Saturday, September 15, 2012

Illuminated Fraktur

A vibrantly illuminated Fraktur Vorschrift from 1821. The text is from Ephesians, 6:10-12, and followed by a lowercase alphabet, an uppercase alphabet, and numbers from 1 to 500. It is currently up for auction on eBay and you can read the text of it there
A brief history
In type circles, the term fraktur is commonly known as a lettering style marked by "fractured" or broken pen strokes, often referred to as gothic or blackletter. After WWII, blackletter was nearly forgotten, but has lately seen an astonishing revival and developed into a typographical trend, according to Judith Schalansky who authored the 2008 book, Fraktur Mon Amour. Traditionally, the term fraktur was rooted in European folk culture, most associated with Germanic people. Since the mid-18th century, Fraktur also came to mean the folk art form of elaborately decorated manuscripts practiced in the Pennsylvania Dutch country by European immigrant families. The documents were often religious in nature or celebrating the social passages of births, baptism, marriage, and death. They also served as rewards of merit or scholarship among students, and tokens of friendship and love. 
     Common to many was the distinctive German handlettering of the fraktur style. Some of the earliest Frakturs were illustrated and handlettered by itinerant artists and neighborhood scribes who had little education, nor spellcheckers. Schoolmasters and clergymen also took on this roll, as well as many talented, but nameless artists and printers. In later works, the text was often printed, and artists would then add color and freehand drawings of plants, animals and fancy borders. Comparatively few were ever signed.

I admit I know very little about the different types of Frakturs and had to consult the Fraktur Web for more information about this sort called Vorschrift Fraktur as seen here. Among scholars, the Vorschrift Frakturs are considered to be the most beautiful and most artfully produced. They tended to have elaborate decorated caps, titles, larger first lines and colorful border illumination. The lettering often consisted of Bible verses or hymns, and far surpassed others in design and appearance. Many scholars identify the golden age of Frakturs to be the period 1790-1830. The 1821 example seen here is typical of a Vorschrift Fraktur. I hope to add more great examples, and less talk of Frakturs in the days to come.    

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