rules for when to use them?

Thanks for your support!

  • Why wouldnt it be allowed the ligature fixes what would otherwise be a bit tricky kerning. – joojaa Jun 6 at 20:53
  • @joojaa In German language texts, you only use ligatures if they are not crossing a morpheme boundary. So e.g. Affe would have a ligature for ff but Auffassung wouldn’t use one. But all rules I could find for German typesetting only discuss standard ligatures (ff, fl, go), not Th. – TobiBS Jun 6 at 20:58
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    Yes but that does not apply for Th. – joojaa Jun 6 at 21:05
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I am aware of two reasons not to use a ligature:

  • It would optically create a connection where it is unfitting, usually over a morpheme boundary, e.g., shelfful in English or Geburtstag in German. Since the Th ligature by nature only occurs at the beginning of a morpheme (and a singular T is no morpheme in German), this does not apply.

  • The ligature is reserved for special orthographic meaning, which does not apply in the case in question, e.g., you wouldn’t use a ck ligature for Ranicki in German blackletter typesetting. There is not reserved meaning for this ligature, so you can freely use it.

Thus I think you can activate it without any worries. I have done so in German typesetting myself and I have seen others use this ligature, though it is naturally rare since few fonts support it and Th is not that common in German.

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  • thanks for that reply! So it means words like Thema, Thüringen, Thron, etc. where the h is a stretching h would go well with it? – TobiBS Jun 6 at 21:15
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    @TobiBS: Yes. By the way: Whether those are stretching Ths is not really clear. At the very least, only a very tiny percentage of the population knows about this former property of Th, given that it was abolished in the spelling reform 1901 (except for Thron). – Wrzlprmft Jun 7 at 7:25
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Well, the thing is 'Th' ligatures aren't used anywhere traditionally. They were popularized in the early digital period by Adobe, who put them on their serif typefaces as standard. Before that they were unknown except in a few odd cases, often on script typefaces, although one early typeface that had one is Palatino Italic, by a German type designer, Hermann Zapf-perhaps that's where Adobe got the idea from. On page 9 of the Adobe Garamond Pro specimen book there's a specimen of the original sixteenth-century type it's based on, which didn't have a Th ligature. So really there are no rules known to me. The reason to use them, if you like them, is that some people feel they make the 'T' and the 'h' fit together more neatly with no awkward gap. Some people find them distracting. I'm aware of the German rule that ligatures can't join across morpheme boundaries, but that doesn't seem like it would normally be relevant here because you're changing case from 'T' to 'h'.

As an illustration of them being new, here's Beatrice Warde's 1926 article on Garamond fonts, which starting on page 41 shows "Garamond" revivals from six different companies-none have 'Th' ligatures. Paul Shaw also describes the "Th" ligature as "ahistoric" in his very good book Revival Type.

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    So what you are basically saying it's a choice based on the personal preference for or against the Th ligature? – TobiBS Jun 21 at 20:41
  • Yes, completely. It's a very recent trend. – Copilot Jun 21 at 21:42

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