Blackletter typefaces

When he was creating the first typographic characters, Gutenberg copied the only model of handwriting available – the Gothic script used in Germany for copying manuscripts. The Bible he printed was thus composed using a Gothic face known as Textura, a very stiff script that was normally used for liturgical texts.

New typefaces that imitated other blackletter scripts quickly saw the light, such as the more rounded rotunda, which was used for a wide variety of texts written in Latin. Country-specific scripts were also converted to type, including the German Schwabacher and Fraktur, and the French Bâtarde.

Starting in the 1530s, French printers gradually abandoned blackletter and turned to roman and italic typefaces.

All these blackletter scripts were relatively rigid, and were written with thick, very black lines (hence the name). Blackletter remained the dominant typeface in Germany for nearly five hundred years, until it was banned by the Nazis in 1941. It was not nearly as long-lived in France – Gothic type was a legacy from the medieval period, and it ran into competition from roman and italic faces, which were more modern and very much favoured by humanists. Starting in the 1530s, French printers gradually abandoned blackletter and turned to roman and italic typefaces instead .

In 1557, the Lyon printer Robert Granjon made an attempt to restore blackletter's popularity by recreating the cursive gothic handwriting of the period. This very calligraphic font Granjon spoke of a "lettre française d’art de main", was briefly popular before it sank into oblivion in the early 17th century. It was often used to set courtesy books, and became known under the name Civilité.

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