Back in 1992, a seemingly ordinary day trip would turn out to be the start of an intriguing journey. The trip in question was to the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, to not only see but also to touch the Gutenberg Bible – a publication of major importance within the history of printing.
Since then I have always loved Blackletter. Each character is exotic, authoritative, strong and intricately crafted. I think no other style of font commands quite the same respect; you take it seriously, you can't ignore it, it demands to be read. Fully justified and typeset by the true masters of their art, it looks amazing. Johannes Gutenberg's forty-two-line Bible is testament to this.
Blackletter has history (and lots of it). It was favoured by hand scribes from 1200; the first ever newspaper, The Relation, was published using it in Strasbourg in the summer of 1605. Printed entirely in Fraktur (a particular cut of Blackletter so commonly used that the two have become synonymous), it has endured well, so much so that newspapers to this day (including the New York Times) still bear it on their masthead.
In 1941 the Nazis banned Fraktur under Hitler's orders, inaccurately reporting it to be of Jewish origin. Ironically, the decree itself was partly set in Fraktur type. After the war the Allies reinstated Fraktur, using it on the new stamps, money and post-war publications of occupied Germany.
Today the use of Blackletter continues to be controversial, provoking responses from diverse corners of the globe. The latest being that it is now banned in Los Angeles, where it is seen as a sign of gang activity, most notably that of the Nuestra Familia – this from a city where almost anything goes.