Thursday, September 20, 2007


A perfectly good typeface has fallen from grace, and thugs have 'jacked it.

In general terms, it's called Blackletter. Other names include Textualis, and Fraktur. (There are differences, but for our purposes, it's not that important) When I see it, I think of college diplomas, or manuscripts , like the Gutenburg Bible, or even Hawaiian jewelry.

Many cheap or free type houses label Blackletter as 'Old English' - which is, well, wrong. Old English actually looks different, and is an older typeface...but related to this story just the same.

'Gothic' is another name for Blackletter. The term is a disparaging one, and means barbaric; those hoity-toity Italians had labeled it such in the 1400's. I guess they weren't too fond of their northern neighbors. They preferred 'Carolingian', a more legible, curvacious and sexy type, which they believed was developed by the ancient Romans. They were wrong (it was related to...Old English!), but that didn't stop them from putting on airs and turning up their noses at Blackletter/Gothic. However, Gothic remained popular with the English, the French and of course, the Germans.

Even when the rest of the Continent relegated Gothic to the unpopular table, Germany, as well as Switzerland and Austria, remained Gothic's loyal fans. They put their own twist on in, renamed it Fraktur, and used it in newspapers, books and signage. It wasn't until the 18th century that Fraktur received a little competition from pesky newcomer, Antiqua Roman - a serifed typeface, styled after the snooty Carolingian. It looked more like today's modern serifed type. However, in Germany, Antiqua was used for scientific writings mostly, and Fraktur was used for pretty much everything else.

Even today, Fraktur graces the front page of many German newspapers.

Unfortunately, this genuinely classy and historic font has since fallen in with a bad crowd.

If you look at the tats and insignias worn by gang bangers, especially the latino and skinhead variety, you'll notice they favor the Blackletter/Gothic/Fraktur style of type. The montage below is culled from the internet. I had to wash my hands afterward:

In a way, getting a tat that looks like a fancy manuscript is like having a GangBanger University diploma permanently etched on your body. Maybe that's one reason it's so darn popular.

However, what they don't know is the type they love, the type they fawn over, the type they believe is so macho and aryan, the type they etch on their bodies and stick on their clothing was absolutely despised by the über hemmeroid himself, Adolph Hitler. So much so, in fact, that this proclaimation was released in 1941:

"It is false to regard or describe the so-called Gothic typeface as a German typeface. In reality the so-called Gothic typeface consists of Schwabacher-Jewish letters. Just as they later came to own the newspapers, the Jews living in Germany also owned the printing presses when the printing of books was introduced and thus came about the strong influx into Germany of Schwabacher-Jewish letters.

Today the Führer, in a discussion with Herr Reichsleiter Amann [Reich Leader for the Press] and the printing company owner Herr Adolf Müller, decided that Antiqua [Roman] type is henceforth to be designated as the standard typeface. Gradually, all printed matter should be converted to this standard typeface. As soon as possible in regard to school textbooks, only the standard script will be taught in village and elementary schools.

The use of Schwabacher-Jewish letters by authorities will in future cease; certificates of appointment for officials, street signs, and the like, will in future only be produced in standard lettering."

What? Who? Huh?

Führer Adolph believed that Fraktur was part of (drum roll)........a jewish conspiracy. Of course, this guy probably thought gravel was a jewish conspiracy. So the Nazis killed off the venerable Fraktur and replaced it with that girly-man typeface, Antiqua Roman. (As you can see, it's a perfectly nice typeface, really.)

There's nothing funny about Nazis, gangs and hate groups. They're loathsome, infected boils on the arse of humanity. But I gotta tell you, I'm getting a little kick knowing that there's a sewer full of neo-nazis/thug/terrorists out there prancin' around wearing stuff that would make Adolph spin in his grave.

I think Blackletter is having the last laugh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haha, good info...Nazi types by nature are not wiseguys. I heard one of the main Nazi recuirting posters of the "perfect" Aryan blue eyes and blond hair guy was actually half-Jewish...You have to laugh