black letter

black letter
black-letter, adj.
a heavy-faced type in a style like that of early European hand lettering and the earliest printed books. Also called text.

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or Gothic script or Old English script

Style of alphabet used in handwriting throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.

It features uniform vertical strokes that end on the baseline, angular lines instead of smooth curves and circles, and the overlapping of convex forms. Black letter and roman were the dominant letter shapes of medieval typography. The only extant work known to have been printed by Johannes Gutenberg, the 42-line Bible (1450s), was set in black-letter type. Roman type largely superseded it in the Renaissance, though black letter persisted in Germany well into the 20th century. Today black letter is often used for diplomas, Christmas cards, and liturgical writings.

Black letter, type as used in the 42-line Bible issued at Mainz, 1456.

EB Inc.

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also called  Gothic script  or  Old English script 
 in calligraphy, a style of alphabet that was used for manuscript books and documents throughout Europe—especially in German-speaking countries—from the end of the 12th century to the 20th century. It is distinguished by a uniform treatment of vertical strokes that end on the baseline (e.g., in b or l), the use of angular lines instead of smooth curves and circles (e.g., for b, d, o, or p), and the fusion of convex forms when they occur together (e.g., as bo, pa, and the like).

      When printing by movable type was invented, typefaces were based on the book manuscript styles of the time. Black letter and revised Carolingian roman were the two dominant letter shapes of medieval typography. Black-letter type was used in the only extant work known to have been printed by Johannes Gutenberg (Gutenberg, Johannes), the 42-line Bible (Gutenberg Bible). Eventually, roman type, which was considered more legible by humanists, superseded black letter throughout Europe, except in Germany; there it persisted until 1941, when the Nazi government forbade its use. Black-letter typography persists in the 21st century mainly in the Old English calligraphy or type used for diplomas, certificates, liturgical printing, and newspaper mastheads.

      Kanzlei (cancellaresca corsiva) (“chancery”) was a cursive (connected) black-letter style used in medieval Germany. Similar cursives were used in the Netherlands, France, and England, where it was known as the secretary hand, a translation of its French name, secretaire. Lettre françoise was another cursive black-letter style of script that was used in France during the Middle Ages. During the Renaissance it became a printing type, cut by the Parisian artist Robert Granjon. The typeface became known as civilité because it was used to print a popular children's book, La Civilité puerile (1536), which was written by the humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus (Erasmus, Desiderius). The typeface was also used in a 16th-century Flemish handwriting book, Nouvel exemplaire pour apprendre à escrire (1565; “New Copy for Learning to Write”). A late black-letter cursive is the 17th-century lettre financière, which became an officially approved script under the patronage of Louis XIV.

      Littera moderna was the name 15th-century humanists used for rotunda, a black letter used in medieval Italian books. Rounder than German versions, littera moderna is characterized by rounded forms that overlap to create pointed intersections. Littera merchantile was a black-letter cursive used by medieval Italian merchants.

 Black-letter hands were called Gothic by the “modernist” Lorenzo Valla (Valla, Lorenzo) and others in mid-15th-century Italy. The modernists rejected these scripts because they associated them with the Middle Ages, which they considered a long intellectual deviation that separated their generation from the standards of the Classical age. The rejection of the scripts began with the poet Petrarch and became calligraphically manifest with the writing innovations of Coluccio di Salutati (Salutati, Coluccio), Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (Poggio Bracciolini, Gian Francesco), and Niccolò Niccoli (Niccoli, Niccolò) in Florence in the first quarter of the 15th century.

Robert Williams

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Black-letter — Black let ter, a. 1. Written or printed in black letter; as, a black letter manuscript or book. [1913 Webster] 2. Given to the study of books in black letter; that is, of old books; out of date. [1913 Webster] Kemble, a black letter man! J.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • black letter — early 17c., from BLACK (Cf. black) (adj.); so called to distinguish heavy, old style printers types from the ones coming into use then, which are the dominant modern forms, though a style of black letter was preserved in German into 20c …   Etymology dictionary

  • black–letter — black–let·ter adj: having wide acceptance and great authority and often written down black–letter law Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • Black letter — Black let ter The old English or Gothic letter, in which the Early English manuscripts were written, and the first English books were printed. It was conspicuous for its blackness. See {Type}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Black Letter — Black Let|ter [ blæk ] die; , n <aus gleichbed. engl. black letter, zu letter »Buchstabe«> im 16. Jh. in England gebräuchliche gotische Schrift …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • Black letter — (engl., spr. bläck), s. Mönchsschrift …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Black letter — Black letter, s. Mönchsschrift …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • black letter — n. a kind of heavy faced, ornamental printing type: also called Gothic, Old English, or text …   English World dictionary

  • black letter — noun a) A Northern European style of type, with contrasting thick and thin, angular strokes forming upright letterforms, and usually set with a dark typographic colour on the page. b) Text set in black letter type …   Wiktionary

  • black-letter — /ˈblæk lɛtə/ (say blak letuh) Printing –noun 1. a heavy faced type in Gothic style like that in early English printed books. –adjective 2. of, relating to, set in, or resembling black letter …  

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