The history of gothic fonts

DATE:October 30, 2017

The word gothic refers to a particular type of style seen in architecture, painting, sculpture and music. When referring to Gothic, Fraktur or Old English fonts, we’re talking about Blackletter typeface.

Blackletter is defined as a term used to explain and illustrate scripts from the Middle Ages. The characters that are used have dark characteristics that create a contrast with the whiteness of the page. Blackletter has roots that can be found in calligraphic scripts and organic shapes.

These typefaces evolved in Western Europe from the mid 12th century and can be recognized from early manuscript writing by their dramatic thin and thick strokes, diagonal thin serifs on lowercase letters and, in some cases, elaborate swirling serifs on uppercase letters. This style of font is most commonly known from its first use in the Gothenburg Bible, one of the first books printed in Europe.

A script known as Carolingian Minuscule was the first known Blackletter typeface. Carolingian Minuscule was originally developed to provide legibility across the land of Emperor Charlemagne, including Western and Central Europe. Though this typeface was specifically created to be legible, it actually became more challenging to decipher as it developed over time.

While there are hundreds of blackletter fonts, there are four major families we can identify.

Textura

This is the most decorative of the blackletter fonts. Its defining qualities are large diagonal serifs and a calligraphic style. This font was used mainly in France, Germany and England.

Rotunda

This style is an alternative that uses less rigid and angular forms in its letters.

Schwabacher

This black-letter form has cursive elements as well as a thick and rustic style.

Fraktur

Fraktur is one of the most commonly used styles of Blackletter scripts. It is considered to be the most elegant forms because of its soft curves.

Gothic fonts are more than just another style – they include so much culture and history. We see these fonts in advertising today in logos, posters and signs. Blackletter type is often associated with themes inspired from the Middle Ages, making it a great font to use in October.

Check out our blog for more posts about the history and trends of typography. Happy Halloween!

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