Latin script
(Fraktur hand)
Script type
Time period
16th–20th centuries
LanguagesGerman[a] and some other European languages
Related scripts
Parent systems
  • Latin script
    (Fraktur hand)
Child systems
Kurrentschrift, including Sütterlin
Sister systems
See Blackletter
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Latf (217), ​Latin (Fraktur variant)
  1. ^ And related languages.
  2. ^ normal Latin range; see below
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
A modern sans-serif and four blackletter typefaces (left to right): Textur(a), Rotunda, Schwabacher and Fraktur.

Fraktur (German: [fʁakˈtuːɐ̯] ) is a calligraphic hand of the Latin alphabet and any of several blackletter typefaces derived from this hand. It is designed such that the beginnings and ends of the individual strokes that make up each letter will be clearly visible, and often emphasized; in this way it is often contrasted with the curves of the Antiqua (common) typefaces where the letters are designed to flow and strokes connect together in a continuous fashion. The word "Fraktur" derives from Latin frāctūra ("a break"), built from frāctus, passive participle of frangere ("to break"), which is also the root for the English word "fracture". In non-professional contexts, the term "Fraktur" is sometimes misused to refer to all blackletter typefaces – while Fraktur typefaces do fall under that category, not all blackletter typefaces exhibit the Fraktur characteristics described above.[a]

Fraktur was often characterized as "the German typeface", as it remained popular in Germany and much of Eastern Europe far longer than elsewhere. In Germany, utilizing more modern typefaces would prove controversial until 1941, when the Nazi government rendered any transition involuntary by banning the use of Fraktur typefaces.


Besides the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet,[b] Fraktur usually includes the Eszett ß in the ⟨ſʒ⟩ form, vowels with umlauts, and the long s ⟨ſ⟩. Some Fraktur typefaces also include a variant form of the letter r known as the r rotunda, and many include a variety of ligatures which are left over from cursive handwriting and have rules for their use. Most older Fraktur typefaces make no distinction between the majuscules ⟨I⟩ and ⟨J⟩ (where the common shape is more suggestive of a ⟨J⟩), even though the minuscules ⟨i⟩ and ⟨j⟩ are differentiated.

One difference between the Fraktur and other blackletter scripts is that in the lower case ⟨o⟩, the left part of the bow is broken, but the right part is not. In Danish texts composed in Fraktur, the letter ø was already preferred to the German and Swedish ö in the 16th century.[c]

In the Latvian variant of Fraktur, used mainly until the 1920s, there are additional characters used to denote Latvian letters with diacritical marks.[1][2] Stroked letters ⟨Ꞡ ꞡ⟩, ⟨Ꞣ ꞣ⟩, ⟨Ł ł⟩, ⟨Ꞥ ꞥ⟩, ⟨Ꞧ ꞧ⟩ are used for palatalized consonants (⟨Ģ ģ⟩, ⟨Ķ ķ⟩, ⟨Ļ ļ⟩, ⟨Ņ ņ⟩, ⟨Ŗ ŗ⟩) stroked variants of ⟨s⟩ and ⟨ſ⟩ distinguish voiced and unvoiced sibilants or affricates (⟨S ſ⟩ for voiced [z], ⟨Ꞩ ẜ⟩ for unvoiced [s], ⟨ſch⟩ [ž] / ⟨ẜch⟩ [š], ⟨dſch⟩ [dž] / ⟨tẜsch⟩ [č]), while accents (⟨à⟩, ⟨â⟩, ⟨ê⟩, ⟨î⟩, ⟨ô⟩, ⟨û⟩) together with digraphs (⟨ah⟩, ⟨eh⟩ etc.) are used for long vowels (⟨Ā ā⟩, ⟨Ē ē⟩, ⟨Ī ī⟩, ⟨Ō ō⟩, ⟨Ū ū⟩). Stroked variants of ⟨s⟩ are also used in pre-1950 Sorbian orthography.[1]


The first Fraktur typeface arose in the early 16th century, when Emperor Maximilian I commissioned the design of the Triumphal Arch woodcut by Albrecht Dürer and had a new typeface created specifically for this purpose, designed by Hieronymus Andreae. Fraktur types for printing were established by the Augsburg publisher Johann Schönsperger [de] at the issuance of a series of Maximilian's works such as his Prayer Book (Gebetbuch, 1513) or the illustrated Theuerdank poem (1517).[3]

Fraktur quickly overtook the earlier Schwabacher and Textualis typefaces in popularity, and a wide variety of Fraktur fonts were carved and became common in the German-speaking world and areas under German influence (Scandinavia, Estonia, Latvia, Central Europe). In the 18th century, the German Theuerdank Fraktur was further developed by the Leipzig typographer Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf to create the typeset Breitkopf Fraktur. While over the succeeding centuries, most Central Europeans switched to Antiqua, German speakers remained a notable holdout.


