Breaking Down: Blackletter Calligraphy Styles

Last Updated on February 19, 2024

Blackletter calligraphy, also known as Gothic script, is a distinctive and historically significant style of calligraphy that is created using broad edge pens. It’s characterized by its dense, angular, and highly ornamental letterforms. In this post, I will show the different kinds of blackletter that are out there to learn, and point you to ways to learn them.

P.S – Just so you are aware, in the broader calligraphy space there are 5 main kinds that you can learn more about them on my Calligraphy Roadmap.

The Classics of Blackletter

The first 4 scripts (of 11) we will cover in this blogpost would almost universally be agreed upon as Blackletter calligraphy and happen to be the most commonly used scripts by ancient scribes.

1. Textura (aka Textualis) – The “OG” of Blackletter

Textura is the granddaddy of blackletter styles. This dense, straight-up-and-down script looks like they’ve been chiseled onto a stone tablet. This was the go-to style for monks and scribes back in medieval times, making it the ultimate classic.

2. Bâtarde (aka Bastarda, Bastard Secretary) – The Middle Ground

Bâtarde is a transitional style that combines elements of blackletter and cursive scripts. It features a mix of curved and angular strokes and was often used for personal documents and correspondence.

3. Fraktur – (Nearly) Infinitely Customizable Perfection

Fraktur is one of the most recognizable blackletter styles, known for its broken or “fractured” appearance. Its letters seem like they’ve been shattered and pieced back together, creating an artsy, almost cryptic appearance. Fraktur was widely used in Germany until the 20th century. With it’s multiple individual strokes, each of the strokes can be modified to create your own personal style. Later in this post, I made a script, and it is available to learn called “Tattoo.” (#9 in this post)

4. Rotunda – Round-ish Blackletter

Rotunda is a more rounded variant of blackletter, with a more open, flowing feel and flat little “feet”. It takes a more relaxed approach. It’s letters are rounder, smoother, and easier on the eyes. It was big in Italy and Spain during the Renaissance.


Other Broad Edge scripts (Blackletter Adjacent)

While these scripts below are not *technically* blackletter scripts in the historical sense, but they are written with a broad edge pen and I will include them in this post. Folks who like to be “technically correct” might not like it, but I think if you have a broad edge pen (like a pilot parallel), you want to know what can be written with it. Without further ado let’s get into it.

5. Uncial – aka “Lord of the Rings” Style

A fan favourite, Uncial (pronounced un-see-al) is a script that is the chill, easygoing cousin of fancy scripts. It’s got these rounded, open letters that give off a laid-back vibe. It’s warm, inviting, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Uncial has this cool historical charm, too, dating back to ancient manuscripts. So, if you’re into a writing style that’s both relaxed and has a touch of old-school elegance, uncial might just be your jam!

6. Italics – Classy Blackletter

Italic calligraphy is like the graceful dancer of the pen world. Its slanted, flowing letters give off a sense of movement and rhythm on the page. Picture it as the fancy cousin who effortlessly adds a touch of elegance to any occasion. With origins in the Italian Renaissance, italic has this timeless charm that’s both refined and versatile. So, if you’re into a script that brings a bit of sophistication and a dash of flair to your words, italic calligraphy is where it’s at!

7. Roman – aka Trajan

Roman calligraphy is like the classic gentleman in the world of scripts. Its upright, well-structured letters exude a timeless and dignified aura on the page. Think of it as the script that wears a perfectly tailored suit – always polished and formal. Rooted in the traditions of ancient Rome, Roman calligraphy carries a sense of historical gravitas while maintaining a straightforward and clear-cut appearance. So, if you’re drawn to a writing style that’s traditional, poised, and carries a touch of ancient authority, Roman calligraphy is the embodiment of refined simplicity.

8. Neuland – All Caps, No Rules

Neuland calligraphy is like the bold, adventurous explorer in the realm of scripts. Its chunky, wide letters make a strong visual statement on the page, giving off an energetic and dynamic vibe. Imagine it as the script that’s not afraid to break free from the conventional rules, bringing a sense of modernity and playfulness to the writing scene. Developed in the early 20th century by Rudolf Koch, Neuland is a departure from tradition, embracing a more experimental and robust aesthetic. So, if you’re into a script that dares to be different, exuding a sense of bold individuality, Neuland calligraphy is the way to go!

Blackletter Bundle

The above 8 Classic scripts can all be learned in this bundle of 8 classic scripts: (Textura, Fraktur, Batarde, Rotunda, Uncial, Italics, Roman, & Neuland)

Modern Blackletter Scripts

In today’s world, calligraphers have unleashed their creativity, blending traditional blackletter elements with modern design sensibilities. These interpretations often feature creative variations in letterforms, making them unique and visually appealing. Below are a few modern styles I have created and compiled for your learning.

9. Tattoo

This script is a custom fraktur script created to get that tough, sharp and bold style. The Tattoo script is inspired by hardcore lettering and calligraffiti.

10. Handstyle

The term “handstyle” is a graffiti term for a personal script to write your graffiti name or “tag.” As in your own style from your own hand. This script was based on broad edged marker graffiti to capture a true calligraffiti style.

11. Silk

A contemporary script that blends the broad edge pen style with the connection and flow of a pointed pen script or cursive writing. Inspired by Arabic broad edge calligraphy, this script is a fancy yet easy to learn flowing style to add to your repertoire.

Conclusion

So, there you have it! Blackletter calligraphy aka broad edge calligraphy isn’t just one style; it’s a whole buffet of styles, each with its own personality and history. Whether you’re a calligraphy enthusiast or just curious about the art of lettering, these styles offer a captivating journey through the world of ink and history. So go ahead, pick your favorite blackletter flavor, and start writing in style!

Other Posts Like This:

if you like this post, you will like my other “Breaking Down” posts:

Let me know of any notable blackletter or broad edge scripts I should add to this post!

-Richard

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