Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Typography for Illustrators: 10. Gothic Classifications

Gothic

True Gothic style alphabets were the first style of letterforms adapted as moveable type fonts in Western Europe. Primarily beginning in Germany in the 15th century, the stylistic origins of Gothic movable types date back to 12th century ecclesiastic writing. Gothic typestyles can be described as block style calligraphic letterforms fashioned as the direct translation of German manuscript style. Johannes Gutenberg is credited with fashioned the first western movable type font, which contained over 300 characters, far more than are in the fonts of today. From Gutenberg, Gothic types developed regionally. In England, Gothic types were employed later when a alteration of the regional penmanship of the 16th and 17th centuries was adopted for printing.

Gothic letters also referred to as Blackletters have thick and thin strokes with an attempt at optically even proportioning. There is also a crude form of serif created by additional marks at the ends of vertical strokes. A parallel between Gothic letter styles and Gothic architecture can be seen in the heavy, decidedly dark, tone of letterform structures and the thick stone construction used in buildings of the same period, which influenced them. Gothic types are still in use today, but mainly as ornamental display faces.

Antiqua

Appearing between the last quarter of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries, Antiqua types comprise a group of types that mimic the hand style calligraphy of miniscule and later styles, but are also structurally modeled after Roman style capital letters. Also referred to as Venetian types, Antiqua types are less ornate than other forms of Gothic styles. Antiqua was the predominant Gothic style in the 15th and 16th centuries in European countries with the exception of Germany, where both Antiqua and Fraktur (see below) were used concurrently.

Format courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Format courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Fraktur

The term Fraktur, which has the same origin as the English term Fracture, means broken. This is a both a structural and a stylistic distinction of Fraktur types, which sometimes display a physical separation between the strokes within a letterform. An example of this trait can be seen in the capital F where the top cross stroke can be separated from the downward vertical stroke. Another characteristic of Fraktur types is their sharp angles and severe directional changes within letter strokes. Fraktur is a regional black letter style first popularized in Germany. To dramatize how localized the development of Gothic style types was, an even more localized interpretation of Fraktur called Schwabacher originated in the town of Schwabach.

Format courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Format courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Old English

There is some debate as to whether Old English types are descended from the written form of Old English or Anglo-Saxon language. One school of thought maintains that the Blackletter style of Old English wasn’t penned until several centuries later. The other asserts that Old English displays traits in lowercase letters that can be seen in Miniscule script writing. Old English types were England’s regional adaptation of earlier Blackletter styles, which became most prominently used in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Format courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Format courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.