Usage map: A map presenting the contemporary German view of the extent of scripts around 1900. In reality only German-speakers, Estonia, and Latvia still used Fraktur as the majority script at this time. Denmark had shifted to Antiqua during the mid 19th century,[5] and in Norway the majority of printed texts used Antiqua around 1900.[6] Notably, the map itself uses Antiqua for its legend, even though it is in German, indicating that Fraktur was no longer universally used even among German-speakers.

Typesetting in Fraktur was still very common in the early 20th century in all German-speaking countries and areas, as well as in Norway, Estonia, and Latvia, and was still used to a very small extent in Sweden, Finland and Denmark,[d] even though other countries typeset in Antiqua. Some books at that time used related blackletter fonts such as Schwabacher; however, the predominant typeface was the Normalfraktur, which came in slight variations.

From the late 18th century to the late 19th century, Fraktur was progressively replaced by Antiqua as a symbol of the classicist age and emerging cosmopolitanism in most of the countries in Europe that had previously used Fraktur. This move was hotly debated in Germany, where it was known as the Antiqua–Fraktur dispute. The shift affected mostly scientific writing in Germany, whereas most belletristic literature and newspapers continued to be printed in Fraktur.

The Fraktur typefaces remained in use in Nazi Germany, when they were initially represented as true German script; official Nazi documents and letterheads employed the font, and the cover of Hitler's Mein Kampf used a hand-drawn version of it.[7] However, more modernized fonts of the Gebrochene Grotesk [de] type such as Tannenberg were in fact the most popular typefaces in Nazi Germany, especially for running text as opposed to decorative uses such as in titles. These fonts were designed in the early 20th century, mainly the 1930s, as grotesque versions of blackletter typefaces. The Nazis heavily used these fonts themselves, although the shift remained controversial; in fact, the press was at times scolded for its frequent use of "Roman characters" under "Jewish influence" and German émigrés were urged to use only "German script".[8][9] On January 3, 1941, the Nazi Party ended this controversy by switching to international scripts such as Antiqua. Martin Bormann issued a circular (the "normal type decree") to all public offices which declared Fraktur (and its corollary, the Sütterlin-based handwriting) to be Judenlettern (Jewish letters) and prohibited their further use.[10] German historian Albert Kapr has speculated that the regime viewed Fraktur as inhibiting communication in the occupied territories during World War II.[11]

After 1941

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Even with the abolition of Fraktur, some publications included elements of it in headlines.[citation needed] More often, some ligatures ch, ck from Fraktur were used in Antiqua-typed editions up to the offset type period. Fraktur saw a brief resurgence after the war, but thereafter fell out of common use.[citation needed]

Fraktur is today used mostly for decorative typesetting: for example, a number of traditional German newspapers such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine, as well as the Norwegian Aftenpoſten, still print their name in Fraktur on the masthead (as indeed do some newspapers in other European countries and the U.S.) and it is also popular for pub signs and the like. In this modern decorative use, the traditional rules about the use of long s and short ⟨s⟩ and of ligatures are often disregarded.

Individual Fraktur letters are sometimes used in mathematics, which often denotes associated or parallel concepts by the same letter in different fonts. For example, a Lie group is often denoted by G, while its associated Lie algebra is . A ring ideal might be denoted by (or if a prime ideal) while an element is . The Fraktur is also sometimes used to denote the cardinality of the continuum, that is, the cardinality of the real line. In model theory, is used to denote an arbitrary model, with A as its universe.[citation needed]

Fraktur is still used among traditional Anabaptists to print German texts, while Kurrent is used as hand writing for German texts. Groups that use both forms of traditional German script are the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Hutterites, and traditional Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites who live mostly in Latin America today.[citation needed]

Typeface samples


In the figures below, the German sentence that appears after the names of the fonts (Walbaum-Fraktur in Fig. 1 and Humboldtfraktur in Fig. 2 reads, Victor jagt zwölf Boxkämpfer quer über den Sylter Deich. It means "Victor chases twelve boxers across the Sylt dike" and contains all 26 letters of the alphabet plus the umlauted glyphs used in German, making it an example of a pangram.

