Gothic calligraphy is a particular lettering style, defined by highly stylized letters drawn with dense black ink, by large and decorated uppercase letters and narrow yet legible lowercase characters. The general angular forms and the dramatic thinner or thicker strokes complete the darken appearance of this Western writing style.
Often used for representing creepy or magical texts, for decorating posters and certificates, this calligraphy style appeared within European countries during the 14th century and had it roots in the old Carolingian script. Various forms derived from the Gothic one were named after the characteristic shape of the letters - the Gothic hand, the Textura Quadrata and so on.
The name of this writing style came from the word 'gothic', which was used during the 15th century within Italy to define barbaric people. So in the beginning, the Gothic calligraphy was considered a barbarian script and was written using black and dark ink tones.
Despite the many influenced and changes this script suffered, its main characteristics remained unchanged through ages. Nowadays, just like when this Western calligraphy style firstly appeared, the letters in this script are written closely, with the writing tool forming a 30 degrees angle with the paper.
The style is dominated by the square aspect of the letters and the crowded appearance of the lines. Often used for decorative purposes, the Gothic calligraphy type looks well with swirling borders and ornamental flicks for uppercase letters.
Today, the most known styles originated in this font are the Gothic bookhand or textura, the Schwanacher or German black-letter style and the Cursiva, a simplified form of the Textualis script, developed during the 14th century.
The blackletter style evolved from the old Carolingian script, primary used inside monasteries for religious texts. As its first and main characteristic was legibility, this writing style needed to state a clear difference between upper and lower case letters, and also to find a way to mark the different words.
The Carolingian script was the first to use a larger space between two words and also it introduced some modern letters, such as the 'w'. Due to different cultural influences, this style started to suffer some changes and as time passed, the letters became tighter and narrower.
As these changes were more visible, the legibility of the Carolingian lettering was affected. The characters were more rigid and uniform, and the differences between lower and upper cases were barely distinguished. The art of beautiful writing was becoming mechanical and not calligraphic at all.
This made it necessary for a new script to develop and this is how the Gothic calligraphy occurred. Letters in this style were wider and larger, so the script - easy to read and understand - quickly spread across Western countries between the 14th and 17th centuries.
But the popularity of this script dramatically increased after it was used in the Gutenburg's Bible, right after the movable printing machine was discovered. This is why some historians consider that the Gothic style appeared around the year 1455, when typography, in its initial form, started developing.
As this technology kept evolving, new fonts started to be used for printed works and from all the Gothic calligraphy scripts, the most popular one was the Textura, due to its cursive appearance and high legibility. The usual form of this writing style was called littera textualis and was used for everyday papers, literary works and also for lots of university texts and documents.
The cursive version of the Textualis was called littera textualis currens which, due to its crowded aspect and frequent connections between letters, was pretty hard to read so it was only used for less important projects and books. The last form of this Gothic calligraphy style was called littera textualis formata and its primary destination was represented by luxe manuscripts.
The French revolution marked an important change in this domain also. The old Gothic style was abandoned and a more cursive one, called Schwabacher, was adopted. Due to its strong lines and crude aspect, this style was considered less appealing by lots of calligraphers. However, to Germans it was a matter of pride and patriotism that this style survived the revolution so it became pretty popular for everyday use.
These scripts were characterized by small angular or rounder letters, with strokes joining at the top or bottom, as well as narrow uppercase letters, formed by straight and sharp lines. Capitals in these Gothic calligraphy styles weren't always connected to the rest of the words, especially if they were made of curved lines.
Cursiva, another popular Gothic script, evolved concomitantly with the Textualis style and was widely used due to its simplicity. After the typography machines appeared, smoother papers started to be used for books and important projects so a less angular, easier to write script was necessary.
The main characteristics of this style were the frequent descenders and curved and looped ascenders. Letters in this script were pretty large and generally not very standardized in forms. As technology advanced, new blackletter typefaces were developed especially in Germany, but the original angular and dramatic aspect was affected.
During the World Wars and in the Nazi period, another Gothic calligraphy font proved to be extremely popular and this was the Fraktur style. This script was also called the broken writing style, because the continuity of the texts was often broken by ornamental motifs. Before 1940, the Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Czech and Norwegian also adopted this lettering style due to its highly decorative potential.
In Germany, political papers were firstly written using this script, but as soon as propaganda campaigns started to be organized, the Fraktur script became the preferred style for political posters as well, due to its powerful and strong appearance.
Moreover, once the Nazis declared this writing style the lettering of German people, almost all printers in this European country were set to generate works in the blackletter script. But the large popularity of this script rapidly decreased after the war, and nowadays this Gothic calligraphy style is only used for decorative purposes.