It’s amazing to think that humans have been crafting correspondence and documenting essential communications using Gothic Style calligraphy for centuries. What was once a formal and widely accepted form for general correspondence is now a technique known only by those who choose to master it as a form of special occasion communications or creative expression. To fully appreciate the Gothic calligraphy style that many artists attempt to master today, you have to go back in time to the days of scribes, parchment, and royal empires.
The History of Gothic Calligraphy
The history of Gothic calligraphy dates back to the mid-twelfth century where it was created and popularized across Western Europe. It was so popular, that it remained in common use for over five centuries. It was used for hand copying books, ledgers, and documents of record and significance by those scribes trained to record the world around them. Gothic calligraphy would become the primary format for scribing both the Danish and German languages before it would fall out of favor in preference for more streamlined lettering styles.
Today, Gothic style lettering, sometimes known as Black Lettering, is known only as a form of calligraphy or typography used for correspondence and documents that need to look official, royal, regal, antiquated, or otherwise distinguished.
Gothic Calligraphy Styling
Gothic style calligraphy is one of the easiest to recognize. It is bold, heavy, and rigid, with distinct but minimal flourishes, and wide, consistent ascenders that make some similar letters, such as ms, ns, and is, difficult to discern from one another. In Gothic style, letters are shaped to look more square than round, creating the types of angular curves one would expect of an ancient stained glass window. Depending on the width of the nib, Gothic letters should be written with equal amounts of ink and white space for optimal symmetry and a pleasing appearance.
What You’ll Need to Practice Gothic Calligraphy
If you’re up for the challenge of recreating this long-standing style using modern day supplies, here’s what you’ll need:
- Quality notebook paper that is thick in order to absorb rich fountain pen ink, but not so thick that the nib will catch on coarse page fibers. You’ll also want a notebook with subtle guidelines to help you ensure consistency in height and width of your letters. We recommend the Rhodia Black Dot Pad size 16.5x12.5".
- A quality fountain pen with a broad nib. Make sure you’re using a pen that is comfortable to hold for long practice sessions, and that is well-balanced when the nib is posted on the back. For beginners looking for the convenience of a pen with a built-in ink chamber, we recommend the LAMY Safari Fountain Pen.
- If you’re using a dip pen, you’ll need quality fountain pen ink. To honor the gothic style, choose a bold, black ink. We recommend Herbin La Perle des Encres Fountain Pen Ink in Perle Noire.
- A clear desk space where you’ll have ample elbow room and where you can sit comfortably, feet on the floor, shoulders relaxed, body square to paper that is slanted accordingly to accommodate your posture, whether you are a right-handed calligrapher, or a left-handed calligrapher.
When to use Gothic Calligraphy Style
There are still many relevant uses for Gothic calligraphy, and as a result, it is still one of the most popular styles that calligraphers aim to learn and employ. Keep in mind, however, that today’s readers, who are used to reading san serif fonts on desktop computers and mobile devices aren’t used to seeing the symmetrical, block lettering of Gothic style calligraphy. For that reason, Gothic lettering can be difficult to read in large amounts and is best reserved for use in moderation, such as a headline on an invitation or card. We would not recommend that you draft an entire letter using Gothic calligraphy style.
Use Gothic calligraphy for:
- Short quotes
- Brief Headlines
Practice and More Practice
Even the most accomplished artists who are sure of hand must practice individual calligraphy styles in order to truly master them. Don’t be hard on yourself if this unique styling does not come naturally at first. Plan to practice, make mistakes, and practice some more before you’re a pro. When you’re ready to begin, click here to stock up on supplies.