Serif Classification - Blackletter

nomhak's picture

I'm trying to determine what kind of serifs a Blackletter font like Wilhelm Klingspor Gotisch has, I haven't spent a whole lot of time determining the anatomical makeup of the typeface so any help would be great.

Just to prevent any confusion when I ask for the serif classification I mean are the bracketed? Beaked? Etc.

Jan's picture

Blackletter typefaces are a class of their own.
They simply aren’t serif typefaces, so they don’t have serifs.

typerror's picture

In a sense you are sort of correct Jan... I avoided this one for this very reason. They do have serifs but they are not subject to the same classifications as Roman, although you can find similarities in the "entry/finish strokes."

Rui, this is one you sort of make up as you go along.

Michael

Jan's picture

I’d say they don’t have serifs ’cause the origin of serifs is the engraving with chisels in stone whereas whatever blackletter faces have comes strictly from the pen.

typerror's picture

So you cannot make serifs with a pen? How ludicrous is that?

Blackletter most certainly has serifs... as I said before, just not in the same sense as Roman.

Next thing you'll be telling me is that Blackletter is Sans Serif :-)

What do you call the highlighted "appendages?"

Michael

Jan's picture

Sure you can make serifs with a pen, imitations of those on the Trajan column.
Blackletter faces are basically script faces. Whatever happens, more of less, where the penstroke starts and ends is just more or less ductus, not a serif.
I’d call the highlighted appendages – eh – appendages maybe?

Where are the serifs here?

typerror's picture

They do not exist in your example... it is a contemporary adaptation, and an anecdotal sham on your part to try and prove a point. Serifs are, as you stated, BEGINNING and FINISH strokes, whether by pen or by chisel. They exist in the blackletter and rotunda forms, much as they existed in the Roman.

Script???? It is just as painstaking and precise as the Roman. Hence Textura Prescisus. It is not a copperplate or spencerian, a flowing form.

"where the penstroke starts and ends is just more or less ductus, not a serif."

No... ductus is direction and sequence. Has nothing to do with the existence or lack of serifs.

Michael

Jan's picture

They do not exist in your example... it is a contemporary adaptation, and an anecdotal sham on your part to try and prove a point.

I hope for your sake that you don’t mean this seriously.

It’s obviously a blackletter.
It doesn’t have serifs.
So blackletter faces can’t be classified as serif typefaces.
Quod erat demonstrandum.

contemporary adaptation
This is a bit older:


Where are the serifs here?

typerror's picture

I can find as many historical examples with "serifs" as you can find without.

From a scribal exercise c. 13th century. See the serifs! You say potato I say potato :-)

Michael

Jan's picture

You say potato I say potato

What you call serifs in blackletter is something that accidentally (I don’t mean this in a negative way) happens when writing with a broad nip pen. That’s what I meant with ductus. It can be exagerated for an ornamental effect but it isn’t an essential part of the concept of a blackletter face.

Florian Hardwig's picture

What you call serifs in Roman letters is something that […] happens when writing […]. That’s what I meant with ductus. It can be exaggerated for an ornamental effect but it isn’t an essential part of the concept of a Roman face.

;-)

Jan's picture

I didn’t say that serifs make a roman face.
Still, if there are serifs on a roman face they are there on purpose and not as a side effect. And they come from *see my avatar*.

Michael would call this a serif (see left), but it’s not. (It’s a spur.)

typerror's picture

Somewhere out there is a forest behind those trees :-) Possibly a"black"letter forest with serifs!

Michael

typerror's picture

p.s. Spurs would be more akin to the tops of the k and l in your contemporary adaptation above.

Michael

rcapeto's picture

Back to topic, no system of classification of blackletter letterforms that I know of are related to "serifs" (or whatever you may call those elements) in any case, while for Roman type they're a key element in most classification schemes.

cerulean's picture

In the "older" specimen, the serifs are great big diamonds. They are separate strokes that mark the ends of the stems. This sample even has some contextual semi-serif choices: The u in "fleuit", most notably, is missing its top serifs.

nomhak's picture

Thanks a lot guys! Especially Jan and Michael, and from the looks of it Michael, it does look like something I'll have to make up as I go along and support it thoroughly.

