The first edition of The Chicago Manual of Style was published in 1906, when horses outnumbered cars and typewriters and telephones had only recently become fixtures of the modern office. Yet the books and articles published back then weren’t all that different from the ones published today, and a lot of the advice in the original Manual still applies.
What’s more interesting, though, is to look at what isn’t done anymore.
One of the most obvious differences between the first edition and the seventeenth (published in 2017) has to do with space. When the first edition was published, extra space was evident everywhere in the Manual,* starting with the space between sentences.
As detailed in the Shop Talk post “One Space or Two,” the convention in 1906 for published documents wasn’t literally two spaces between sentences, but an em space—or three times the amount of space between words.
Note the large space after the period in the third line of text in this screenshot from the beginning of the preface to the first edition:
This spacing practice wouldn’t last long: By 1925, when the eighth edition was published, Chicago was already recommending an en space between sentences (half the width of an em). And by 1949, the year the eleventh was published, the extra space between sentences was gone.
Other spacing conventions, too, would be announced in 1906 and then disappear for good.
Spaces in Abbreviations
The preference in the seventeenth edition of CMOS is to write initialisms, or abbreviations consisting of initial letters, without periods if capitalized (MA, PhD, US, HI) and with periods if lowercase (e.g., i.e., a.m., p.m.). There are no spaces between these letters (see CMOS 10.4).
The first edition specified periods for all initialisms and, in many cases, a full space between letters.
Initials for degrees and other titles after a name were an exception, getting periods but no spaces, as noted in the following paragraph, one of about forty that follow and complete the heading “CAPITALIZE—”:
But most other abbreviations in the first edition were set with spaces, including “U. S.” (United States), “H. I.” (Hawaiian Islands, not yet a state), “R. R.” (railroad), and “A. V.” (for the Authorized Version of the Bible), as the following paragraph (one of several preceded by the heading “SPELL OUT—”) illustrates:†
Lowercase abbreviations and abbreviations in small capital letters were, by contrast, set with a thin space between letters.‡ This included the abbreviations for ante and post meridiem—or “a.m.” and “p.m.” (Chicago’s current preference; see CMOS 10.41), which were written in small caps with periods, as in “A. M.” and “P. M.”:
The first edition also called for thin spaces between the lowercase initials in “i.e.” and “e.g.” (i.e., “i. e.” and “e. g.”), as this paragraph (under the heading “ITALICIZE—”) shows:
Chicago now retains spaces between initials only in personal names (as in “E. B. White”; see CMOS 10.12).
Never Mind; or, Spaces in Abbreviations Are So 1906
If you think those spaces in “U. S.” and “A. M.” and “i. e.” are a bit too fussy, Chicago’s editors apparently did too. By 1910—when the second edition was published—they were all gone.
Here’s the 1910 update to the “a.m.” and “p.m.” paragraph (and note the new cross-references to four other paragraphs covering initials for readers unfamiliar with the new rule):**
And here’s the 1910 version of the paragraph advising readers not to italicize “i.e.” and “e.g.”; the parenthetical instruction that followed the thin-spaced “i. e.” and “e. g.” in paragraph 53 of the first edition—“(set with a thin space)”—is now gone, as are the spaces:
And that’s how Chicago still does it (i.e., “i.e.” and “e.g.” with no space between the letters); see CMOS 10.7.
Apostrophes for Plurals
The seventeenth edition of CMOS specifies apostrophes only for the plurals of lowercase letters—as in a’s and b’s, which would be borderline illegible without them (as and bs).
In 1906, these pluralizing apostrophes were applied more liberally. The first edition recommended them for the plurals of numerals (1900’s), initialisms (Y. M. C. A.’s; note the spaces), and the catch-all “rare or artificial noun-coinages” (“two’s and three’s”; “these I-just-do-as-I-please’s”). They were also recommended for names ending in a sibilant (s, x, or z)—but only those of more than one syllable:
So that’s two or more Rosses (the plural of Ross, no apostrophe) but more than one Tommy Atkins’ (the plural of Atkins—with an apostrophe at the end of the word).
