Ism | Calligraphy Inspiration

Welcome back to the main stream black letter! Black letter's millennia-long history has taken a convoluted path. Its humble beginnings were as a child of carolingian, the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne's manuscript calligraphy. Carolingian was called lettera antiqua in admiration, by renaissance scholars. They called black letter Gothic, a slur meaning it was from the woods.
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It was like calling black letter hillbilly calligraphy. Gothic cathedrals were also given this name as an unveiled insult. Even so, most European manuscript books for half a millenia were written in black letter or rotunda, the round gothic calligraphy.

The Guttenberg Bible was typeset in moveable type that imitated black letter calligraphy. Perhaps it was a nod to Guttenberg that black letter and rotunda became the lettering of religious books. Like half uncial which is commonly used for Gaelic publications, black letter acquired a national identity. German speaking countries throughout the entire 20th century were ripe with black letter and black letter variations in shop signs, books and logos.

Black letter's association with Germany during WWII had a long lasting impact on black letter's usability. Black letter became known as a nazi lettering. It was not until fifty years later when the rising hip hop culture of the 1990s adopted black letter variations that black letter took on a new cultural identity. Now, it is hip to have clothing covered in black letter, fraktur and gothic cursive.

In the 21st century graphic designers, illustrators, and calligraphiles are hungry for black letter. And I'm loving some of the funky new black letter variations. Can't wait to see how it evolves over the next decade!