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


Unicode does not encode Fraktur as a separate script. Instead, Fraktur is considered a "presentation form" of the Latin alphabet.[12][e] Thus, the additional ligatures that are required for Fraktur typefaces will not be encoded in Unicode: support for these ligatures is a font engineering issue left up to font developers.[13]

There are, however, two sets of Fraktur symbols in the Unicode blocks of Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols, Letterlike Symbols, and Latin Extended-E. The long s, ß, and the umlauted vowels are not encoded, as the characters are meant to be used in mathematics and phonetics, so they are not suitable for typesetting German-language texts.[14]

𝔞 𝔟 𝔠 𝔡 𝔢 𝔣 𝔤 𝔥 𝔦 𝔧 𝔨 𝔩 𝔪 𝔫 𝔬 𝔭 𝔮 𝔯 𝔰 𝔱 𝔲 𝔳 𝔴 𝔵 𝔶 𝔷
𝖆 𝖇 𝖈 𝖉 𝖊 𝖋 𝖌 𝖍 𝖎 𝖏 𝖐 𝖑 𝖒 𝖓 𝖔 𝖕 𝖖 𝖗 𝖘 𝖙 𝖚 𝖛 𝖜 𝖝 𝖞 𝖟

See also


  1. ^ Similarly, the term "Gothic" is sometimes also incorrectly used to refer to Fraktur typefaces. However, in typography, the term "Gothic" simply means sans-serif.
  2. ^ ISO basic Latin alphabet is derived from the English alphabet hence its 26 letters.
  3. ^ Compare, for example, Bibla: Det er den gantske Hellige Scrifft: udsæt paa Danske. 1550. (in Danish) and Biblia: Det er Den gantske Hellige Scrifft paa Danske igien offuerseet oc prentet effter vor allernaadigste herris oc Kongis K. Christian den IV. Befaling. 1633. (in Danish)
  4. ^ In Denmark in 1902 the percentage of printed material using antiqua amounted to 95% according to R. Paulli.[5]
  5. ^ For examples of more obvious "presentation forms", see display typeface.


  1. ^ a b "Proposal to encode 10 Latin letters for pre-1921 Latvian orthography" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. 30 April 2009. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2023.
  2. ^ Švehs, Ernsts Aleksandrs (1877). Jauna ābece (in Latvian). Rīga: W. F. Häcker. p. 7. Retrieved 29 July 2023.
  3. ^ Funke, Fritz (1999). Buchkunde: Ein Überblick über die Geschichte des Buches [Book Customer: An overview of the history of the book] (in German) (6 ed.). Munich: Saur. p. 223. ISBN 3-598-11390-0.
  4. ^ "die letzte salve". Westliche Post. St. Louis, Missouri. 21 July 1906. p. 7. Retrieved 1 November 2023 – via
  5. ^ a b Paulli, Richard J. (1940). Den sejrende antikva (special edition anniversary book "Det trykte ord") (in Danish). Copenhagen: Grafisk Cirkel.
  6. ^ Rem, Tore (2009). "Materielle variasjoner. Overgang fra fraktur til antikva i Norge". In Malm, Mats; Sjönell, Barbro Ståhle; Söderlund, Petra (eds.). Bokens materialitet: Bokhistoria och bibliografi (in Swedish). Stockholm: Svenska Vitterhetssamfundet. ISBN 978-91-7230-149-8.
  7. ^ "1941: The Nazis ban Jewish fonts – using a Jewish font". Archived from the original on 7 December 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  8. ^ Michaud, Eric (2004). The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. pp. 215–216. ISBN 0-8047-4326-6.
  9. ^ Plate 110
  10. ^ Bormann, Martin (3 January 1941). "Rundschreiben (Nicht zur Veröffentlichung)" [Circular (Not for publication)]. (in German).
  11. ^ Kapr, Albert (1993). Fraktur: Form und Geschichte der gebrochenen Schriften (in German). Mainz: H. Schmidt. p. 81. ISBN 3-87439-260-0.
  12. ^ "Ligatures, Digraphs, Presentation Forms vs. Plain Text | Presentation forms". Unicode Consortium. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  13. ^ "Ligatures, Digraphs, Presentation Forms vs. Plain Text | Ligatures". Unicode Consortium. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  14. ^ "Ligatures, Digraphs, Presentation Forms vs. Plain Text | Why does Unicode contain whole alphabets of "italic" or "bold" characters in Plane 1?". Unicode Consortium. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2022.

Further reading