Fraktur (typeface)

From Academic Kids

The German word Fraktur (pronounced in IPA) refers to a specific blackletter typeface. The term derives from the past participle of Latin frangere ("to break"), fractus ("broken"). As opposed to Antiqua (common) typefaces, modelled after antique Roman square capitals and Carolingian minuscule, the blackletter lines are broken up.

Sometimes, all blackletter typefaces are called fraktur.



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overview on some blackletter typefaces

The difference between the Fraktur and other blackletter scripts is that in the small-letter o, the left part of the bow is broken, but the right part is not.

Besides the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, and the ess-zet and vowels with umlauts as well, Fraktur typefaces often include the long s, a variant form of the letter r, and a variety of ligatures once intended to aid the typesetter and which have specialized rules for their use.


The first Fraktur typeface was designed when Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (r. 14931519) established a series of books and had a new typeface created specifically for this purpose. Fraktur quickly overtook the earlier Schwabacher and Textualis typefaces in popularity, and a wide variety of Fraktur fonts were carved.


As opposed to other countries, in Germany, typesetting in Fraktur was entirely common still in the 19th century. Some books from the time used Schwabacher still; however, the predominant typeface was the Normalfraktur (Fig. 1), which came in various slight variations.

Since the 18th century, the Fraktur was replaced more and more by antiqua because of the obvious communication problems with non-native German speakers. However, in an attempt to deliberately differentiate Germany from the rest of the Western world, it was reinforced by Nazi Germany (19331945), which pronounced that Antiqua typefaces were not Aryan. This policy was officially upheld until January 3, 1941, when Martin Bormann issued a circular letter to all public offices which suddenly declared Fraktur to be Judenlettern (Jewish letters) and prohibited further use. It has been speculated that the régime had realized that Fraktur would inhibit communication in the territories occupied during World War II as well.

Fraktur is today used merely for decorative typesetting; for example, a number of traditional German newspapers still print their name in Fraktur on the first page. In spite of the Nazi decree of 1941, Fraktur is frequently associated with the Nazi regime in American popular culture.

Isolated Fraktur letters are also used in mathematics, e.g. to denote Lie algebras, σ-algebras or ring ideals.

Earlier versions of the Volapük language added vowels from Fraktur to the Roman ones. Later versions substituted them by the Roman version with a ¨.


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Fig. 1: Walbaum-Fraktur (1800)
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Fig. 2: Humboldtfraktur
(Hiero Rhode, 1938)

(The German sentence in the figures reads: "Victor jagt zwölf Boxkämpfer quer über den Sylter Deich". This is a nonsense sentence meaning "Victor chases twelve box fighters across the dike of Sylt", but contains all 26 letters of the alphabet plus the German umlauts and is thus an example of a pangram.)

Related articles

Sources, external links

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Wikimedia Commons has multimedia related to Fraktur, as well as samples of the letterforms at Fraktur alphabet.

fr:Fraktur hu:Fraktur


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