Much appreciated guys!

typerror's picture

Rui

I am a calligrapher and lettering artist and have a huge "letter" library. If you need examples let me know. They are at your disposal, serifs or not :-)

Michael

spacecadetjoe's picture

wtf is a serif? all i see is dongles

Robb Thurmond's picture

I'm taking a calligraphy class, with one teacher a master at Blackletter, and the other a type designer, and I am pretty sure I have heard it referred to as a serif....but I think I like dongles : )

Robb Thurmond's picture

and for the record, most of the teachers dongles are drawn in after the fact

Reed Reibstein's picture

Remaining slightly off-topic: Jan, I think that the prevailing view nowadays is that in fact the serifs of the imperial Roman letter come not from the necessities of stone-carving but from the stroke of the brush. I'm certainly no expert in this area, but I believe the idea originates with (or was popularized by) Father Edward Catich's book The origin of the serif; Catich argues that the serif follows logically from the brush-stroke that was used to lay down the original lettering, which was then cut in stone with a chisel. One example I can find that may be of interest (though it doesn't explicitly confirm Catich's thesis) is Sumner Stone's "Transitions in the form of the pre-serif letter."

Jan's picture

The renaissance was about overcoming the dark age. The designation says it all: renaissance = revival. Revival of the spirit of the past Roman culture. Part of that revival was replacing the blackletter letterforms with the Roman letterforms. The only examples of roman letterforms that had survived the dark age were those carved in stone. The first Roman typefaces (Venetian style) were more or less the Roman capitals with a lowercase added. Why or for what reason the Romans added serifs to their letters is not as important in this context as the fact (imo) that the venetian typefaces had serifs that were modeled after those carved in stone. That’s my point.

typerror's picture

Jan

I have pondered your response for a while now and I ended up speaking with one published historian (numerous books) and a renowned master of calligraphy and type design, and author (60 years) and they concurred, you just do not get it... and to not waste my time.

Michael

Jan's picture

Concur with whatever. At least I got you in doubt if you got it right.

typerror's picture

Never in doubt... and you need to do some research because your last post is riddled with misinformation. I have no clue where you are getting your info but Blackletter was only one of many concurrent written styles. And written forms never disappeared in the dark ages.

Look beyond "type" which is something many cannot seem to do. Calligraphy kept, and keeps, developing while type in its vast array of processes moves forward also.

Edit: serifs never went away!!!!!!

Michael

Jan's picture

Never in doubt

You consulted an expert.

;-)

I admit that what I wrote is probably a very basic view of things. Could you tell me what you consider to be actually wrong?

david h's picture

Michael & Jan,

what about [S]word Fighting? :)

typerror's picture

No, I asked two peers if there was any leeway for you. They said no, and it was NO surprise to me.
Michael

typerror's picture

"what about [S]word Fighting?"

Serif or Sans?

David, thank you for your intervention... but this is a battle I am well prepared for after decades of lettering/calligraphic experience as well as research.

I think Jan's sense of history begins with the advent of type and he has no clue what went on before that or the calligraphic developments that have ensued along side of the printing/type industry since the 42 line bible.

But he is good at identifying type and chastising others for not using a descriptive in the type id forum.

Michael

William Berkson's picture

Looking at the books of Harry Carter and Noordzij, among others, I think Michael is pretty much on target. Even though the forms of blackletter and roman are different the histories are related and intertwined, and I don't think you are going to be able to make a case that one has serifs and one does not.

I'm sure others will be more accurate about this, but basically it is the designs that are different, not whether there are deliberate cross strokes or not. Those triangles at the bottom of black letter n etc are cross strokes. The key design difference of blackletter is, as the term "fraktur" indicates, that instead of round archs and circles of roman, there are broken straight lines.

Historically, the serifs in Carolingian miniscule and in later Blackletter are, from what I read, both historically and mechanically related. And they all go back to various roman hands in antiquity, such as the Rustic capitals, which also have serifs. The humanist hand, in which the Carolingian minuscule was revived and paired with the Imperial Capitals was, according to Stone's account, the immediate ancestors of the first Roman typefaces. In this 15th century revival serifs were made more symmetrical in the lower case, to pair better with the ancient Imperial Capitals.