It wasn’t until the eleventh edition (published in 1949) that “all the Tommy Atkins’ of England” became “all the Tommy Atkinses of England,” which conforms to the current rule (see CMOS 7.9, where “Martinezes” illustrates the same principle).
By 1969, when the twelfth edition was published, most of these recommended apostrophes had been eliminated.
Semicolons Inside Quotation Marks
In Jane Austen’s time, semicolons (like periods and commas) went inside closing quotation marks, as the third line of this snippet from page 206 of the third volume of the 1816 first edition of Emma shows:
And that’s what the first edition of Chicago recommended. Semicolons were placed inside closing quotation marks, as stated in paragraph 127:
You may have noticed this usage above, in the screenshots of paragraphs 93 and 149 in the first edition, where semicolons follow “Oregon;” and “please’s;” (like that, inside the closing quotation marks). If that looks odd to you, Chicago’s editors must have thought so too. The rule was promptly reversed, as paragraph 140 in the 1910 second edition shows:
For more on the history of punctuation next to quotation marks, see the Shop Talk post “Commas and Periods with Quotation Marks.”
And so on . . . .
There were lots of little oddities like these in the first edition. For example, ellipses consisted of four dots, not three, as in the heading above (and as noted in the Shop Talk post “Dot Dot Dot: A Closer Look at the Ellipsis”). And the word percent was spelled per cent. (with a space and a period).
But many things were the same. The first edition recommended serial commas (though Oxford got the credit; see “Oxford, Chicago, and the Serial Comma”), and it introduced the abbreviated scheme for inclusive page numbers still used today (133–34, but 100–101 and 104–5; see paragraph 157 in the first edition and CMOS 9.61).
The first edition also said not to hyphenate compounds formed with -ly adverbs, another principle that’s stood the test of time (see CMOS 7.86). And Chicago’s editors knew about suspended hyphens (see CMOS 7.88 for the current rule), though they didn’t yet have a name for them:
That paragraph-ending note about writers who consider the suspended hyphen “an objectionable Teutonism” persisted in the Manual through the seventh edition, published in 1920. Starting with the eighth (1925), the rule was restated as applying to two or more compound words with a “common base” (8th ed., ¶ 246)—without any reference to German hyphenation practices.
Gone, too, was this comment at the end of paragraph 205, on the subject of end-of-line word division (a topic still covered in CMOS; see paragraphs 7.36–47):
The line “Shun such monstrosities as—” was eliminated for the seventh edition, together with the four examples of bad (or monstrous) line breaks that it introduced.
* * *
There are many things to be learned from old books, including past editions of CMOS. The details in this post only hint at what’s in the pages of those early editions, which covered everything from comma usage and footnote style to how to proofread: “Read everything as if you yourself were the author, and your reputation and fortune depended upon its accuracy” (p. 99.). Today’s Manual may reflect a different world, but some things never change.
* The 1906 Manual of Style would become A Manual of Style (with an A) as of the fifth edition, published in 1917. It didn’t get the title The Chicago Manual of Style until 1982, when the thirteenth edition was published.
† The U. S. SS. “Oregon” example in paragraph 93 refers to the US steamship Oregon. Which brings us to another difference between then and now: Chicago has recommended italics rather than quotation marks for the names of vessels since 1969, when the twelfth edition of the Manual was published. See CMOS 8.116 for the current rule.
‡ Unicode defines all the various types of spaces that would have been familiar to editors in 1906, including the thin space (U+2009). But because a thin space will break at the end of a line in HTML, it’s represented where needed in this post by a narrow no-break space (U+202F) to ensure the letters stay together. For more details, see the Shop Talk post “Navigating Spaces in Manuscripts and Beyond.”
** Small caps and periods for “a.m.” and “p.m.”—with no space between the letters (A.M. and P.M.)—remained Chicago’s recommendation until the publication of the fifteenth edition of CMOS (in 2003).
Screenshots from the first and second editions of the Manual of Style and from Emma courtesy of the Internet Archive. A facsimile of the first edition is also available from CMOS Online.
Please see our commenting policy.