Old English Fonts

Old English Value Pack for instant download available

Blackletter typefaces evolved out of Northern Europe’s medieval manuscript tradition. Grouped into four sub-families (Textura, Fraktur, Bastarda, and Rotunda), this style of type is characterized by the wide-nibbed pen strokes that are make its letterforms. Often heavy, these strokes leave a “black” color on the page. The German term for Blackletter, gebrochene Schriften, or "broken type", is also a helpful term to remember while trying to identify Blackletter type. Blackletters often appear to have broken or disjointed strokes and joints.

Textura letterforms make up the world’s oldest typefaces, those used by Johannes Gutenberg during the 1440´s and 50´s in Mainz. He and his contemporaries were competing against calligraphers in order to sell new books; therefore, it is no surprise that he copied the style of lettering that was used by scribes at the time: the gothic. Textura-style letters are normally dark and heavy. Their letter spaces and counterforms are as narrow as their strokes are wide: this creates an even “texture” across pages set in Textura type.

As time passed, the Textura style traveled to other parts of Europe. Wynken de Worde is often credited with introducing the Texturas to England in 1498, where this style of type was used side by side with serif faces for centuries. Even the renowned William Caslon cut a Textura for his foundry’s use! When Joseph Moxon wrote the world’s first printing manual in 1683, he referred to the Textura style for the first time as Old English.

Old English types underwent further refinement during the Victorian era, when they developed into the style associated with that term today. During the late 1800´s, many English designers came to admire the Middle Ages for its perceived chivalric, community-based values and pre-industrial lifestyle. They desired to reform contemporary art and design so that it would exude these same values. In the process, they gave many of their designs a medieval-inspired appearance. In spite of their love for the past, they found the original Old English style Texturas too difficult to read. In an attempt to modernize this old style, they created a body of work that is normally referred to as Old English today. To contemporary eyes, these typefaces appear just as Victorian as they do medieval; their updates were not truly modernization, rather a classicist re-interpretation.

Old English Typefaces in this Victorian vein are very decorative and stylized. Many of them take on an engraved appearance, as engravings were a common means of illustration at the time. This gave their letterforms a more dramatic stroke contrast than was common in older Texturas. The new approach to stroke contrast linked the revived Old English types to contemporary serif type design as well: Didones, Fourniers, and Bodonis had long been exhibiting similar traits. Victorian-style Old English typefaces can still be seen on Newspaper Mastheads throughout the world.

The typefaces Mariage and Old English are excellent examples of this classicist style of design.´

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