Jan's picture

Thank you William for answering my question since Michael seems to be too busy with having decades of lettering/calligraphic experience.

typerror's picture

Comes in handy sometimes :-)

Michael

William Berkson's picture

Michael wields the pen and brush like a Zen master. He wields the forum post like Yosemite Sam :)

typerror's picture

Sorry William... but I fatigue easily with non pen players taking over the saloon with barroom balderdash :-0

I am really quite snuggly once you cut through the meanness : )))))) All kidding aside I love what I do, and I won't see it misrepresented... thank you very much. Too many techies are trying to redefine the parameters of where our letters came from, and definitions, with little or no practical knowledge and I for one am armed for bear. (Do you want to sit down and talk about manipulation? Tee hee) Yosemite Sam has nothing on me : ) I wuv Pepe : ) Esta mi amigo, es la verdad!

Michael

k.l.'s picture

So you do not agree that knowledge-by-having-read-something is worth more than knowledge-by-practice?  ;-)

Btw, the question 'does blackletter have serifs or not?' is relativated by Noordzij's Ruit (including its name) whose feet are halfway between 'serif' and 'ductus'. In light of this, ironically, Jan Erdmann's textur sample of 28 October is much closer to having 'serifs' than your sample of the same day because in the former, the (imaginary) backward-movement of the pen is more excessive and creates a symmetry we would expect from baseline serifs. Also, it seems common to give stems marked endings in writing, irrespective of style. In textur this is very emphatic (Jan Erdmann's 'ductus') but has no other purpose than have curved endings or what we commonly consider as serif. Tapering of stems e.g. in Beorcana, since Florian brought it up, fulfills the same task. Whether one calls each of them 'serifs' or not is almost secondary.
And another btw, I consider serifs as too arbitrary to be relevant for type classification, construction and contrast being more important criteria.

E.Jacobson's picture

I say terminals and spurs... or spur-like terminals :P

I stick with the Blackletter classification rather than trying to assert rhetoric that occurred de facto.

typerror's picture

:-)

It just keeps getting more stupid.

"Jan Erdmann’s textur sample of 28 October is much closer to having ’serifs’ than your sample of the same day because in the former, the (imaginary) backward-movement of the pen is more excessive and creates a symmetry we would expect from baseline serifs"

And this one gets the Putz prize. If you think it is a backward motion it just points out what I have said before. Sometimes practice (knowledge by practice, your words) of writing would prevent one from making a statement like that!

P.s. Jan's e.g. was type (if I am not mistaken or I would bet, you can see the letterpress marks)... the red was writ.

Michael

Jan's picture

My sample was from the Gutenberg bible. Type. Print. Indeed.

typerror's picture

See, Jan I'm not so stupid (see my allusion above to the 42 line bible)! It is just that continuing practice (and research) that kicks in :-)

And you have to remember... as good as they were, the "cutters" of that time were not as fastidious about maintaining the original forms. It's tougher to get the hairline serifs in cuts. Expediency pure and simple. Oft times less articulate than the written form.

Edit: to the above contributor... there is a HUGE difference between a spur and a serif, and a terminal is a very generic term compared to the other two.

Michael

k.l.'s picture

Did you notice the little "(imaginary)" before the "backward-movement"?

E.Jacobson's picture

"to the above contributor... there is a HUGE difference between a spur and a serif, and a terminal is a very generic term compared to the other two."

Generic is kinda the point. My point is that the terminology wasn't standardized when these pen strokes were made. I'm not suggesting that what I use to describe these "grey area" strokes be canonized in any way. But we can't classify every pen stroke. And I think there's nothing wrong with that. I kind of see it as a moot point.

evanbrog's picture

I'll never understand this!

But this is really a great read. Keep up the passion.

I heard recently passion can lead to compassion (along the lines of the Bible). And i'm glad people here have such spirited dialogue

Now as an aside--there seems to be a RIFF on the subject of seRIFs.

Ok that was, intentionally, so, so bad. I shall now shoot myself

E.Jacobson's picture

read whole thread. foot plus mouth a bit Typerror and I were saying the same thing. I was just bringing the perspective of having to describe certain faces to my students. D'OH!

brwolfgurl's picture

I enjoy the rather spirited discussion, but hopefully am not confused
as a 2009 graphic design grad from art school about Blackletter being
considered serif as well? Thanks Michael for clearing it up for me. I
have always viewed Blackletter typefaces as having serifs, but that may
be my inexperienced eye, I was never sure.

Bonnie :)

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