Saturday, January 22, 2011


Fraktur refers to a specific sub-group of blackletter typefaces. The word derives from the past participle fractus (“broken”) of Latin frangere (“to break”). As opposed to Antiqua (common) typefaces, which were modeled after antique Roman square capitals and Carolingian minuscule, the blackletter lines are broken up — that is, their forms contain many angles, in contrast to the smooth curves of Antiqua.

Besides the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, and the ß and vowels with umlauts as well, Fraktur typefaces include the ſ , sometimes a variant form of the letter r, and a variety of ligatures once intended to aid the typesetter and which have specialized rules for their use. Most older Fraktur typefaces make no distinction between the majuscules "I" and "J" (where the common shape is more suggestive of a "J"), even though the minuscules "i" and "j" are differentiated.

The first Fraktur typeface was designed when Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I established a series of books and had a new typeface created specifically for this purpose, designed by Hieronymus Andreae. Fraktur quickly overtook the earlier Schwabacher and Textualis typefaces in popularity, and a wide variety of Fraktur fonts were carved.

Typesetting in Fraktur was still very common in the early 20th century in all German-speaking countries and areas, as well as in Norway, Estonia, and Latvia, and was still used to a very small extent in Sweden, Finland and Denmark (see below: Usage map), while other countries typeset in Antiqua in the early 20th century.

The term "Fraktur" is sometimes applied to all of the blackletter typefaces.

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