• "Black letter" redirects here. For the legal concept, see Black letter law. For the letter sent to Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, see MacDonald Letter.
    "Gothic letter" redirects here. For the alphabet of the Gothic language, see Gothic alphabet. For other uses, see Gothic script (disambiguation).


    Blackletter (sometimes black letter), also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 until the 17th century.[1] It continued to be commonly used for the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish languages until the 1870s,and for the German language until the 1940s, when Hitler's distaste for the supposedly "Jewish-influenced" script saw it officially discontinued in 1941. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes the entire group of blackletter faces is incorrectly referred to as Fraktur. Blackletter is sometimes referred to as Old English, but it is not to be confused with the Old English language (or Anglo-Saxon), which predates blackletter by many centuries and was written in the insular script or in Futhorc. Along with Italic type and Roman type, blackletter served as one of the major typefaces in the history of Western typography.

    Carolingian minuscule was the direct ancestor of blackletter. Blackletter developed from Carolingian as an increasingly literate 12th-century Europe required new books in many different subjects. New universities were founded, each producing books for business, law, grammar, history and other pursuits, not solely religious works, for which earlier scripts typically had been used.

    These books needed to be produced quickly to keep up with demand. Labor-intensive Carolingian, though legible, was unable to effectively keep up.[citation needed] Its large size consumed a lot of manuscript space in a time when writing materials were very costly. As early as the 11th century, different forms of Carolingian were already being used, and by the mid-12th century, a clearly distinguishable form, able to be written more quickly to meet the demand for new books,[citation needed] was being used in northeastern France and the Low Countries.

    The term Gothic was first used to describe this script in 15th-century Italy, in the midst of the Renaissance, because Renaissance humanists believed this style was barbaric, and Gothic was a synonym for barbaric. Flavio Biondo, in Italia Illustrata (1474), wrote that the Germanic Lombards invented this script after they invaded Italy in the 6th century.

    Not only were blackletter forms called Gothic script, but any other seemingly barbarian script, such as Visigothic, Beneventan, and Merovingian, were also labeled Gothic. This in contrast to Carolingian minuscule, a highly legible script which the humanists called littera antiqua ("the ancient letter" wink , wrongly believing that it was the script used by the ancient Romans. It was in fact invented in the reign of Charlemagne, although only used significantly after that era, and actually formed the basis for the later development of blackletter.

    Blackletter script should not be confused with either the ancient alphabet of the Gothic language nor with the sans-serif typefaces that are also sometimes called Gothic.

    Textualis, also known as textura or Gothic bookhand, was the most calligraphic form of blackletter, and today is the form most associated with "Gothic". Johannes Gutenberg carved a textualis typeface – including a large number of ligatures and common abbreviations – when he printed his 42-line Bible. However, textualis was rarely used for typefaces after this.



    A related characteristic is the half r (also called r rotunda), the shape of ⟨r⟩ when attached to other letters with bows; only the bow and tail were written, connected to the bow of the previous letter. In other scripts, this only occurred in a ligature with the letter ⟨o⟩.
    Similarly related is the form of the letter ⟨d⟩ when followed by a letter with a bow; its ascender is then curved to the left, like the uncial ⟨d⟩. Otherwise the ascender is vertical.
    The letters ⟨g⟩, ⟨j⟩, ⟨p⟩, ⟨q⟩, ⟨y⟩, and the hook of ⟨h⟩ have descenders, but no other letters are written below the line.
    The letter a has a straight back stroke, and the top loop eventually became closed, somewhat resembling the number ⟨8⟩. The letter s often has a diagonal line connecting its two bows, also somewhat resembling an ⟨8⟩, but the long s is frequently used in the middle of words.
    Minims, especially in the later period of the script, do not connect with each other. This makes it very difficult to distinguish ⟨i⟩, ⟨u⟩, ⟨m⟩, and m. A 14th-century example of the difficulty minims produced is: mimi numinum niuium minimi munium nimium uini muniminum imminui uiui minimum uolunt ('the smallest mimes of the gods of snow do not wish at all in their life that the great duty of the defenses of wine be diminished'). In blackletter, this would look like a series of single strokes. As a result, dotted and the letter ⟨j⟩ were subsequently developed.Minims may also have finals of their own.
    The script has many more scribal abbreviations than Carolingian, adding to the speed in which it could be written.