Blackletter, also known as Old English, Gothic, or Fraktur, was the world's first created font. Many individuals have recognized the style because of its striking thick and thin strokes. These fonts emerged in Western Europe around the mid-12th century. They were used by writers to communicate ideas quickly and easily without relying on the use of italics.
Early printers did not have any choice but to use blackletter because no other font existed at that time. As letters became more stylized over time, they began to look more like modern fonts, so historians are still debating whether these early writers and printers actually used their own creations for their work or if they simply copied characters from existing books.
Some scholars believe they may have been created by monks who wrote commentaries and treatises as part of their religious duties. Others think they might have been made by scribes who worked for printers and book publishers. Still others believe they could have been done by ordinary people who wanted to use them for personal correspondence.
Whatever their origin may be, these early typesfaces had an enormous impact on how people read and write today. Before then, writing materials were limited to ink and papyrus. With the introduction of movable type, anyone with access to a printing press could print books of any size or quantity.
Typeface: Blackletter The History of the Blackletter Font The font you know as Old English is properly known as Blackletter typeface (also sometimes referred to as Gothic or Fraktur, which is Latin for "broken"). It was used in Europe from about 1450 to 1680. Blackletter has been called "the first modern language", because it introduced many features that were adopted by later styles of writing.
Blackletter began to fall out of use after its original purpose had been fulfilled. Its design elements were incorporated into other types such as Roman and Modern (which is why some consider Old English to be a subtype of Modern English). Today Blackletter is popular among people who like good readability on old documents. There are still publishers who prefer blackletter printing over more modern methods because of its distinctive look.
Blackletter is based on the handwriting of scribes who worked with a chisel and ink made from soot mixed with water. The letters were cut out of thick blocks of wood and then hollowed out, giving them much deeper shadows than modern types. This is why old books have dark, shadowy areas around the words.
Blackletter looks different from most contemporary types because it has strokes that go straight across the page and do not curve.
The earliest typeface was a blackletter variant employed by Johannes Gutenberg on the first printing press, which began operation in 1440. This typeface was designed to seem like the calligraphic handwriting used by monks to hand-transcribe texts before the printing press was invented. Therefore, it is called "handwriting" or "humanist script".
In fact, all printed matter before the mid-18th century was handwritten, not typed. The first true typeface was introduced around 1550 by Claude Garamond for use with italic typesetting.
Garamond's typefaces were an advance over the monoline script usually used at that time because they had more consistent proportions between letters and paragraphs. Also, they were based on French models so they looked new and modern instead of ancient and monastic like the handwritten style.
After Garamond's death in 1661, his type designs became popular again but now they were being made by other printers who did not know his work well. So they made types that were too tall or too short, or had strange angles where parts of the letter disappeared. In 1722, Jean Baptiste Lefebvre developed a more refined type design that is still in use today: Didot type.